Research is a fundamental part of the public relations process, and can be undertaken at any or all stages of the public relations process depending on the questions asked and the answers to be obtained (Johnston and Zawawi, 2004). It has been indicated by James Grunig in Macnamara’s Research in Public Relations: A review of the use of Evaluation and Formative Research” paper that a major contributing factor to the image problem of PR is the lack of objective, research methodology for evaluating PR programs. In addition to this it had also been duly noted that most public relations research is casual and informal, rather than scientific and precise as it is required (Macnamara, 2002). This lack of effective and suitable evaluation has pressed practitioners to develop appropriate research techniques to increase both the amount and quality of the research undertaken in developing a PR program.
The analysis of factors such as budget and relevance in PR activities must occur and the most efficient and favoured way to analyse such factors is through research (Johnston and Zawawi, 2004). In addition to this, understanding of environments and competitors is essential to a PR program and as such research places PR as a ‘purposive, goal-directed, and problem-solving management function’ (Broom and Dozier, 1990 cited in Johnston and Zawawi, 2004).
Research must also be undertaken as part of the PR process in order to identify the requirement for a communication program, to assist in establishing the program, to check progress and to evaluate the effectiveness (Johnston and Zawawi, 2004). In order for this to occur, research must be a fundamental basis of all stages of a PR process from evaluation of inputs, to outputs and through to outcomes (Macnamara, 2002).