What’s the very first step in planning for any project? Research.
The level, or lack, of research conducted – be it for a branding initiative, public relations program, marketing campaign or other effort – will directly influence success. Research informs a full understanding of the situation, the formulation of goals and objectives, the development of strategies and tactics, and the identification of target audiences. Without research, you are shooting in the dark!
Eyes Wide Open
We know… it’s incredibly tempting to forgo research and jump right to strategy and tactics. Research takes time and, depending on the methods used, costs money. Done properly, however, research can save both time and money. How? It can help you avoid mistakes or missteps in the long run.
For example, say your organization goes to market with a rebrand, but without having first gathered input from your employees. You never stopped to ask them for their perceptions of the organization and how they’d like to see it represented. Now you have a new brand to which your employees don’t feel connected, which can lead to disengaged employees, lower productivity and higher turnover.
Or say your organization made significant changes to how it communicates with your primary audience. But you never surveyed that audience to assess their current level of satisfaction, to learn their communication preferences, or to seek reactions to proposed changes before implementing them. Now there are rumblings of frustration and indications that your audience is less informed about key issues.
Uncovering the Methods
There are many research methods, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Selection of a method, or combination of methods, depends on a variety of factors including the data you are seeking, the audience you are seeking it from, how you intend to use it, your timeframe and your budget.
Examples of research methods include online research, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, online surveys, intercept surveys and feedback forms.
Online surveys can gather insights from many people quickly and are typically a lower cost option. Focus groups and one-on-one interviews can elicit deeper insights and tend to be more costly. Feedback forms are a valuable research method to continually measure customer satisfaction and learn ways you can improve your product, service or customer experience.
A Research Case Study
According to Harvard Business Review, internal surveys are the best way to monitor employee engagement. Surveying your employees affords them a chance to be heard and can enable your organization to identify emerging issues and predict future behavior. When you prioritize their input and act on their feedback, employees will develop a stronger connection to your organization.
When AAA Central Penn turned to PRworks to help develop a community relations program, AAA Cares, employee research was our starting place. To create a program that employees want to be part of, we needed to understand their community interests, as well as how, when and where they wanted to volunteer.
The project kicked off with a community involvement survey distributed to all employees. Through the survey, AAA Central Penn found that their employees’ top volunteer interests were to support animal welfare, social services, health issues and hunger. They also discovered employees were most interested in participating in volunteer activities that involve direct interactions with those they are helping and community collection drives.
AAA Cares has been a huge success with AAA Central Penn’s employees because it was informed by solid research. The kickoff event for AAA Cares combined employees’ interest in the issue of hunger with their desire to work directly with those who need help. The event offered opportunities to serve lunch at Water Street Mission in Lancaster and pack food at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
Since the launch of the initiative, more than 70 employees volunteered with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, 10 employees volunteered with Water Street Mission, and employees and AAA members raised more than $5,500 for the charities through a virtual food drive. The company has continued its community relations efforts through a United Way campaign; a collection drive for animal welfare organizations; and support for Caitlin’s Smiles, a non-profit that delivers arts and crafts kits to children facing chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
How to Get Started
To conduct research, you need to know the questions to ask, the methods to employ, how to understand the data, and how to synthesize it into meaningful findings and recommendations.
PRworks has experience performing purposeful, insightful research for organizations of various sizes in various industries. Let us help you with your research needs.
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