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The Power of Research in Public Relations Campaigns

Once, a wise man said ‘when you travel remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its people comfortable.’ Following this principle, when you devise a public relations campaign, especially targeting a diverse public, you must find a way to make your campaign comfortable and effective for the target public; your campaign may or may not be comfortable for you because your comfort is irrelevant. You must be able to conduct research to determine what will make the campaign right for its intended public.

Research in public relations serves several functions and therefore is conducted at many stages of a campaign. Generally, consider research as a tool for building client relationships before you even begin planning. Then, use research as a major resource to prepare, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign.

When you are identifying objectives, deciding on actions, or determining tactics, all your decisions must be based on good and thorough research. If you do not have research to support your decisions, you are only conjecturing. You will be able to make correct decisions only if you base your judgement on facts rather than intuition.

One component of research for campaign planning that deserves special mention is message testing. After deciding what public to target, what media to use, and what ideas to communicate, a PR professional must decide exactly how to form the appropriate messages. Finding a way to test messages is particularly important if the practitioner does not speak the language of the target public or share their cultural values. Many experts rely on their own judgement or prior experiences, but if they do not share the language and culture they are ill-prepared to make those judgements. In such situations, focus groups, surveys, audits and experimental studies using representatives of the target public is appropriate. All of these techniques can be utilised to test the impact of message components.

Ahmed Malik is Account Manager at Cicero & Bernay Public Relations, an independent PR agency headquartered in Dubai offering new-age public relations consultancy to the UAE and across the MENA region. |