Monday, April 21, 2008

The Value of Research

Last week, our firm conducted a focus group for one of our financial sector clients. The group consisted of nine employees of the firm and our intent was to measure on a qualitative level the firm’s communications efforts, both external and internal. Unlike a traditional focus group, participants were not in a focus group facility and our approach was admittedly casual. The CEO of the firm did not attend and observe.

Developing, collecting and analyzing primary research was my professional entry in to the business when I worked for a national PR firm. I love and value research, but dislike the difficulty of pitching the importance of good data to clients. Oftentimes, clients (and their PR people) feel like they know what is best based on experience. We are as guilty as the rest of the industry in not requiring primary research at the beginning of each client engagement.

As we moved through our list of questions this particular day, I began to pick up nuggets of information on how we could better communicate with our various target audiences. This client has business and retail customers and we have been asked to help advise direction of their advertising dollars (NOTE: Saxum only consults on ad dollar placement, we do not manage).

During our session, we began to discuss the comparison of television versus print. Our dollars to date have been pretty even. When asked, each respondent suggested a budget 90 percent (or higher) focused on television and on-line. The sector they occupy typically buys print! One participant said, “The only people who read the business section are already invested. Spend money where we can reach new clients.”

The research was helpful and we will take a direction slightly different than the one we were on before. When the next client says, “We know what people think,” think again and push for the data.

1 comment:

Jennifer James McCollum, APR said...

When I worked in healthcare PR, I'll never forget a focus group experience we had with a marketing firm. Through this research we discovered that we could not move the needle of public opinion any closer to perfect acceptance than what we already had. The public approval of the organization was so impressive -- we realized through research we didn't need to spend a lot of money on a PR campaign (despite some negative media reports). This potentially made available limited funds for a public awareness campaign - not about us - but about a serious and brewing health crisis (further positioning ourselves as leaders)! Not to sound corny, but research is king.