Recently, a group of PR students and I were asked to conduct five focus groups and distribute a survey for our client. Easy enough, right? Not so much. Our client wanted us to reach five separate target audiences, including adults age 40 and up, comic book fans, college students, high school students, and parents of high school students. Being non-native Eugenians, my team struggled to find people to participate in the focus groups. After exhausting every avenue, we finally got people to show up and successfully conducted the groups.
This is a perfect example of why companies don’t do research before launching a PR or Ad campaign: It takes too much time. We had three weeks to get the people we needed, write a discussion guide and conduct the focus groups; however, that didn’t include the analyzing of all the data findings and the writing of the research report. It is a long process yet an extremely necessary one. Many successful PR case studies have a history of detailed research behind them. In a recent blog post by Todd Defren of Shift Communications, the secrets to his business’ PR success and the process behind it are revealed. Defren says that it is a process, much of which is research. Defren says the key is, “Working your way backward from ‘what customers really want’ rather than plunging forward with a message about what you think they need to know.” There are many assumptions made in PR about the target audiences of a message, most of which are completely wrong; however, the PR agency or practitioner would never know that unless they did research prior to launching a campaign or product.
Looking back on the offensive Motrin Mom advertisement, you have to wonder if there was any research done before this ad campaign was launched, and if so, what kind? Motrin could have completely sidestepped this PR blunder if it had conducted research with its largest target audience: moms. However, the research was most likely eliminated or poorly done, and Motrin severely suffered from it.
Although research may take some extra time, it is absolutely essential to a PR agency or Ad agency. There may be hunches about how a product or advertisement is going to be received by the public, but is a hunch worth losing the positive reputation of your company?