A business research is usually seen as something in creasingly serious and, therefore, unnecessary for all companies. In fact, talking to your customers, Google search, or advertising analytics can easily comprise such a research.
Any of this data can be used to create a communication strategy based on your goals. You can then make an analysis and focus on the indicators you already have. As it turns out, conducting research is not as difficult and scary as it may seem.
How to evaluate PR indicators
The idea that PR cannot or should not be measured must be dismissed together with the still prevalent idea that PR is free. Nothing is free when it comes to business. Whenever a business allocates time and money, does networking, conducts expertise - it tries to manage all processes effectively.
Management needs measurement. Here PR is no different from any other function of business be it sales, marketing, or finance. All parties should be interested in determining efficiency. This goes out to PR managers and company executives as well as other departments and their managers. For business, this gives an understanding of what works best to achieve the goals, for a PR manager - what to state in a resume or on LinkedIn as an achievement.
PR effectiveness, as well as other functions, is assessed depending on the objectives and goals of the business. First, we set high-level goals - what we as a business want to accomplish in a year. The wording should be as clear as possible, for example:
- To increase the market share in servicing shopping malls from 10 to 20 percent.
- To increase finished goods sales in Ukraine to UAH 100 million.
- To attract at least UAH 100 million of investments from European investors.
The goal of the business is always monetary gain. Therefore, the task of management is to break down this goal into tasks for each department with its own performance indicators determined immediately at the planning stage.
For instance, if the business task is to increase sales, then the communication task may be to increase consumer awareness and trust in the company's products. This goal is achieved with the help of PR and marketing tools. For the same task, the marketing department can focus on increasing lead generation and repeat purchases through the use of advertising tools, where PR can provide support at certain stages of the Customer Journey.
After defining communication tasks, we make a plan of what exactly we need to do. Any plan is a roadmap showing how we move from the point of "now" to the point of "future" in conditions of uncertainty. Therefore, it should include:
- Our "now" starting point — baseline.
- Our understanding that the future has come — metrics of result and metrics of progress, (and whether we are going in the right direction).
- A set of activities and tools with which we will move from "now" to "result".
- Necessary resources - money, team, contractors, time.
Why do we need research?
We conduct research to determine the starting point and the choice of activities and tools. The objective is to choose from the many possible options (hypotheses) those where you can get the best result.
In the process of implementing the selected activities, research is used to understand the progress in achieving the result and, if necessary, to adjust the activities. For example, to determine if the competitors have become more aggressive or if our resources have changed.
Research is often seen as a rather complex, time-consuming, and expensive tool. Yet, here are some basic examples of very effective research that you may already be using.
ASK GOOGLE AND FRIENDS
type: open data.
- Incognito or VPN mode;
- Look further than the first page;
- Vary search queries;
- Look at Google Trends;
- Google using different languages (Russian / Ukrainian / English).
type: CustDev, in-depth interview, focus group
- Speak until the answers start to repeat (7-8 people/groups);
- Only open-ended questions;
- No questions on predicting the future;
- Write down word-for-word;
- If possible, work with a partner.
type: Office research, web analytics
WHAT EXACTLY: website, social media pages, business analytics
WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE:
- Google Analytics;
- CRM and its analytics;
- HotJar, etc;
- Financial report;
- Business analytics itself.
type: open data.
WHAT EXACTLY: salary levels, job offers, rental costs as indicators of living standards
- View aggregate data;
- Select different periods and filters;
- Take screenshots/record results, it's not Google.
type: competitive analysis, market analysis
WHAT TO LOOK AT:
- Job offers and pages about the team;
- Press releases and releases on specialized resources;
- Presentations of management on public speeches;
- key messages, reputation profile;
- types of content and distribution;
- special formats;
- media in which they publish.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WITH THE COMPETITOR
type: Competitive intelligence, field research
WHAT EXACTLY: if possible, follow the full buyer experience and evaluate the service
WHAT TO LOOK AT:
- advertising targeted at you;
- where communication leads (landing, shared site, nowhere);
- what and how is sold to you;
- connection channels;
- is it easy to buy;
- what happens after the purchase / refusal.
type: Market research.
HOW TO FIND:
- Specialized sites;
- Specialized companies and associations;
Which research to order
The most popular communications studies are sociological and media research. Sociological research shows the audience knowledge, media - the way and volume of communication. You can order these studies to determine the baseline and to evaluate the result, which in turn will be the next baseline.
Before ordering a research, you should define its goals and objectives and look at examples from your chosen contractor, especially if you are ordering for the first time. This will give you an understanding of the product and what information can be obtained from the research.
What to do with the data
All research requires interpretation so that we understand what it all means. Interpretation can be facilitated when we:
- Structure the obtained results. For example, enter them in the Google Sheets table with columns.
- Visualize the obtained results, as it is easier to compare data using graphs. These can be the basic Google Sheets graphs.
- Look at what you do not have. If we have conducted the research in the form of an interview, we should pay attention not only to what people have said but also to what they have not mentioned. We can be certain that the level of service is very important for our customers. However, in the course of an interview, we hear mostly about the quality of the product while very little is being said about the service. This might indicate that our main problem now is quality, and the service is either good enough or irrelevant because of the quality issues. The same goes for media research. If we see many positive mentions of a company as a place of work, this might not be so much about the positives, but rather signify the growth zone.
- Remember that correlation does not always represent a cause-and-effect relationship. An easy example is that of lower prices and higher sales. In addition to the price, we can also attribute it to seasonal changes, change of packaging, increase in the number of advertisements, the post of the opinion leader, etc. Identifying the key factor will help you avoid wasting resources.
- Do not try to analyze every single metric. More data does not mean a better result. Besides, it requires extra time to process. Try to choose relevant tools and analyze the amount of data that is necessary to make a decision. There will always be uncertainty, regardless of the volume of collected data.