The Institute for Public Relations today introduced the Essential Knowledge Project, an online guide to the best research into how organizations build and manage relationships with customers, communities, employees and other stakeholders.

“There is science beneath the art of public relations – a tremendous amount of research conducted over the years on all aspects of creating and sustaining public opinion, attitudes and relationships,” said Frank Ovaitt, Institute president and CEO. “Our goal is to make that knowledge more accessible not only to public relations professionals, but also to the stakeholders they serve.”

The free online service, accessible through the Institute’s website (, offers authoritative summaries of relevant research with links to the original sources for those who wish to dig deeper. Three topics are already available: “Trust and PR Practice” by Brad L. Rawlins, associate department chair, Brigham Young University; “Ethics and Public Relations” by Shannon A. Bowen, assistant professor, University of Maryland; and “Crisis Management and Communications” by W. Timothy Coombs, associate professor, Eastern Illinois University.

Other topics under development include employee communications, investor relations, corporate social responsibility, corporate identity and branding, and measurement and evaluation of public relations. The guides will be supplemented by case studies to demonstrate the science in practice plus online commentary from users.

A team of communications and business school professors helped conceive the project, including: Paul Argenti, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth; Stephen Greyser, Harvard Business School; Don W. Stacks, University of Miami; and Donald K. Wright, Boston University. The website development was provided pro bono by Wieck Media, online technology partner of the Institute. Restricted donations to fund the pilot project were received from Harold Burson, founding chairman, Burson-Marsteller; W. Ward White, managing director, Marcus Foundation; and Ovaitt.

Public relations agencies and corporate communications departments will be encouraged to integrate the Essential Knowledge Project into their in-house knowledge management and professional development programs.

“We believe this new undertaking represents an innovation as important as when our predecessor organization published its first bibliography of public relations knowledge in 1964,” said Peter Debreceny and Matt Gonring, co-chairs of the Institute Board. “We are helping outstanding scholars share their knowledge to build greater appreciation of the research underlying organizational communications and relationships.”

The Institute for Public Relations is an independent nonprofit dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™ , bridging the academy and the profession, supporting PR research and mainstreaming this knowledge into practice through PR education.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter