PR today is ‘Public Research’ – Part I

Gone are the days of one sided press releases, setting of cocky narratives and expecting media to pick up stories that only smell of your product USP! Many evolved PR practitioners even in this age are under the misconception that public relations alone can persuade the public to think in a particular way. With the amount of clutter and the number of narratives – fake or otherwise, it is the worst time to find a good place in your consumers mind. 

In my 20 years or so in the space of communications and branding, I have realised one thing – The Impact or outcome of a campaign is high if we play the “CARDS” well. CARDS for me is the short form for “Communication Actioned through Research, Design and Strategy.” Well, that’s another original, okay!

But, believe me, even if CARDS is just a spontaneously created acronym, it holds a lot of weight! I intend to share my thoughts on each of these nuances in my future articles. But for now, it is all about Research!

In the current PR landscape where social media plays a significant role, I would like to describe public relations as an applied social science! Going forward it will be more about looking at the stakeholders through a psychological (emotional) lens, deriving insights through conversations with them (research) and then designing brand narratives and campaigns that are more authentic. This I feel would help influence the public opinion and build deeper trust between an organisation and its stakeholders. 

As I think more and more on this topic and remember some of the successful campaigns that I have had the good fortune to be a part of or lead, it just vindicates one thing – Research is the master key to unlock the most robust outcomes from any PR and communications strategy!

It is sometimes quite disheartening to be in conversations with senior PR professionals who most often have found themselves trying to convince their organisational leadership to provide budgets for conducting research. Also I do pity leaders who don’t understand the fact that research is such a fundamental part of communication planning!

My firm belief is that Research is vital at both the pre and post stages of a campaign – Isn’t that a no brainer! Here’s why…

  • Research provides an opportunity to engage with the respective stakeholders. It helps understand their beliefs, needs, and gain insights that can help appropriate messaging. It helps understand the customer better!
  • Research eliminates the errors that can creep in when the PR is based on instinct or past experiences. It ensures that the communication is relevant to the public who need and most importantly care for the information. It makes communications strategic rather than being random and aimless.
  • Research can demonstrate results, help measure the impact, check the behaviour change or generally gauge pulse of the public. It helps course correct the strategy, in case the communication is not working out and certainly ensure a better bang for the buck.

A public relation function without research can never qualify to be a true management function that can be tasked to recognise issues and provide solutions. One of the key roles of a strategic communications function is to make organisations agile in terms of understanding and engaging with its public, be seen as a good corporate citizen and be empathetic to the needs of its customers and employees. Only research can enable this!

A competency in analysing data and applying research in our PR operations can certainly give us a significant voice to back our decisions and demonstrate the value of strategic PR initiatives and campaigns.

Unfortunately we do have a significant part of our community that loves to regress itself to the era of simple press release dissemination and waiting for coverage!  

In part II of this series, I intend to share my experiences around research driven PR campaigns and the process of creating a research driven narratives. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

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Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit is a IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) accredited business communicators and a three time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award. He has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book, the definitive guide to PR industry’s most influential operators around the world. From 2018 to 2022, he has been listed every year on Provoke media (erstwhile Holmes Report) Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. Sujit is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society..

Sujit is a qualified Instrumentation engineer with MBA in marketing and a Diploma in advertising and PR. He is a regular speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the World Communication Forum, Davos, AMEC, ICCO, PR Newsweek Asia, Public Affairs Asia, etc. He volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines. He is passionate about Sparrow conservation.

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