How PR Pros Can Do Their Research Without Breaking the Bank

Whether you’ve read up on reviews to help make your next car purchase, or simply asked around about gift ideas for your loved ones, on a personal level you are a constantly subconscious researcher.  At the professional level, you likely conduct research to determine your stakeholders’ attitudes towards your organizations’ potential moves.  The same holds true for public relations professionals, who need to have an understanding of their audiences’ attitudes and beliefs before developing messages tailored to their tastes.  Gaining this understanding usually involves more research, which admittedly sounds like a tedious and expensive process at times.  However, there are many tools out there that professionals can use to create a measuring stick of how their target audience feels about something.

Here are three ways to conduct research even when you’re trying to pinch pennies:

  1. Free online survey tools – When done properly, surveys are a great way to identify characteristics about your audience, and there are many great websites which allow you to create them for free.  Some of these sites even include features like skip logic, which allows survey takers to skip certain questions based on their answers, while others let you customize your site with your organization’s colors.  Although the two most popular tools are SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, there are many others out there that could better suit your organization’s needs.
  1. Focus groups – If you work in a professional team environment, chances are that you’ve had a brainstorming session where you bounce around various ideas.  If you have, then you’d also understand the benefits of a focus group and how great they are for gathering a few people to get a general consensus of your target audience’s attitudes.  However, conducting focus groups usually come with a minimal financial cost as you may have to give potential participants some sort of incentive to convince them to participate, such as free food or gift cards.
  1. Social media-based analytics dashboards – Social networks have come to recognize the importance of proving their worth to businesses and their bottom line.  Digital analytics helps professionals by providing data to demonstrate how their efforts contribute to the organization’s goals.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Facebook and Twitter have built-in analytics tools for users who are interested in their posts performance.  LinkedIn also comes with an analytics dashboard for managing company pages.  Even websites can be tracked for effectiveness with the use of free analytics tools from Google.

What’s one of the best ways to find out how your audience feels about something? Ask them!  On the surface, utilizing these tools may seem to be overwhelming and complicated.  Luckily, Dr. Ford and I will demonstrate how easy these tools really are to use at the 2015 PRSA International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, November 9.  We’ll also provide real-world examples of organizations and businesses who’ve used successfully used these tools even while having little-to-no budget to work with.  Simply put: it’ll be a way to get in touch with your inner-grassroots communications self.

5 Reasons Why PR Pros Should Embrace Digital Analytics

Digital analytics has become somewhat of a dirty buzzword for those in the communications industry lately. Ironically though, it has been the theme of my third week into the fall semester at Newhouse. From Sysomos training for my research course, to my continued work as Dr. Ford’s research assistant, I’ve found myself regaining my appreciation for the science behind gathering meaningful analysis.

Whether you like it or not, public relations and analytics are becoming synonymous with each other. It’s not just enough for PR professionals to communicate their clients’ message, but they also have to prove that those messages are effective. Best of all, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have decent analytics in place as social media tools like Facebook and Twitter offer dashboards for you to see how your content is performing.

Here are some ways that analytics can be a beneficial tool for public relations professionals:

  1. Finding your biggest advocates – One of the best things you could have in PR is a loyal fan who’s willing to go to bat for you. They’re the ones who are always sharing your content and are usually the first to leave comments. The frequency with which your biggest fans share your content is a metric you could utilize in addition to recognizing them for their free promotion.
  2. Following the process – If you have a registration process for attracting donations or purchases, you can use analytics to determine the likelihood of visitors to complete the process, also known as the conversion rate. High-end tools like ForeSee, and easy-to-use tools like Google Analytics, allow you to set up tracking codes to determine where visitors might be losing interest and leaving your site, especially if it’s in the middle of a process.
  3. Timing your visitors’ stay – If you’re putting out content that features multiple elements, you’ll want to find out how much visitors are engaging with it. With tracking codes on your website, you can find out just how much time the average user is interacting with your site’s pages. For instance, if you embed a five minute video on a webpage, you might be concerned if visitors are spending listen than five minutes on that page.
  4. What you’re doing right – If you’re putting out a steady stream of content you eventually want to know what type of messaging works for your audience. By keeping track of metrics such as likes, visits and page views, you can notice trends that are more effective than others.
  5. What you’re doing wrong – Of course if you find that engagement with your posts are low you can use analytics to figure out why your messaging isn’t resonating with audiences. You could also use sites like justunfollow.com to see if you’re losing your audience on social media.

With this in mind, I’d hope that more PR professionals will come to recognize digital analytics not as a niche area, but as part of the overall strategy. Just as PR has become integrated with advertising and marketing, digital analytics will continue to make its way into the mix for years to come.