Public Relations Lecture Notes
Public Relations as a Management Tool: Research and Evaluation The four–step process includes: 1) defining the problem or opportunity, 2) planning and programming, 3) taking action and communicating, and 4) evaluating the program. Research, Planning, Communication, and Evaluation are the four steps in the process. Research is the systematic gathering of information to describe and understand situations and to check out assumptions about publics and public relations consequences. Its main purpose is to reduce uncertainty in decision-making. Methodical, systematic research is the foundation of effective public relations. In fact, studies of practitioners show a strong link between doing research and being “invited to the table” when decisions are being made—becoming part of the management team. Problem definition begins with someone making a value judgment that something is wrong, could soon be, or could be better. That subjective judgment is followed by objective, systematic research to confirm and describe in detail the problem situation. Useful problem statements: 1) are written in present tense, 2) describe a situation in specific and measurable terms, and 3) do not imply solution or place blame. In short, they describe what was learned in the situation analysis. Situation analysis research gives practitioners and their employers and clients the timely, complete, and accurate information needed to understand the problem and to serve as a basis for strategic planning. It includes analyses of the internal and external factors and stakeholders. The analysis also assesses organizational strengths (S) and weaknesses (W), and identifies opportunities (O) and threats (T) in the situation (often referred to as “SWOT analysis.”) A communication audit is a systematic documentation of an organization’s communication behavior for the purpose of understanding how it communicates with its publics. The process of identifying who is involved and who is affected in a situation is called “stakeholder analysis.” Informal (or “exploratory”) research methods are used for detecting and exploring problem situations, and for pretesting research and program strategies. The major limitation with informal methods results from how samples are selected—samples are typically of unknown representativeness, therefore the results of informal methods cannot be used to make inferences about known populations. Examples of informal methods include personal contacts; key informants; focus groups; community forums; analyses of 1-800 call-in lines, mail, e-mail messages, Internet chat rooms, online forums and blogs; and field reports. Formal research methods are designed to gather data from scientifically representative samples. These methods make it possible to use inferential statistics to make estimates of populations based on data drawn from samples. In other words, practitioners can make accurate statements describing phenomena and publics based on evidence taken from scientifically representative samples. Examples include secondary analyses of existing databases, content analysis, and various types of surveys. Research and Evaluation are the cornerstones of any good public relations practice. It helps a practitioner to separate what they think they know from what they do not know. As public relations is a dynamic process research and evaluation go hand in hand and must be done throughout each step of the process. Also, with research and evaluation is that one informs the other. As they are both methods of gathering information, the information gathered in one process can inform the other. For example, the information gathered in the evaluation stage of a product launch can inform the practitioner of things they need to consider in future events or how to address future situations. The first step in the research process is asking what is the problem or opportunity. Next , What do I want to know? And How will I gather the...
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