In the marketing pantheon, market research and public relations have always been distant cousins to the glamour (and budgets) of advertising and digital. As a consequence, PR professionals might not be aware that the world of market research has changed a great deal in the last few years. Technology, social media, DIY research, and Big Data have had a huge impact on the way we collect and analyse customer information.
The increasing use of mobile surveys – where researchers can reach people via their smartphones and have them take part in studies in large numbers – has brought research to a much wider audience. Panel companies have developed new ways of reaching potential customers – with respondents very engaged with the research process – making the process of giving valuable feedback much faster than before.
In spite of efforts of the candidates on The Apprentice to destroy any credibility in their so-called ‘market research’ projects, the days of clipboards and dodgy focus groups are over. So, the time is now right for PR professionals to ramp up their use of market research to support, and even drive, their campaigns.
Of course, many PR professionals use market research to plan a project: to study channels, brand, competitors, and supporting messaging for awareness campaigns. In particular, measuring existing audience awareness and attitudes, and then understanding how those measures have changed during and after a campaign, are vital to success and certain to prove the value of PR.
However, budgets are often under pressure at the start of a project and these benchmarking exercises can be a hard sell – which makes it all the more important to use the faster, new methodologies to establish the numbers in an efficient way. Before undertaking any campaign, it is vital to connect with your potential audience and understand their views. By conducting market research among customers, industry bodies, and influencers (and, dare I say, journalists) in a particular market, you will gather a picture of where the market is moving and potential opportunities.
Research often reveals a host of reasons for why your client’s product or service isn’t doing as well as they hoped, and enables you to build on the findings to come up with potential solutions. But there is still another way to use research in media relations – to build a story or to create content for a project. In a ‘post-truth’ world where consumers are more informed than ever before, it is more important than ever to get robust, transparent, and authentic data to back up your stories.
It is nearly always the case that an alarming, or just big, statistic will grab your audience, but you now need to be doubly sure the data that underpins it is placed in context and supported by the work of a research professional, or I’m afraid you will find the audience picking your work apart on social media before you can hit delete. A research company will partner with you in this process, devise original ideas for stories that will resonate with the audience, and come up with creative ways of reaching a properly robust sample of consumers to interview in the right way.
Before selecting a partner, you should check that the company abides by the code of conduct of the Market Research Society (a truly stringent set of rules that will provide your resulting data with strong credentials). Spurious and contrived research will be seen as such by your audience, so more attention has to be paid to factors such as who is undertaking the research, what methods they are using, and who are they talking to. In this brave new world where research takes days, not weeks, it’s time public relations and market research cosied up a bit more; the benefits to both will be significant.
Want to find out how the right research will underpin the success of your next campaign? Research Now can help you to do exactly that.