Public relations is an art and a science focused on finding the best strategies and tactics to accomplish a client’s objectives. This knowledge comes from a mix of experience, an understanding of the media and the client and quality research. Quality research in public relations is present at all stages of the process, and each team member engages in some level of research, though advanced levels are usually conducted by research experts.

research in public relations

So, why is research so important to this process?

  • Research allows you to confidently answer questions posed by clients
  • It tests and clarifies your assumptions
  • It guides you to opportunities for you and your clients
  • It helps you form your strategy, monitor its progress and evaluate its performance

The three levels of research in public relations

Level one: basic research

Basic research is exactly that. Some examples include:

  • Setting online alerts for clients or specific topics
  • Monitoring social media sites for client mentions or negative reviews
  • Reading your clients’ websites and press coverage to understand their business
  • Looking up facts or statistics for news releases
  • Finding stakeholders for the success of your project

At Mitchell, basic research is not confined to the Research and Insights department. In fact, it can be so basic that many people don’t know they’re engaging in research. For example, our client teams monitor press coverage related to clients to understand what their client is facing and determine what services they may need. In order to pitch a story, media strategists study the media in a market to know who might be the most receptive to their story.

Level two: intermediate research

Examples of this more defined step include:

  • Collecting data on clients or specific campaigns for analysis
  • Analyzing media placements for tone of story toward the client, message, relevance and prominence of the client in the story
  • Topline studies on data collected on the success of campaigns
  • Topline studies on community demographics, interests and needs for geographic communities, diverse communities and communities of interest

At Mitchell, intermediate research is conducted by the Research and Insights team in support of our client teams. Before campaigns, we conduct top-line studies that will help our client teams set their strategies, including competitive research and overviews of community demographics and interests. During a campaign, we collect data on media placements, analyzing for tone, reach, advertising equivalency and key message. After a campaign, we use our tracking to provide our clients with performance reports for evaluation.

Level three: advanced research

This is the deepest form of research and analysis. Some examples include:

  • Analysis of competitor landscape
  • Statistical analysis of data collected from previous campaigns
  • Statistical analysis of consumer and stakeholder data
  • ROI evaluation methods

Advanced research looks for those strategic insights more than the tactical insights and information gained from basic and intermediate research. It lays the groundwork for your next campaign and prepares you for that big boardroom presentation. As such, it should be an integral part of your public relations strategy and something that you refer to everyday. Because of the scope of advanced research, we will look at it more in-depth in future posts.

How does your company use research in your public relations process? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.