Great ideas don’t always yield great results. As a PR professional, it can be easy to become married to what you perceive as great creative ideas. But employers only care about interesting ideas if they are going to improve the company. Research skills prove to your employer that you are strategy-driven and mission-focused. It’s a mistake to think that research is an unnecessary first step.
Understand the value
Jeff Peery, president of the Utah Valley PRSA Chapter, said that research experience has helped him significantly in his public relations career.
“Research is the baseline to know perception, attitudes, and issues.” He continued, “an organization cannot make a change if they are not aware of their current relationship with customers, employees or investors.”
Peery uses research on a regular basis to understand products, services, trends and publics. He said that employers look for employees who think strategically. When an employer finds someone who knows how to use research to back their ideas, that employee becomes a pivotal asset to the company.
How do you find the information that is most pertinent to you? Spending some time understanding research best practices can not only benefit your campaigns but will also help you stand out to employers.
Learn to find relevant information.
Combing through useless information to find the critical information can take time but it is essential to a successful campaign. To help with this process, learn how to identify accurate and unbiased sources. Write down the information you find and use it to understand your key public’s self-interests and outline your campaign strategy.
“Informal or secondary sources such as credible websites, industry publications, or journal studies also make great resources,” said Peery.
Conduct your own research.
If you can’t find what you are looking for online, consider conducting primary research. Surveys, focus groups and in-depth interviews take time and resources but this type of research allows you to customize it to your organization’s needs. Consider outsourcing your project if you have no experience in this area. If you want to take a crack it yourself, consult with research experts to understand the best practices so your objectives are adequately and accurately met.
Peery said that being able to interpret research has helped him move forward in his career, “If you cannot conduct formal research, always look for ways to gather information, such as a focus group of customers, email feedback from employees or a phone conversation. These can give you a quick pulse of a situation and help you make adjustments in your communication planning.”
Yes, research can be overwhelming. Don’t let that scare you! Use it to your advantage and you will see a dramatic increase in the quality of your work and your value as an employee.
“Students should learn research basics now so they can become aware of biases in question development or answer gathering,” said Peery. “They also should practice how to listen to feedback, as it is not always just critical comments, but ways to improve or address a situation.”
Parker Strong, BYU’s PRSSA President, said that having research experience helped him get an internship with General Motors in Detroit last summer.
“Over the summer, my internship employer told me that he hired me because I had research experience on my resume,” said Strong. “It is really invaluable to understand how to do that and to show that you have experience with it.”
Research provides inexplicable value to public relations because it provides an opportunity to prepare for industry trends and changes, understand key public values and improve the overall view of the company or client.
Taryn Royall is a senior studying public relations at Brigham Young University. She currently works as an account executive BYU’s digital marketing agency, Y Digital where she conducts research and builds campaigns. She is also currently serving as vice president of digital media in BYU PRSSA.