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Although researchers at The University College London are claiming that ‘happy accidents’ a.k.a. serendipity moments are no accident, it does not mean you can rely on them to make your PR campaign an effective one. There is definitely some great timing required which you can chalk up to luck, but unless you have a well-researched and planned out campaign all of the luck in the world isn’t going to help you. With the added pressures of budget and time restraints a PR pro cannot afford anything other than getting their campaign right the first time.
Luckily there are a multitude of methods you can employ, which are completely customizable, to get you the most salient data for your campaign. If you are trying to examine a particular issue, or discover something then you may want to employ primary research methods such as surveys, interviews, polls, and focus groups. These are usually quite expensive, and if sample size, question format, or quantifying subjective ideas so they can be measured is not done correctly you will not get accurate results. Most of us use secondary research in our daily lives when we look at existing data and information, and using it for a PR campaign is just as effective. These campaigns cost much less, trends are apparent, you get extensive information in large areas, and data is easily measured.
Regardless of which method you choose you will be conducting research for the same reason. You want to know who you publics are, how they feel, what’s important to them, thereby where you should focus the most time, money, and energy. The formative research is the difficult part, but it is going to ensure you are running your campaign effectively and efficiently. Without completing the formative research you run the risk of missing your target audience, sending them the wrong message, sending them extraneous and irrelevant information (zero value added at a high cost), and having your product/brand ignored. When you put the effort into doing the appropriate research and correctly interpret your results this translates into the most tangible measure – dollars and market share. Your social media presence and popularity can be measured by social media measurement tools, a positive reputation and customer loyalty will endure long after your campaign has ended. Once your campaign has been completed you will do some evaluative research, which is especially important if your campaign is not as successful as anticipated. This will provide you with invaluable secondary research for any future campaigns, and a great opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
There is no measurable combination of qualities that will determine how your PR campaign will turn out. What from outward appearances seems to be completely subjective – perceptions, opinions, ideas, and beliefs can be quantified. This is done through (proper) research. You only make the sophistication of the extrapolation, interpretation, and translation of that data look like luck because you were so prepared.