Do right by your research

One of the biggest myths in research and evaluation - be it in PR, advertising, or any other marcomms area - is the one that says there ought to be a predetermined percentage of overall budget allocated to research and evaluation.

One of the biggest myths in research and evaluation - be it in PR, advertising, or any other marcomms area - is the one that says there ought to be a predetermined percentage of overall budget allocated to research and evaluation.

The flat-rate figure heard most often is 10%, but it just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

 In fact, there should not be any fixed relationship between the PR budget and the PR research budget. It must vary with the brand's needs at a given time. For example, is the company's objective to build the brand or milk the brand?

For example, if you were the PR manager for a dying brand, would you allocate the same amount of research as you would if you were overseeing the launch of a new product that could redefine a category?

All things being equal, the answer is "no." Sometimes 10% is the right amount, but sometimes it's too much or too little.

For the blockbuster product launch, you might need to spend 20% of your budget on preliminary research and weekly tracking for the first six months before cutting back to 10% over the next six months and then 5% in the second year.

If you manage a dying brand with no support from the top, even 1% may be too much. (This isn't to suggest that you wouldn't measure at all. You'd just spend less as you work to improve brand performance at which time you might call for a bigger budget, some of which you'd allocate to research.)

I run Delahaye, a research and evaluation company, so it could be said that I have a vested interest in generating as much revenue as I can. Flat 10% research budgets would provide my firm with explosive growth, but not for very long. You see, I also have a vested interest in providing counsel and fair value so that clients will remain with us long-term. Once clients realize that the "flat rate 10%" logic just doesn't hold up, they don't stay with us for long.

Ironically, this myth actually holds some people back from using PR research and evaluation at all, as they wrestle with how they can squeeze money out of this year's budget to "do it right." Inevitably, those who focus on a flat rate will either get it wrong or not do it at all for fear that they'll get it wrong.

Instead of concentrating on the appropriate fixed amount of research spending, the focus should be on "what needs to be done" and take it from there.

Similarly, people who read this magazine would view with suspicion anyone saying that research is a total waste of money, so you should be suspicious of someone who advocates a flat rate of research and evaluation investment...regardless of whether it's 1% or 20%.

The right level of expenditure depends on your current situation, your business goals, and your PR strategy objectives.

The best advice for investing in research and evaluation is consistent with any investment advice: Do so wisely and with a long-term view. That logic will yield the returns you seek.

Mark Weiner
President, Delahaye
Norwalk, CT

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