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AL AKHAWAYN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES. 8. Research. Lecture by Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine based on Seitel’s The Practice of Public Relations. Lexical Definition:. Testimonial is a formal letter testifying to a person’s character or qualification

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8. Research

Lecture by Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine

based on Seitel’s The Practice of Public Relations

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Lexical Definition:

  • Testimonial is a formal letter testifying to a person’s character or qualification

  • Testimonial proof is a parole evidence

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  • There is no data, only facts

  • Data are produced, when a researcher recorded his/her observations

  • Data are a conscious record of a particular part of reality

  • From an epistemological point of view, there are no given data

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Knowledge and information

  • According to Daniel Bell,


  • “Is a set of organized statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form” (cited after Castells, 1996: 17)

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Knowledge and information

  • According to Machlup,


  • “the communication of knowledge”

  • According to Porat,


  • “is data that have been organized and communicated” (cited after Castells, 1996: 17)

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Typical Sources of Theoretical Research

  • Theoretical material

    • Encyclopedia, Handbooks, Books, Academic Journals, online resources

    • Magazines and newspapers

      • Definitions

      • Concepts

      • Models

      • Approach

      • Paradigms

      • Empirical case studies

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What is Research

  • Research is the systematic collection and interpretation of information to increase understanding

  • Research must be the obligatory first step in any project

  • Research becomes essential in helping realize management’s goals

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2.1. Planned Process to influence Public Opinion

  • What is the process through which public relations might influence public opinion?

  • John Marston suggested a four step model based on specific functions:

    • 1) Research:

    • 2) Action:

    • 3) Communication:

    • 4) Evaluation:

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2.1. Planned Process to influence Public Opinion

  • For John Marston, whenever a public relations professional is faced with an assignment she or he should apply Marston’s R-A-C-E

  • In 1997, the Institute for Public Relations Research and Education

  • offered six guiding principles in setting standards for public relations research

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Principles of Public Relations Research

  • 1. Establishing clear program objectives and desired outcomes tied directly to business goals

  • 2. Differentiating between

    • measuring public relations “outputs” generally short-term (amount of press coverage)

    • and measuring public relations “outcomes” usually more far reaching (changing attitudes)

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Principles of Public Relations Research

  • 3. Measuring media content as a first step in the public relations evaluation process

  • 4. Understanding that no one technique can expect to evaluate public relations effectiveness (a combination of research techniques)

    • Media analysis

    • Cyberspace analysis

    • Focus groups

    • Polls

    • Survey

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Lexical Definition

Poll: a) the process of voting at an election. B) the counting of votes at an election

Opinion poll record the opinion of a person or group in an opinion poll

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Principles of Public Relations Research

  • 5. Being wary of attempts to compare public relations effectiveness with advertising effectiveness

  • 6. The most trustworthy measurement of public relations effectiveness is that which stems from an organization with clearly identify key messages, target audiences, and desired channels of communication

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Types of Public Relations Research

  • Research is conducted to do three things:

    • 1. describe a process, situation or a phenomenon

    • 2. explain why something is important, what its causes are, and what effect it will have

    • 3. predict what probably will happen if we do or do not take action

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Types of Public Relations Research

  • Primary research in public relations is either theoretical or applied

  • Applied research resolves practical problems

  • Theoretical research aids understanding of a public relations process

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Applied Research

  • In public relations work, applied research can be either

    • Strategic


    • evaluative

  • Strategic is used primarily in program development

    • To determine program objectives

    • To develop message strategies

    • To establish benchmarks (point of reference/standard)

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    Applied Research

    • Evaluative research is conducted primarily

      • To determine whether a public relations program has accomplished its goals and objectives

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    Theoretical Research

    • Theoretical research is more

    • Abstract

    • Conceptual

    • than applied research

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    Theoretical Research

    • It helps build theories in public relations work about

      • Why people communicate

      • How public opinion is formed

      • How a public is created

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    Secondary Research

    • Secondary research is research on the cheap

    • Desk research uses data that have been collected for other purposes than your own

    • Among the typical sources of secondary research are the following:

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    Secondary Research

    • Industry trade journals

    • Government

    • Websites

    • Informal contacts

    • Published company accounts

    • Business libraries

    • Professional institutes and organizations

    • Omnibus survey

    • Census data

    • Public records

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    Secondary Research

    • Because public relations budgets are limited

    • It always makes sense first to consider secondary sources in launching a research efforts

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Three primary forms of public relations research dominate the field:

      • 1. Surveys

      • 2. Communication audits

      • 3. Unobtrusive methods

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • 1. Survey research: is one of the most frequently used research methods in public relations

    • Two types of surveys:

      • 1.1 Descriptive surveys

      • 1.2 Explanatory surveys

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • 1.1 Descriptive surveys: offer a snapshot of a current situation or condition

    • A typical public opinion poll is a prime example

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • 1.2 Explanatory surveys: are concerned with cause and effect

    • The purpose of explanatory surveys is

    • To explain why a current situation or condition exists

    • To offer explanations for opinions and attitudes

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Surveys generally consists of four elements:

      • 1. Sample

      • 2. Questionnaire

      • 3. Interview

      • 4. Analysis of results

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • 1. Sample: or selected target group and must be representative of the total public whose views are sought

    • 2. Random Sampling: in random sampling two properties are essential:

      • Equality means that no element has any greater or lesser chance

      • Independence means that selecting any one element in no way influences the selection of any element

  • 3. Nonrandom Sampling: Nonrandom samples come in three types: convenience, quota and volunteer

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • The questionnaire: You should consider your objective in doing the study

    • You should observe the following in designing the questionnaire

      • Keep it short

      • Use structured rather than open-ended questions

      • Measure the intensity of feelings

      • Avoid using loaded words and questions

      • Avoid using double-barreled loaded words and questions

      • Pretest

      • Attach a letter explaining how important the respondents’ answers

      • Follow up your first mailing

      • Send out more questionnaires than you think necessary

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Interviews: can provide a more personal, firsthand feel for public opinion

    • Interview panels can range from

      • Focus groups of randomly selected average people

      • Delphi panels of so-called opinion leaders

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Interviews can be conducted in a a number of ways:

      • Face-to-face (Drop-off Interview + Intercept Interviews)

      • Telephone (Telephone Interviews)

      • Mail (Mail Interviews)

      • The Internet (Internet Interviews)

      • Delphi Interviews

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Focus groups: This approach is used with increasing frequency in public relations today

    • It can be conducted through

      • one-on-one

      • Survey panel

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Focus groups should be organized with the following guidelines in mind:

      • Define your objective and audience

      • Recruit your group

      • Conduct enough focus group

      • Use a discussion guide

      • Choose proper facilities

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    Methods of Public Relations Research

    • Result analysis: means to check

      • The validity

      • The reliability

      • The levels of statistical significance

  • before concrete recommendations based on survey data

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    Communication Audits

    • Communication audits are typically used to analyze the standing of a company with its employees or community neighbors to assess the routine communication vehicles such as

      • Manual reports

      • News release

      • Examine an organization's performance as a corporate citizens

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    Communication Audits

    • Purpose:

    • Communication Audit (CA) presents a complete analysis of an organization's internal and external communications designed to determine communication needs, policies, practices, and capabilities

    • The results are used by management to make informed decisions about future communication needs and goals

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    Communication Audits

    • The results are used by management to make informed decisions about future communication needs and goals

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    Communication Audits

    • Scope:

    • The scope of an audit may be as broad or as narrow as the size of the organization's demands

    • An audit can uncover misunderstandings and information barriers as well as opportunities

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    Communication Audits

    • Subject:

    • Typically, audits are used to provide information on issues such as the following:

    • Objectives and goals-short and long term

    • Existing communication vehicles-publications, manuals, slides, reports and correspondence

    • Bottlenecked information flows

    • Conflicting or nonexisting notions about what the organization is and does

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    Communication Audits

    • Methodology:

    • CA is a straightforward analysis

      • Pertinent literature review

      • Competitive literature is then reviewed for purposes of comparison and contrast

      • Interview with top management

      • Recommendations

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    Communication Audits

    • Methodology:

    • The most effective CAs start with a researcher who

      • Is familiar with the public to be studied

      • Understands the attitudes of the target public toward the organization

      • Recognizes the issues of concern to the target public

      • Understands the relative power of the target public vis-à-vis other publics

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    Unobtrusive Methods

    • Fact-finding:

    • Of the various unobtrusive methods of data collection of public relations, the most widely used is fact-finding

    • Facts are the bricks and mortar of public relations

    • Most essential data can be filed in publications

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    Unobtrusive Methods

    • Content analysis:

    • Its primary purpose is to describe a message or a set of messages

    • Content analysis might be organized according to the following specific criteria

      • Frequency of coverage

      • Placement within the paper

      • People reached

      • Message conveyed

      • Editing of release

      • Attitude conveyed

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    Unobtrusive Methods

    • Readability study:

    • Do the written messages fit the right educational level of the targeted audience

    • Typical measurements include Flesch Formula, the FOG Index and the SMOG Index

    • The greater the number of syllables in a passage, the more difficult and less readable the text