The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) Board wants to redouble our focus on research, tracking even more toward topics that matter to the practice: providing timely insights and applied intelligence that leaders in our field can put to immediate use. In this post and another to follow, I want to share our research direction broadly with IPR’s supporters and followers. Please consider this your invitation to join the conversation and help set our course.
THREE KINDS OF RESEARCH
Dr. Jim Grunig has praised the Institute for supporting three kinds of research: in public relations, on public relations and for public relations. Jim’s well-considered and scholarly use of this taxonomy differs somewhat from how the IPR Board has used it as a guide. But here is IPR’s adaptation of the Grunig structure:
- Research in public relations is used to guide and evaluate relationship-building and communications programs (in other words, planning research and measurement).
- Research on public relations helps us understand what we as professionals do and how we do it (e.g., benchmarking best practices, the talent pool we attract, and the business of public relations).
- Research for public relations establishes the social science underpinnings of our work (sometimes borrowed from other fields).
The lines between these can be less than perfect. Any given research work may have elements that qualify for more than one kind. Nevertheless, across many discussions with senior communications officers and researchers, these categories seem to hold up well and inform the conversation.
IPR’s involvement in the first kind has been driven primarily by the Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation and its standard-setting efforts. As an example of the second kind, in the weeks ahead, we will announce a new partnership with the USC Annenberg’s Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center to advance the methodology and distribution of the GAP (Generally Accepted Practices) studies. But it is the third kind – the fundamental research of our field – that Trustees believe is the most distinctive (and unfortunately, least accessible) of the three, and that should be our primary focus.
HOW IPR SUPPORTS RESEARCH
Historically IPR has played multiple roles in supporting the three kinds of research. These roles may not be new, but I believe they are more widely understood and supported within our organization today.
- Aggregator – Identifying, publishing and promoting important research from many sources, including IPR’s own volunteer commissions, Trustees and the research organizations of major agencies and corporate communications departments.
- Grantor – Commissioning new research and using awards to encourage research on high-priority topics.
- Partner – Amplifying IPR’s influence and reach through relationships with organizations that we have traditionally considered partners (e.g., membership-based public relations associations both national and international, trade groups, academic institutions and funded academic centers); and going forward, organizations more readily recognized by CEOs and other organizational leaders.
- Interpreter – Drawing actionable insights and intelligence from research, and employing all communications channels (including our free website, social network outreach, professional forums, the annual lecture, speaking and media opportunities) to share compelling knowledge and manage what one Trustee has called “the life cycle of a research project.”
MORE LATER, BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK SO FAR?
After proposing dozens of research topics, the IPR Board has identified its five highest priority basic research topics. I will share those with you in my next post, part two of “Laying Down a Research Track.”
But for now, just as you have stepped up in the past with financial contributions to IPR, we now need your intellectual contributions to help set our research direction. Thank you.