© 2018 5
Use Research to Inform Your PR Campaign
By Megan Venzin
Public relations professionals often make the mistake of shaping campaigns based on
rules of thumb, hunches and past experiences. While application of this logic can be
helpful in some instances, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to drafting an
effective PR strategy. This is because no single audience is exactly the same as another.
“In order to effectively communicate, it is imperative for organizations to truly
understand who the audience is that they are trying to reach, and that’s where
research comes in,” says Interim Dean of Edward R. Murrow College of
Communication (Pullman, WA) Bruce Pinkleton. “Essentially, the more you know
about your audience, the more likely you are to be successful.”
While broad statistical analyses may prove beneficial in collecting specific infor-
mation and campaign metrics for wide-ranging audiences, other common methods
involving less formal procedures, such as focus groups and surveys, can be used to
obtain the qualitative data that drives powerful, personalized PR campaigns. “These
intimate feedback sessions can be especially informative when dealing with niche
segments with highly specific needs,” Pinkleton says. “In PR, we want big media
pushes, but if you’re working with a specialized niche, you might be better off tar-
geting a smaller pool of outlets. Learn about the media they know and trust, as well
as the go-tos for their associations, and let that inform your strategy.”
When determining which type of research method to apply, consider how to
reap the most applicable data as it relates to:
• The context of the campaign.
• The sample segment.
• The turnaround time for collection and application of data.
• What you already know about your audience or its competition.
• The goals and objectives of the PR campaign.
“Research allows the PR professional to tailor communications based on their
understanding of the audience’s motivations, how they get their information and the
outcomes they expect,” Pinkleton says. “Knowing these facts will allow you to drill
in on the relationship that already exists between you and your audience.”
While Pinkleton does not discount the importance of qualitative research, he
recommends balancing any project with quantitative data that seeks to uncover the
unique needs of the individual. “We’ve issued very small surveys known as panel
designs that go to our expert audience members,” Pinkleton says. “This helps us
collect initial information that reveals baseline expectations and provides us with a
collective of voices who we can revisit with future tasks, questions and assignments
that help us dive deeper into their psyche.”
Only after you’ve identified your audience can you select your tools for engagement.
Your PR strategy should reflect the goals and tactics you’ve established, based on the
research you’ve conducted. “A successful PR campaign will resonate with your audience
and uncover clear ways to continue the relationship going forward,” Pinkleton says.
Source: Bruce Pinkleton, Interim Dean, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication,
Washington State University, Pullman, WA. Phone (509) 335-2795. E-mail: email@example.com.
Looking to Move Up Internally?
If you’re interested in advancement
opportunities where you’re currently
employed, there are actions you can take
to move up the ladder. Here are 10 steps
to help you seek upward advancement
within your nonprofit:
1. Tell your president or executive
director that you want to advance;
ask for advice on steps to take
(especially with regard to educating
yourself to handle future trends and
changing job demands).
2. Enroll in a university graduate
program to work on a master’s degree.
3. Take advantage of workshops and
other learning opportunities related
to your field to advance your
knowledge of the field.
4. Learn more about the organization’s
overall budget, funding challenges,
stakeholders and future plans.
5. Volunteer to serve on work
6. Focus on the organization’s strategic
plan and let your supervisor know
the action steps you direct to
support the plan.
7. Get measurable results for your
work and let leaders know about it.
8. Work extra hours.
9. Find a mentor who will help you
10. Create a personal marketing plan
and then act on your identified
Anticipated E-Mail Campaigns
E-mail campaigns can be highly
effective, but they can also be a disaster.
Before launching an e-mail campaign
answer the following questions:
1. What’s the primary purpose of this
communication? What do I want it to
2. Who am I trying to reach?
3. Why is e-mail the best way to reach
4. What action is the recipient of this
e-mail expected to take?
5. How will I handle questions or
6. What follow-up should occur when
Communications Strategies: Stay Ahead of the Game
How well are you doing at meeting your 2018 strategic objectives with regard to
communications? Whether you’re on schedule or not, now’s the perfect time to
revisit your annual plan, update it where needed and brainstorm ways to meet, if
not exceed, your communications objectives.
Taking an hour or two to touch base with your staff, administration and others
involved with your communications strategy is especially important this time of
year, before people leave for vacations and push projects and priorities to the side.