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PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH AND PLANNING . Research plays and important part in PR. It is for this reason that students of PR must understand the usefulness of research. Importance of Research

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public relations research and planning
  • Research plays and important part in PR. It is for this reason that students of PR must understand the usefulness of research.
  • Importance of Research

According to Skinner et al. (2007:31) information and data must be gathered and compiled the facts. It is also necessary to have knowledge of target audiences. A PR practitioner who understands his or her audiences – their attitudes, hopes, and fears – will be better formulated messages that appeal specifically to them.


Research Types

Informal PR research: is not necessarily aimed at the solution of a business problem and is basically conducted to broaden the knowledge of the researcher.

Formal PR research: clearly follows a methodological step-by-step approach, which should result in reliable information for decision-making. Formal research can be divided into the following two aspects:

    • Qualitative research: includes historical and legal research, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and panels. This category is descriptive and informative but not measurable.
    • Quantitative research: this type can be conducted in the laboratory or in the field. It may include content analysis and survey analysis. Quantitative research results in a mathematical analysis because it produces measurable results.

Research methods

    • Individual questionnaires
    • Group questionnaires
    • Telephone questionnaire
    • Competitions
    • Focus groups
    • Individual interviews
    • Content analysis
    • Informal discussions
    • Observations

Refer to guide


An important part of the problem formulation is SITUATION ANALYSIS. A situation analysis can be described as the informal gathering of background information to familiarise researchers with research problem. Situation analysis involves an overview of the following environments and factors:

  • Secondary data analysis (where existing information and forecasts are investigated)
  • Analysis of publics (internal and external publics)
  • Public relations strategies (advertising, pricing, intermediaries, products)
  • Resources and constraints of the organisation and
  • Technologies skills of the organisation.

A PR research objective refers to the specific information that is needed to solve a PR research programme. Research should consider three basic aspects while stating the research objective:

  • The research question: which specifics the exact information that the decision-maker needs.
  • The hypothesis (assumption): which defined as unproven statement or proposition about the relationship between two or more variables that is of interest to the researcher?
  • The scope: of the research, this refers to the extent which it is possible to conduct the research.

Data Collecting Approaches

Data collection approaches can be classified into three main categories:

    • The observation approach: this deals with the monitoring of respondents actions with any direct interaction from the researcher.
    • The survey approach: this involves the collection of problem-specific data from selected individuals (respondents) by way of direct or indirect questioning.
    • Experimentation: this approach is used in casual research design; in other words, when you want to prove that one variable causes the other variable to occur.

Data Collection Instruments

There are two types of research instrument from which the researcher can choose to collect primary data: the questionnaire and mechanical or electronic equipment.

1. The Questionnaire :The questionnaire is most common instrument used for collecting primary data for survey purposes.

2. Mechanical or electronic equipment : Mechanical or electronic equipment involves the use of instruments such as eye cameras and electronic and mechanical meters to measure respondents‘ reactions, behaviours and opinions.


PR research on the Internet

There are various advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the utilisation of the internet.


    • The speed in which a questionnaire can be created and can be distributed to large numbers of respondents.
    • Data is electronic and collecting of data is easy.
    • The cost for PR research: the development, distribution and interviewer costs are almost totally eliminated or reduced to a fraction.
    • Large number of people can be reached and it crosses the usual communication barriers experienced in international research.
    • The visual enhancement of web-based surveys with attractive fonts, graphic, audio, video, professionally formatted page layouts. This makes it enjoyable for one to respond to internet surveys.


      • The lack of representativeness of internet users causes a distinct bias. Not every household has internet access.
      • Security is another problem. Factors such as spamming (mass-distributed e-mail messages or junk email) and the invasion of privacy through the use of Cookie files are a cause of great concern to many internet respondents.
  • Internet survey techniques : Two basic methods are currently being used on the internet:
    • Conventional website-based surveys. Respondents are invited (by e-mail, telephone or fax) to visit a specific URL where the website survey is located.
    • E-mail Based questionnaires. Questionnaires can be developed using software that can self-executable email attachment. Another approach is e-mail speciality software that will enable the automatic distribution and return e-mail questionnaires to targeted list of e-mail respondents.