“Research” … for some, the word evokes excitement (I’ll raise my hand here). For others, just the mention of “research” leads to boredom, sheer terror or doubt of its effectiveness. I fall into the former category because I’ve learned to appreciate the vital role research plays in communications programs.
Research is the essential first step in the right direction as you develop your strategy (download our free white paper to learn about these steps). To lay the groundwork for a diverse group of clients, I’ve worked with teams to look into everything from the popularity of family beach photos to influencer perceptions on an industry and its community impact.
To quote a professional colleague of mine (thank you for the inspiration, Jamie Floer, APR, CPRC), if you were baking a pie, research would be the crust. It’s the foundation of your recipe and you can’t bake your pie without it.
So, where should research come into play?
- Setting the Course – Identifying the problem or need for your business should be the first step. This may sound like a no-brainer, but this is the time to define a clear goal. For example, if I owned a banana farm, what is the issue or opportunity I’d need to navigate in order to sell more bananas? Clarification = effective solutions.
- Determining Audience & Planning – Think about who you need to target in order to achieve your goals and objectives, as well as the channels for making those connections. Who eats bananas? What do people think of bananas? How often do they buy them? How do they eat or prepare them? How can I reach them with more bananas? By asking these questions, you can develop a plan to reach your targets with actions that will, ultimately, influence consumer behavior. The most solid plans are backed by research. Doing the research also justifies the actions you take.
- Taking Action – Once you’ve completed steps one and two, you’re ready to implement your plan to sell more bananas. Don’t make the mistake of skipping the first two steps. A misinformed plan does not set you up for success. And sometimes, when going through the process of identifying the problem, we realize there is no problem at all. To quote a wise man from the TV show “Arrested Development,” “There’s always money in the banana stand.” Don’t burn down your banana stand just to find out it always held value.
- Looking Back & Looking Ahead – Research is also part of the evaluation process for a campaign. Are our targets now considering bananas as more than just a snack? Did my banana sales increase? To be effective, this evaluation should occur throughout all phases of a plan’s implementation. Look at what is working well and what isn’t. Consider if any changes need to be made to get your plan back on track. And at the end of your campaign, use what you’ve learned to determine if you have truly met the objectives tied to your goal, or if you need to continue onward with a different approach.
Are you still not going bananas for research? Don’t worry; I know of a PR and marketing firm that would be happy to help.