On May 17, 2012, the West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America welcomed the Anderson Economic Group's Director of Market and Industry Analysis Scott D. Watkins to Grand Rapids to share his insights on the critical but too often overlooked discipline of research.
If you haven't heard of Anderson Economic Group, you've definitely heard of their work. They do an outstanding job of promoting themselves by doing research on important issues pertaining to current events and making executive summaries of that data (which are explained in easy-to-understand language) available to the newsmedia and public. The detailed results are available for purchase.
Watkins' presentation was tailored specifically to public relations, and he frequently referred back to the texts and methodologies endorsed by PRSA. He broke down the difference between Qualitative and Quantitative data, as well as Primary vs. Secondary research.
In the context of the RACE aconym (Research, Action, Communication and Evaluation), Watkins outlined the process for doing one's own research, acknowledging the reality that many organizations don't have the budget to tap a firm like Anderson:
- Set Parameters (Goals and Objectives)
- Start with Secondary Research
- Conduct Primary Research
- Consult Resources for Public Relations Researchers
Watkins noted that one of the most valuable things a PR pro can do is turn themselves into a walking barometer of public opinion, always taking every opportunity to ask people about their opinions on issues related to their company or clients.
When asked about the viability of the traditional phone poll, Watkins said that the days of being able to rely solely on them as a means of gathering a representative sample are passed. Twenty-five percent of households do not have a landline phone, as many people (particularly younger demographics) have migrated to relying on mobile devices.
If you weren't able to attend, Watkins' handout is available here - it contains a variety of resources for secondary research.