An Evidence Based approach using research and insights is crucial to the success and effectiveness of any public relations or communications campaign. Without doing research, you cannot know who your main publics and target audiences are, what messages will potentially resonate with them the best, or be able to measure the results of the campaign in an effective way. As Guy Golan, a professor of practice in the S.I. Newhouse School’s public relations and public diplomacy departments, always says, “Without research, you’re just guessing.”
Take, for example, a client that I worked with in my public relations research course. The client was a start-up salad dressing company with a revolutionary idea. It is marketing and selling whipped salad dressing that is only 15 calories per serving. The founder of the company, Jimmy, wanted to know if it would be valuable to create a campaign and market the salad dressing towards college students. It was our job throughout the semester to figure this out.
Our class conducted a situational analysis on the college student salad dressing market – using syndicated market research – wrote, disseminated and analyzed a survey sent out to Syracuse University students, conducted focus groups, and ended by performing some social media analytics for the company. The end result was that it would not benefit Jimmy to market to college students. College students did not make up a substantial portion of the salad dressing market, had little interest in salad dressing in general, and, furthermore, did not particularly care for the client’s product.
It was revealed through the research that the best way to get college students to purchase this product would be to target their parents; most college students buy the same salad dressing that their parents do. It was decided that it would be far more beneficial for Jimmy to continue his marketing campaign directed towards middle-aged women and men, particularly moms and dads.
Without this research, Jimmy could have wasted millions of dollars on attempting to market to college students. What it all comes down to is the client’s bottom line. Clients want to know where their money is going and how the investment in a particular campaign is going to be beneficial to their company or organization. Research and insights are a necessary component to determine where the client’s dollars would best be spent, to compare and adjust a campaign as needed, and to measure what the final results of the campaign are in a dollar-value format that most business owners understand.