In a reflection of our maturity, research and evaluation are now routinely required by public relations investment underwriters. As a result, the question of “should we measure?” has been supplanted by “how much should we spend to measure?”
The conventional wisdom of marketing and communication has long governed that “ten percent for research” is the right number, a number which, by the way, is several times greater than the average. But, like so many imperatives, the ten percent rule is a myth. The fact is, the proper allocation depends entirely on your situation.
Consider the following scenarios:
- If you are launching the next game changer i.e. iPad. 20 percent in the prelaunch phase may not be enough Alternatively, if you’re simply milking a dying brand, 1% may be too much
- If your Fortune 500 company holds an $80 million PR budget, 3% of your annual budget may be more than you need. But a small-budget brand may be more affected by the actual dollars required, rendering percentages meaningless.
- If you prioritize PR over other forms of marketing, 10% may be just right. On the other hand, the organization that emphasizes advertising might enable a lower budget for PR research
While budgeting depends on a given set of circumstances, blindly following the “conventional wisdom” will almost certainly lead to problems. Consider the following considerations for determining your PR research budget:
1. What are your organization’s objectives? Relate your PR activities and research investments to the ways by which your programs support the organization’s overall objectives.
2. What other departments will be affected by your research? Determine the potential impact, if any, on other departments.
3. What other research programs are currently under way? Make sure you know whether coincidental initiatives—marketing and communication research programs, for example—are in process. It’s essential to know what else might be in play and how these initiatives may affect one another in terms of research objectives, scope and budget.
4. How will you use what you learn? While you may not know in advance exactly what your research will reveal, it is wise to have a strong hypothesis to focus attention and resources. Knowing what you want to learn improves the likelihood that you will achieve your goals and achieve the greatest returns.
5. Who are your internal clients and how do they feel? Often, the most meaningful determination of success or failure resides with the executives who provide funding. Understanding their expectations and preferences for planning and evaluating is essential. Establish (and get clear agreement on) the measures by which your success will be determined so that your PR programs are researched, planned and evaluated with those goals in mind.
Research is a core element in public relations but it need not be mysterious, expensive or complicated. One way to ensure that your PR research arrives on time, on budget and yields the right results is to create organizational—rather than conventional—wisdom by recognizing your aspirations and limitations before the first dollar is spent.
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Mark Weiner is CEO of PRIME Research Americas, a research-based consulting firm combining talent with tools to serve clients through our network of analysis hubs in the USA, Brazil, Uruguay, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, India and China. Visit www.prime-research.com or contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make plans now to attend the 2011 PRIME Research and IABC Global Strategic Communication and Measurement Conference, November 2-4 in New York