The 5 most important things that PR students need to know about conducting research.
Good research goes a long way in Public Relations. Obviously, the more information you have, the greater quality information you can give to your client. And hey, better information equals more clients which equals…. you guessed it. MORE MONEY!
Here are 5 things that I find to be very important when it comes to PR research:
1) ETHICS – Many of today’s business associations–including PRSA, have a Code of Conduct. That’s a pretty big indicator on how important ethics are not only in public relations, but business in general. There are of course, some important aspects of ethics that stand out.
– Anyone and everyone that is to participate in your research, must agree to do so. Do yourself and your client a favor. Get all of the participants to sign some form of contract or agreement on participation.
– Any and every participant must have the option to withdraw from the research. This just makes sense. If someone decides they no longer want to be in a part of your research, don’t stop them. Not only will you be abiding by good ethics, but you’ll probably get better data from participants that actually WANT to be included.
– Let participants know what they’re getting into. You’ve gotta give the participants some background information on your study. With that, they can choose to stick around and help you out, or they can make a quick and easy decision not to. This helps you get responses faster, and it can give participants more time to reflect on their thoughts prior to being questioned.
– Keep participants out of harm’s way. Again this is fairly obvious too. Don’t do anything that could inflict any sort of physical, mentally, or emotionally pain to your participants. After all, they’re helping you out, so be nice.
– CONFIDENTIALITY! Keep all of the participants private information exactly how it’s supposed to be…PRIVATE. Unless they give you permission to use names or likeness, don’t do it.
2) Media Monitoring – There are some pretty useful tools out there–the internet being a BIG ONE. Luckily for us, websites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Technorati and Flickr make it pretty easy to keep tabs on what the public is saying about a company/client.
3) APA and AP style – In your research, you should always consult your trusty current edition of the AP Style Manual. If there’s something you’re not sure about, have no fear, crack it open. As for APA, make sure everything conforms to the current/most accepted version of APA style when it comes to citations and sources. You won’t leave a very good impression on your client if they find out you’re trying to pass off another person’s work as your own.
4) Organization can make things go super smooth. When you’re conducting any kind of research, think about your FINAL product FIRST. If you have a good idea of how you’re going to set up your presentation and research, then all of the other aspects of your research should be easier. Planning ahead makes the final version of your work look better, flow better, and it makes your client FEEL BETTER about choosing you.
5) Getting your data. I figured this was a pretty important part of research because without it…. well you don’t have very much. Theres several ways to get your data like surveys, focus groups, questionnaires–each of which can give you different kinds of feedback. Your questions have to be valid towards the overall goal of the research. You can use open-ended questions to perhaps get some rather elaborate answers and opinions. You can use close-ended questions to perhaps get some pretty tight, neat, and uniform answers and opinions. And most of all….YOU CAN DO BOTH–which would probably benefit you the most depending on what you’re after.
The information about ethics was taken in large part from the book assigned to my Public Relations Research class. You can buy it here.