Last month, I introduced you to the four-step process of PR – research, planning, implementation and evaluation – and the importance research plays in developing winning communications strategies.

Research, paid or unpaid, formal or informal, is as important to a successful PR project as Google Maps is to a cross-country journey. It provides the road map to planning and implementation.

As organizations begin to see the ROI from the no-or-low cost methods discussed in my last blog, it will become easier to sell the C-suite on building research into timelines and budgets for future projects.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for! While free and informal research can provide important highlights, some paid, formal options allow for a deeper dive and a greater level of accuracy in targeting your message to its audience.

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Looking in the Rear View: A common step in strategic planning is the “communication audit,” a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s communication efforts and materials. Taking this time to look in the rearview mirror often reveals the good, bad and the ugly. The same is true for project audits.

Evaluate the overall process used for similar past projects. The audience selected, messages developed, tactics used to communicate the message, and so on. While project and communication audits can be conducted by internal communication teams, the addition of an outside perspective can be invaluable. As they say, things often look very different from the outside in.

Narrowing the Focus: Focus groups are an excellent way to ensure the right message is matched to the most appropriate audience. They provide qualitative data needed to make decisions that will deliver more bulls-eyes and ultimately the biggest bang for the buck. While you can gain good information by buying pizza for a group of friends, those results could have bias. An independent voice will result in hearing the sometimes uncomfortable truth that can bring about positive change.

The Survey Says: Surveys are cost effective and relatively easy to implement, making them one of the most common ways to obtain quantitative data. While tools like Survey Monkey allow internal staff to conduct surveys of customers and other key audiences, the anonymity of independent surveys can increase honesty. It’s all about getting trusted results.

Whatever strategies are used, there are benefits from looking in the rear view before moving forward with new projects. Research is always worth the time and investment!

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