THE BIG QUESTION: Can research funded by clients ever be truly impartial?

Journalists are increasingly wary of research proving something

beneficial only to the company that paid for it. They are right to be

so, but scepticism can go too far.


'Doing objective research is a skill which few, if any, PR agencies

possess. Sampling and questionnaire design, analysis and reporting have

pitfalls that the market research industry has spent decades

understanding and avoiding. We have all seen questions that are leading,

samples that are self-selecting, analyses that are misleading - and

interpretations which are, as a result, wrong. Just as you would not use

a decorator to re-wire your home, you should not use a PR firm for

objective surveys. Ill-conceived research will damage a PR firm's

credibility. Good agencies understand proper research and evaluation

will feed into their clients' management processes, enabling them to

contribute to clients' success.'


'It depends on a number of factors; the type of research - quirky vs

hard news; the research company creativity, timeliness, whether a topic

is appropriate and whether it can be linked to the brand. A crafted and

unique survey can generate excellent results, satisfying both the media

and the company. However, clarity about objectives is key. The aim

should be long-term brand-building, through a sustained approach to

revealing the character of the brand rather than immediate 'quick-hit'

coverage. Research needs to have been conducted by a recognised

authoritative company whose third-party endorsement carries weight.'


'The use of client-conducted research is self-serving and only goes to

convince many in the media that PROs shouldn't bother. Yet many seem to

be of the opinion that it is better to pump out an endless stream of

releases and pictures no matter what the results of the research. I'm

sure somewhere there is some market research proving that regardless of

how blindingly biased a so-called survey/poll is, it will find a home

somewhere in the news media. Perhaps the real problem lies in the

targeting of such research. Many agencies take the blanket approach.

Sadly the bin seems to await most client-backed research as I and many

in the press take the view: "Well they would say that, wouldn't



'"Three out of four women have bad hair days, according to new research

from leading shampoo brand Happy Hair Days": this is fun,

headline-grabbing research aimed at achieving column inches, while

linking the "Happy Hair Days" brand with a "good hair" solution. At the

recent IPRA Golden World Awards, seven out of 20 campaigns used this

type of research as an integral part of PR programmes. Historically this

type of research was poorly conceived and executed, due to ignorance

about sampling and methodology. The advent of planners and researchers

in PR has led to a better understanding of how to partner with research

firms to produce robust research to inform a campaign at the planning

stage and to evaluate effectiveness at the end. Research cannot just

generate news angles but it can benchmark attitudes pre-campaign and

measure shifts post campaign. I call that return on investment.'

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