The Ultimate Guide for PR Research

11 mins read

PR research. Public relations research is information that was found to be shared. Shared in publications, news releases, media outlets, social media, and much more. Without research, public relations would not execute one of the main management functions. It would not be strategic or a phase of executive strategic planning but would fall back to the days of simple press agentry. As a true management service, public relations uses research to identify issues and initiate solving a problem, to prevent and manage crises, to make organizations responsive and responsible to their audience. This article I’ve made as an ultimate guide to public relations surveys.

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What is PR Research

In contrast to traditional market research, which typically remains confidential and in-house, PR polling or PR surveys are purposely executed to generate insights to be shared in content outreach. 

Public relations (PR) research is a survey requested to a general or specific audience with the goal to share the results through company outreach, press releases, branded content, news sources, and media. 

Purpose of the PR Research

The goal of PR research is to allow experts to create a strategy in public relations in order to: 

  • launch the campaigns with a specific purpose and targeted goals, 
  • operate as a part of the general strategic management function in a company,
  • measure the effectiveness of public relations efforts. 

By starting research before we communicate, it’s important to revise your thinking and hypothesis with the views of the public. You can divide those publics, tailor communications for unique publics, send different messages to specifically targeted publics, and build relationships by communicating with the public who have an interest in our message. 

Forms of PR Research

Thorough knowledge of research methods and extensive analyses also permits public relations managers to estimate and illustrate the value and worth of their efforts and thor plans. 

Here is an ultimate guide of the most common forms of research in public relations management – formal and informal.

Formal Research

Formal research normally is held in order to find numbers and statistics that PR experts can use to both target communications and measure results. A formal kind of survey also is used to get a deeper, qualitative understanding of some issues, and to derive in-depth opinion data. Formal research represents planned research of quantitative or qualitative information, normally Investigating specific questions about topics of concern for the company.

Informal Research

Informal research is gained from sources both inside and outside of the company. Informal research usually receives data and opinions through conversations. It consists of asking questions, talking to clients or employees in the organization to find out their concerns, reading testimonials from clients or comments, and other informal methods, such as scanning the news and media outlets. The public relations managers spend lots of time communicating informally, by drawing an open exchange of ideas and proposals. The information collected from informal research can be used to adjust or revise the brand’s policy, create messages for the public, identify new trends in an industry, including the values or priorities of the public in new initiatives, and numerous other deriving.

Types of PR Research

We all know brands want to attract and retain clients. So, let’s dive deep into the process in which a company accomplishes this. What are the types of research PR managers might use? What are the differences between them? Let’s find out some of the different research types.

Research in public relations management needs specialized terminology. The term primary research is used to name the process when they collect unique data in person and specifically relevant to a certain client or campaign. Primary research is considered to be the most expensive type of research because it is held specifically for the brand. 

Secondary research is research that is normally a part of the public domain but is suitable to the client, company, or industry. It can be used to support the conclusions drawn from the primary research. Secondary research is normally available at libraries or from business surveys and trade associations. Reference books, encyclopedias, and trade press articles provide free or affordable secondary research. PR experts often use secondary research as an exploratory base from which to decide what type of primary research needs to be held.

Types:

Applied research is the type of PR research used to find information on an issue or a specific question.

Theoretical research, also known as basic research, is focused on curiosity. It covers some possible (theoretical) situations and possible reactions, opinions, and consequences of that.

Quantitative research is PR research that can accurately be defined. For example, we can accurately estimate and find out how many pets get adopted from shelters each year. 

Qualitative research is research that can not be accurately measured because it’s impossible to get an accurate number. Qualitative research centers on the quality and opinions of something. For example, conducting research to understand how someone feels about owning a dog. This is a matter of opinion rather than actual results expressed in figures.

Mixed Methods/Triangulation is research where both quantitative and qualitative research have complementary and unique strengths. These two research methodologies should be used in combination whenever possible in public relations management so that both publics and issues can be fully estimated. Mixing multiple focus groups from various cities with interviews of important leaders and a quantitative survey of the public is an example of a mixed (triangulation) method of research because it covers both quantitative and qualitative methodology. 

How Do Public Relations Surveys Work?

The process of PR research is now conducted mainly online. A survey is created, programmed, and sent to a target audience. This can be realized for both business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) audiences. 

Many surveys are completed using general population segments. Some examples of people targeting you can request for surveys contain:

  • Age groups
  • Genders
  • Location
  • Household incomes
  • Children in the household
  • Highest attained education
  • Others

Some examples of business targeting include:

  • Roles or titles
  • Company’s turnover
  • Responsibilities
  • Departments
  • Business size
  • Industry
  • Others

How Many Survey Responses do You Need?

This is probably the most interesting question when it comes to public relations researches. 100 completes, 500 completes, 4,000 completes, 10,000 completes, is it enough?

In the days of a purely random sample among a probable example, this was a lot easier to answer. One of the approaches to understanding the number of responders is a calculation of a margin of error. Here is a simple breakdown of how to decrease this indicator:

  • 100 completes creates a +/- 10% margin of error. 
  • 400 completes creates a +/- 5% margin of error. 
  • 1,000 completes creates a +/- 3% margin of error.
  • 2,000 completes creates a +/- 2% margin of error.

The short answer is, the more completed research you reference the more credibility your survey gains. Also, more responses boost the opportunity to be featured in the news sources.

The Ways to Use the PR Research Results

Here are four ways to get the return from your PR polling efforts:

PR Strategy and campaigns

The main goal of conducting the PR researches is its further usage in creating PR strategy, launching new PR campaigns, or improving the current PR activities.

Press releases

Sharing data and results from a PR poll or newly commissioned study will easily catch the attention of relevant news outlets. The benefits from the press releases lay in sharing original research or exclusive research with media outlets and journalists. For creating professional press releases and their effective distribution, check out the PRNews.io service. It will help you not only to save time in searching and pitching yourself lots of the media outlets to publish your press release, news, or story there.

Blogs

The PR researches can generate a whole series of blog posts. Think beyond just a single summary blog post that describes all the insights and findings from the survey.

Webinars

Webinars are a more personable form of content marketing because it gives you the opportunity to have a dialog with people versus just having them read your content. The webinar is also a great channel to share information through conversation.

Summary

Public relations managers need to understand what their consumers consider an acceptable image, which is often done through research. That’s why public relations surveys have quickly become the secret weapon in their set of tools. PR researches empower PR managers to act more confidently with a scientific approach, supported by the opinion of a target audience. 

Need advice or have a question? Feel free to leave a comment. 

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Daria Nartya

Hi! My name is Daria. I’m a content-manager, SMM, English, Ukrainian, Russian translator, have a master's degree in Finances, but I can't do somersaults. My copywriting goal is to help businesses get their message across to the audience and receive the most out of it. Feel free to contact me: [email protected]

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