Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Setting Benchmarks Leads to Effective Programs

Academic journal article Public Relations Journal

Setting Benchmarks Leads to Effective Programs

Article excerpt

Until recently, lack of interest as well as restraints on time and money limited the emphasis placed on public relations research. In fact, many researchers say, there are still plenty of clients who are satisfied with the warm fuzzy feeling they get from counting their media clips.

But as clients become more budget- and results-conscious, they will become more aware of the benefits of research. And if a client does decide to devote the extra dollars to public relations research, all the research experts interviewed by PRJ agreed that it is imperative to develop a plan of attack before the campaign kicks off.

"The key to any research is to define your strategic objectives up front, which means: know what you are trying to achieve," said David Jacobson, vice president, Research & Forecasts, New York City.

"A good example is to ask yourself: 'What specific messages do I want to press to pick up?' versus 'How many articles can I get?' which is only part of the communications effort," Jacobson said. "A question to ask afterwards is 'Did the campaign achieve the objectives and do what it was supposed to do for me?'"

For effective evaluations, start with a baseline measurement depicting what people know about your message, Jacobson advised. "Then, after the campaign, survey the same information as in your baseline survey, to see how much you've moved the needle." That's the way to find out if people are more aware of the company and its issues, he explained.

"What we're doing is adding value to the results of research by making sure they are tailored as precisely as possible to what the client wants to communicate," Jacobson asserted.

While Research & Forecasts doesn't have any proprietary research techniques, the question is not the techniques themselves, but how you use the research that you've found, he said. "The real challenge in the industry is to apply these measurements on a more consistent basis," said Jacobson.

There is more pressure than ever to be precise and set more criteria, according to Walter K. Lindenmann, Ph.D., APR, senior vice president and director of research for Ketchum Public Relations in New York City. "If you get them |the targeted audience~ to know more about the company this year, you might start an attitude change after two years, and a behavior change in three years," he said. …

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