Research in PR

I feel like this question is a no-brainer. Why research in public relations? What would happen if we avoided research? Research is an essential skill in PR. We need it to learn about the company we’re going to represent; how could we possibly come up with a solid plan for the company without knowledge of who they are and what they do? We need it to identify the public that the company aims towards, whether we’ll be ” selling the product to teens or adults, males or females, students or professionals” (PR Friend, 2013). We need it to keep an eye on similar competitor companies. We need it to get the company’s name out there and generate publicity. Without research, the company and the PR firm would eventually fail.

We live in an age where all we have to do to find something out is type it in a search engine. As Melanie James of the University of Newcastle, Australia eloquently puts it, “the Internet gives public relations practitioners a unique opportunity to collect information, monitor public opinion on issues, and engage in direct dialogue with their publics about a variety of issues” (2008). Research has become more accessible to everyday people in the electronic age, as well as easier for people in the PR field to get the information needed to develop a successful plan for a company.

It also poses a challenge to PR practitioners; news travels fast, whether it be good news or bad news. I mean, we hear about things the second they happen over the Internet: Justin Bieber was arrested for a DUI and my Twitter feed blew up, Richard Sherman gave an intimidating post-game interview and social media went wild, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch said their clothes weren’t made for fat or uncool people and Facebook moms everywhere threw out their kids A&F clothes. We’re all humans, and humans make mistakes, but the people behind the scenes in the PR world have to have a backup plan for when things like this happen. Research can help prevent crises like these, or have a plan B when they happen. Anyone can access the Internet, that’s why “research has to be more considered and thought provoking,” and “most certainly, no more exaggeration” because, with the world able to be so exposed to the public, there is hardly room for error (mustard, 2013).

Obviously, research plays a huge role in public relations. To sum up what I’ve already pointed out, PR Friend gives us this tip about research: ” It’s important to know a client’s needs, target market, and available resources in order to draw up a good PR plan” (2013). Especially in this day and age, people in PR can’t escape the importance of research in keeping both the client and their own firm successful and up-and-coming.

 

PR Friend. (2013). The importance of research in public relations. PR Friend. Retrieved from http://www.prfriend.com/research-in-public-relations/

mustard. (2013). Market Research and Public Relations – the what, the why and the how. mustard Blog. Retrieved from http://www.mustard-research.com/blog/13/11/market-research-and-public-relations-%E2%80%93-what-why-and-how

James, Melanie. (2008). A review of the impact of new media on public relations: Challenges for terrain, practice and education. University of Newcastle, Australia. Retrieved from http://www.pria.com.au/sitebuilder/forms/forms/file/34-174/Melanie%20James%20article%20Asia%20Pacific%20PR%20Journal.pdf

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Diversity in PR

Diversity has been a pretty dominant topic in the media lately. From things like racial profiling to LGBT rights, diversity is a word that keeps popping up. Think about it: Martin Luther King Jr. day just passed and the world is still celebrating his work with the civil rights movement, almost 50 years later! It’s pretty amazing. We’ve come a long way (and we still have a ways to go) with racially diversifying our country, but we still have a lot of work to do with gender and ethnic equality.

As with pretty much every other field (business, advertising, and medicine are a few that come to mind), public relations has been dominated by upper-middle class white males for years. You could do a simple Google search and learn the same thing. You could look at media and learn the same thing; shows like Mad Men (set in the late 1960s) portray the predominantly white male atmosphere at an advertising firm. So why, in 2014, are we still battling problems of diversity in the work place? According to Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), the field lacks ethnic diversity because most ethnic minorities are not educated about the field of public relations, but instead are “encouraged by their parents to take up law, medicine or accounting” (Stimson, 2013).

It also probably doesn’t come as a shock to know that white men dominate higher-up positions in the field, and are also paid more than women. More and more women are entering the field of public relations, but despite this fact, the wage gap is still widening, with women only earning, on average, about 77% of what their male counterparts are making (Huffington, 2013). Not only is the wage gap an issue of diversity in PR, gender discrimination, such as sexual harrassment, is also a major problem in the field. In an academic journal written by Tiffany Derville Gallicano at the University of Oregon, she points out the fact that despite men are in “power positions” and are more able to change aspects of these companies, they perceive that gender discrimination is happening to a lesser degree, if it is happening at all (2013).

Despite obvious lack of diversity in PR, this isn’t to say the field isn’t trying to solve the problem. Gallicano summarizes some of the efforts to try to diversify the field,

Despite the paucity of diversity in public relations agencies, there are signs of efforts to change. For example, Fleishman-Hillard (2012) has a paid six- to 12-month fellowship program for college seniors and recent graduates who are ethnically/racially diverse. Meanwhile, Edelman (2005) developed a program to recruit employees from historically black colleges and universities, and it launched a pilot mentoring program. Porter Novelli partnered with Together Our Resources Can Help (TORCH), a nonprofit that provides opportunities to underserved students in New York City public high schools (PR Week, 2011b). Porter Novelli gave an eight-week PR101 course to more than 40 TORCH students, raised $100,000 for the nonprofit organization, hired TORCH interns, and assigned TORCH students to Porter Novelli mentors (PR Week, 2011b). (2013).

It took years for Martin Luther King Jr. to change our views of racial segregation throughout the country, but we now live in a world where blacks and whites are more-or-less equal (like I said, we still have a ways to go). Slowly but surely, we are seeing small changes in PR, integrating both gender and ethnic equality, into a quickly growing field.

Gallicano, T. Derville. (2013). Millennials’ Perceptions About Diversity in Their PR Agencies. Public Relations Society of America, 7, 2, 7-8. Retrieved from http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/20132Gallicano.pdf

Huffington, C. (2013). Women And Equal Pay: Wage Gap Still Intact, Study Shows. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/women-and-equal-pay-wage-gap_n_3038806.html

Stimson, S. (2013). Why the PR industry lacks diversity. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://careers.theguardian.com/pr-industry-lack-diversity

Public Relations Background

Coming into this class I don’t really have a huge amount of background knowledge on Public Relations. My favorite show, Sex and the City, features a Public Relations executive as one of the four main characters and most of my knowledge stems from this as well as one of my best friends whose major is PR. Samantha Jones, the character from Sex and the City, owns her own firm in which she hosts many parties for various companies and groups, showcasing a specific idea or product. For instance in one episode, she put together a book release party for the publishing company of her friend and author, Carrie Bradshaw. Also my friend is currently a PR major and hopes to become some kind of publicist to handle press and media coverage for clients. This, essentially, is my understanding of Public Relations, taking an idea or some creation and communicating it in such a way that the general public understands and reacts in a desirable fashion, thus becoming a middle man between a client and the world. My major, Health Communications, I feel goes hand in hand with this class because I know that eventually I will have to be in contact with a group of people or the public and relay the clients objectives. Another one of my intrigues for this class is that I believe that PR people run the world because they are the ones who everyone consults before letting things go public so mainly they’re the ones who get final say over what goes where. I realize that I’m probably skating over the topic but this is my first class of this kind and I am eager to jump in with both feet. My baseline knowledge comes from my experiences through other people and this is the first time dipping my toe into this narrow field and like I said, I’m excited!