"Communicators think that research is too complicated, too sophisticated, too expensive for them," PublicRelay chief insights officer Mark Weiner tells Doug Simon.
Weiner's recent book, "PR Technology, Data and Insights," puts the emphasis on keeping things simple. "In the book," he says, "there are recommendations for simple methods, simple counting even, that will help to reinforce a measurement and evaluation mindset."
He adds that "as the users become more sophisticated and the recipients of that research begin to understand the unique contribution public relations can make through quantifiable performance, budgets will increase, resources will expand, and the position of public relations within the organization will evolve."
To understand an organization's position and its landscape, Weiner says that a good place to start is with an "executive audit," asking a series of questions concerning "what's important for public relations to do, and how does public relations perform relative to competitors within the category?"
To put together that information, he says to keep your eye on factors that are "reasonable, meaning, and measurable." And he stresses that sophisticated metrics are not always to get started with the process. He tells Simon that "one way to start is to understand the landscape in which you're operating and then design measurement programs or what's reasonable or affordable given your resources or if management feels strongly enough about these more esoteric measures than they have to fund it. And if they do, then they get results."
Once you have the information, he says, it has to come together with the next part of the "communications contiuum"—message development and targeting. "If you have those two elements, then you can know the media that you're targeting, the people you're trying to reach, and what you seek to say to those people."
Weiner says that communicators "should be getting smarter and smarter about our target audiences, our distribution, and our findings, and how we interpret those findings." Gaining that knowledge, he tells Simon, takes time. "What I mean by the communications continuum is that it's a cycle. Some people think of public relations as a linear process with a beginning and an end. I would suggest that we learn through every cycle and improve through every cycle, so we get better and better over time."
Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]