From Brigham Young University comes an example of how research trumps instinct in developing solutions to PR challenges – it helps insure that you're focused on the real need, not a perceived one. Don't neglect shoe-leather research.
Professor Brad Rawlins, chair of the communications department at BYU, tells how a student team was working with a local hospital to research ways to increase in-patient services there. After reviewing background on the hospital and doing some initial interviews, they thought the problem was clear enough – the hospital's location thwarted its community awareness. The students were already discussing how to deal with that. "However, after conducting primary research through focus groups with local medical clinics and a representative survey of the community," Rawlins notes, "we found out that awareness was very high, both of the hospital and its location. The real problem was a lack of communication with clinics that were not referring patients to the hospital."
Suppose the best identity-building brochures imaginable had been produced, but they weren't really needed? Primary research, indeed, is a critical component of PR strategy. Sure it takes time, has additional costs and can make PR seem process-heavy at a client's expense. But it's indispensable for getting a correct focus.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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