An inclination, often unconscious, to behave in a given way as a result of a spectrum of information, values, beliefs, experiences and persuasive messages. An attitude is a person’s evaluation of an object, situation or issue. Attitudes drive behavior. Once attitudes are influenced, new behaviors will follow.
The breakdown of an audience into demographic, psychographic or other dimensions in order to adapt strategies, tactics and messages to audience need or interest.
Data collected before or at the beginning of a project or program. The data will be compared to data collected during and after program implementation in order to assess program effectiveness.
Comparison of one’s products and services to those of competitors or those recognized as the “best in the industry” to identify standards for improvement or superior performance. Sometimes the term is used to signify milestones or progress achieved during the life of a project.
A complete analysis of an organization’s communications processes, both internal and external. The audit is designed to reveal how an organization wants to be perceived by designated publics, what it is doing to foster that perception and how it is actually perceived.
A study of publications, print and electronic media reports, speeches and letters to measure, codify, analyze and/or evaluate the coverage of an organization, its people and its activities. In a strict sense, content analysis uses a rigorous, statistical methodology. But in many cases, it is less formally structured.
Collecting information that describes existing conditions, the status quo of individuals, group opinions, attitude or behavior. Usually designed to test a theory or hypothesis.
Process of evaluating concepts, design, plan, implementation and effectiveness of a program. Used to learn what happened and why it happened.
Uses principles of scientific investigation such as the rules of empirical observation,random sampling in surveys, comparison of results against statistical standards, in order to replicate results. If done correctly, allows accurate statements about publics based on evidence drawn from scientifically representative samples. Clear objectives and purpose are a must.
Gathering information for use in making decisions prior to a program or making adjustments in a program/plan during implementation.
A bar chart that shows the visual and linear direction of project tasks useful for tracking deadlines and monitoring a project’s progress, as well as for planning and scheduling tasks. It visually lays out the order in which tasks will be carried out. It can identify resources needed for each task. It always shows a start and finish date and may identify team-member responsibilities.
Statement that spells out the overall outcomes of a program, usually a more specific expression of a mission or purpose that is directly related to the problem or opportunity at hand. Often related to one aspect of the mission or purpose. Commonly described as the desired outcome of a communication plan.
Examples: To increase public use of mass transit. To introduce people in developing countries to multi-yield agricultural practices.
Collecting information that exists on the record, including historic documents,personal papers, journals, official records, etc.
Informal or nonscientific research
Can look at values or qualities; subjective. Good for pre-testing formal strategies; exploratory. Findings cannot be projected to represent an entire audience or population. Provides an early warning signal and often used to inform formal scientific research.
Examples: Personal interviews, community forums, call-in phone lines, field reports.
Mission or mission statement
The overarching reason why an organization came into existence; a visionary statement that can guide an organization’s purpose and planning for many years.
Examples: To bring affordable transportation to the common person. To end world hunger.
- The key result that must be achieved with each public to reach the program goal. Specific milestones that measure progress toward achievement of a goal. Objectives must do the following.
- 1. Address desired result in terms of opinion change and/or behavioral outcome, not in terms of communication output.
- 2. Designate the public or publics among whom the behavioral outcome is to occur.
- 3. Specify the expected level of accomplishment.
- 4. Identify the time frame for these accomplishments to occur.
- To increase ridership of public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area[behavioral outcome] by 8 percent [level] among workers earning less than $25,000 per year[public] within the first six months [time frame] of the communication program.
- For at least 10 percent [level] of a randomly selected sample of public transportation riders in the Los Angeles metropolitan area [public] to identify as their reason for using public transportation one of the communication tactics employed in your public relations campaign[behavioral outcome] by the end of the second year of that campaign [time frame].
- To have confirmed reports that 50 percent [level] of the natives of one Asian, one African and one South American developing country [public(s)] are applying multi-yield agricultural practices [behavioral outcome] by 2010 [time frame].
Omnibus survey or study
A less expensive quantitative research method that involves piggybacking some questions on a research company’s poll. Also called subscription studies. National studies made up of clusters of questions proprietary to particular clients.
An expression of an attitude. Public opinion is the composite of all the people who make up a public.
Measurable result of change in action, attitude, awareness, behavior, opinion, support.
Measure of tools, tactics or activities supporting a plan or project.
Example: Number of news releases, media reports, number of trade shows attended, etc.
Individuals whose opinions are sought in a survey. The population can be as broad as every adult in the United States or as focused as liberal Democrats who live in the Fifth Ward of Chicago and voted in the last election. The sample is drawn to reflect the population, which is sometimes called the universe.
The process of managing how an organization distinguishes itself with a unique meaning in the mind of its publics – that is, how it wants to be seen and known among its publics, especially as distinguished from its competitors.
Investigation or data collecting first-hand; or by a third party contracted specifically for the firsthand party. Research you do yourself.
A brief summary of the problem written in present tense, describing the situation. The statement typically answers these specific questions.
- 1. What is the source of concern?
- 2. Where is it a problem?
- 3. When is it a problem?
- 4. Who does it involve or affect?
- 5. How are they involved or affected?
- 6. Why is this a concern to the organization and its publics?
A method used to ensure that a survey sample contains representatives of each subset in the population being studied, according to the proportion of their representation in the universe.
Example: If 53 percent of a certain population were women, a proportional sample would contain 53percent women.
People or groups of people who are mutually involved or interdependent with an organization.
Research that is somewhat subjective, using a problem or open-ended, free response format to investigate the value of programs or probe other questions, usually informal.Descriptive; not measurable; looks at how and why; also known as exploratory research. Yields an in-depth understanding of an issue.
Example: Focus groups
Research that can be numerically stated or compared; may use statistical standards;highly objective and projectable; uses closed-end or forced-choice questions. Factual, numerical, mostly one-way questions with short responses that have precise and conclusive outcomes.
Each person in a large group has an equal chance of being chosen.
In polling, a person who participates in a survey or poll by answering questions.
In crisis public relations planning, the determination of the chance of various occurrences in order to take steps to handle such incidents in the order of their probability. Related to the larger function of Risk Management that uses the outcome of risk assessment to plan and execute strategies to deal with such risks.
The process of measuring, or assessing risk and developing strategies to manage it. See Risk Assessment.
A portion of a larger whole; in polling, a relatively small group of individuals selected to represent a population, usually by means of random probability sampling techniques which allows for the calculation of the exact probability of such representation.
Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of data through replicable observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses, comparison against standards and provisions for replication; objective; empirical; predictive.
Uses research findings of others, or collects information secondhand. Examination of research previously conducted by others.
Examples: National or regional studies, studies by trade associations used by members in the industry,etc.
Information pulled together to define a situation (e.g., history, factors affecting a situation, people involved, etc). Contains all information needed to write a problem statement.
Sometimes used to refer to investors, but includes others who have invested time, job seniority, commitment to the organization or are otherwise dependent on an organization in a sense other than financial. A person or group with a stake or interest. One who is affected by an organization.
Overall game plan. The overall concept, approach or general plan for the program designed to achieve the objectives. General, well-thought-out tactical plans flow from strategy. Strategies do not indicate specific actions to achieve objectives. There can be multiple strategies for each objective.
Examples: Demonstrate that riding public transportation to work is an attractive alternative to driving.Choose communication vehicles that can be understood by a population with limited education.
Involves predicting or establishing a desired future state; formulating a strategy for achieving the desired state.
Gathering information as a way of monitoring a program to document the effectiveness of the whole program or its parts.
The exact tools and activities used at the operational level. The actual events, media and methods used to implement the strategy. Specific activities conducted to implement strategies of a public relations program. Tactics/tools involve use of selected personnel, time, cost and other organizational resources. Tactics achieve the objectives and, in turn, support the goals that have been set to carry out the mission or purpose of the organization.
Examples: Design, produce and distribute radio, television and print public service announcements.Conduct a “Why I’d rather be riding” essay contest.
Tracking and analysis of trends in the media, marketplace, and overall environment in order to prepare and respond as changes occur.
Refers to the degree to which a research study accurately assesses what the researcher set out to measure. Researchers assess external and internal validity. External validity refers to the extent to which results of the study can be transferred to other settings or groups. Internal validity assesses the study’s methodology and alternative explanations for study results.
Example of external validity: A study found that three messages were effective in educating members of the Pima Indian tribe about diabetes self-care steps. External validity checks would assess if the same messages were appropriate for members of another tribe or ethnic population.
Example of internal validity: Researchers surveyed a group of high school students to determine where and how they receive messages on college education. Each question on the survey was determined to be reliable; however, in reviewing responses, the researchers found that many of the surveys from three classrooms had incomplete responses for the last questions. To ensure that the answers are validly computed and compared among classrooms, researchers determined the percentage affected by this “item missingness” and applied the same percentage to responses from the remaining classrooms.
- 1. Research
- 2. Planning/Analysis
- 3. Implementation/Execution/Communication
- 4. Evaluation
Research is the systematic gathering of information to describe and understand a situation; check assumptions about publics and perceptions, and check the public relations consequences. Research helps define the problem and publics.
- WHO do we want to reach?
- WHAT do we want them to DO?
- WHAT messages do we want to communicate to each public that will:
- Primary or secondary
- Formal or informal
- Qualitative or quantitative
- Scientific method
These refer to longer-term, broad, more global, future statement of “being.” Goals may include how an organization is uniquely distinguished in the minds of its target publics.
Example: To become the recognized leader, foster continuing public support, etc.
There is a focus here on shorter-term, defines WHAT behavior, attitude or opinion you want to achieve from specific audiences, how much to achieve, and when to achieve. Objectives should be:Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Audience Specific, Relevant, Results (Outcome) Oriented, Time-Specific.
Outcome objectives change behavior, awareness, opinion, support. Outcome objectives require high level strategic thinking. “Differentiate between measuring public relations “outputs,” generally short term and surface (e.g. amount of press coverage) and measuring public relations “outcomes,” usually more far-reaching and carrying greater impact (changing awareness, attitudes, and even behavior).
Process objectives serve to “inform” or “educate.”
Outputs measure activities, e.g., number of contacts or news releases. Output can help monitor your work but have no direct value in measuring the effectiveness of a campaign.
These serve as a road map or approach to reach objectives. (This includes communication strategies that target publics for change and action strategies that focus on organizations’ internal changes.)
- Strategies describe HOW to reach your objectives.
- Strategies include “enlist community influentials to…” “accelerate” and “position.”
These serve as specific elements of a strategy or specific tools, more specifically “how to.”
Examples include meetings, publications, tie-ins, community events, news releases, etc.
Activities are details of tactics: six meetings, four publications, etc. Activities have dates, indicate who is in charge, attendance expected, etc.
Ten steps for writing a business plan
- 1. Overall Goals for Public Relations
- 2. Target Audiences or Publics
- 3. Objectives for Those Audiences
- 4. Strategies
- 5. Tactics
- 6. Activities
- 7. Evaluation
- 8. Materials
- 9. Budget
- 10. Timetable and Task List
Business plan formats and styles
- 1. Grid format
- 2. Paragraph format
- Focus groups
- Intercept interviews
- Telephone surveys
- Mail survey
- Online/e-mail survey
- Content analysis
- Communications audit
- In-depth interviews
- Phone interviews
- Complaint reviews
- Tracking – calls, purchases, hits, actions, placements
- Observations – visits, field reports
- Advisory panels
- Community forums
- Media analysis
- Fact finding
- Historical research
- Internet research
Content analysis is the objective, systematic and quantitative description and evaluation of the content of documents, including print media and broadcast media coverage. In content analysis, we attempt to objectively code and describe the content of communication. Content analysis involves selecting a unit of analysis, defining categories, sampling and coding.
Survey research is a quantitative method that uses a series of written, verbal, or online questions to sample a desired “universe”—a population or group of people. The important part of this method is developing questions that answer your research question without threatening the people you are surveying. Surveys can be mailed, e-mailed, telephoned, asked in person, or completed online. The techniques used for these different survey formats vary widely.
- Planned correctly, a survey makes it easy for the person to participate.
- People participating can remain anonymous.
- The same questions can be asked in several ways to double-check the response for accuracy.
- You can place questions in a sequence that will help get answers for even threatening subject matter.
- Survey answers that can be quantified can be analyzed by a computer and tabulated rapidly in multiple ways.
- You can pre-mail a product and follow up with a survey.
- Surveys can be used in a variety of forms: in-person interviews, written documents and telephone questionnaires.
- People surveyed may not answer all questions.
- People who respond may not be part of the universe you intended to sample.
- If you use open-ended questions, it is unlikely that you can statistically analyze them and tabulating by hand is labor and time intensive.
- It is easy for people to give habitual responses.
- People don’t necessarily return surveys.
- Costs to mail a survey and provide return mail, and for gimmicks, can be expensive.
- People won’t write a lot.
- People can and do lie.
- If open-ended questions are not specific enough, the answers will be too broad.
- You can’t test knowledge with mailed surveys.
Use personal interviewing for complex situations that require extensive explanation or context. Use personal interviewing for subjects who are difficult to access. This is the best possible method for results. It also is the most expensive and rarely used.
Use a telephone survey for basic, well-defined opinions.
- Hold length to 5 to 10 minutes.
- Use professional phone callers if possible.
- It is possible to get nearly 100 percent response.
Mail surveys are the most effective for well-defined concepts and specific limited answers. They rarely produce high response rates.
- Mail to the right people.
- Use a cover letter.
- Sending a postcard announcement before the survey increases response rates.
- Follow-up mailings can also improve response rates.
Web or Online-based surveys
Web or Online-based surveys that participants access through special URLs are increasingly common. Advantages include greater convenience for respondent, immediate electronic tabulation of results and lower costs. Among disadvantages are securing e-mail addresses and low response rates due to spam filters, the impersonal nature of the process and ease of leaving the site with a mouse click.
Open-ended questions allow respondents to answer in their own words, but present problems of interpretation and analysis.
Multiple-choice questions give a respondent several options. Be sure to include an “other”category.
Yes or no questions
Yes and no questions serve as good, qualifying questions to make sure the respondent has the characteristics of the group you want to test.
Ranking answers, putting items in a rank order, is useful.
Opinion measurement or “agree” or “disagree” questions can be used. Often this is offered on a multi-point continuum known as a Likert Scale.
Verbal/numbered scale questions
Verbal/numbered scale questions, known as a Likert Scale, are best for determining intensity of feeling about a subject.
Examples: One method is strongly agree, somewhat agree, neutral, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree; or circle a number on a five-point or seven-point scale where one end is “strongly agree” or“strongly approve” and the other end is “strongly disagree” or “strongly disapprove.” Other terms can be used with the scale, of course.
When writing non-threatening questions
- Closed-response questions give you more data faster—answers such as Yes or No or 1,2, or 3.
- Open-ended questions give you a range of data and may bring up ideas you had overlooked.
- Keep your questions specific.
When writing threatening questions
- Create an environment that lets people comfortably answer questions.
- Open-ended questions work better.
- Ask long questions.
- Stay away from technical terms.
- Phrase your question in terms of “most people you know.” People are usually more willing to talk about others.
- Go back to past behavior before you ask about present behavior.
- Cluster questions about deviant behavior with other deviant behavior.
- Put threatening questions toward the end of the interview.
- Remember, answers to threatening questions may be lies.
When writing knowledge questions
- Make sure questions aren’t too easy or too difficult.
- Sugarcoat questions, e.g., do you happen to know?
- Simplify questions and answers.
- Leave questions with numerical answers open-ended.
- If you use yes/no questions, use related questions later to double-check.
- Do not use mail to test for knowledge.
When writing attitude and opinion questions
- Be very specific.
- Keep the affective (feeling), cognitive (knowledge) and action aspects in separate questions.
- Gauge the strength of responses by providing a scale for answering.
- Start with general questions; move to specific questions.
- Group questions with the same underlying values together.
- Start with the least popular proposal.
- Use neutral terms, for example, the president, not President Smith.
- Ask close-ended attitude questions.
Put questions in order
- Put like questions together.
- Start with non-threatening, go to threatening.
- Ask demographic questions last. They are seen as threatening.
- Diagram questions in a flow chart to see the logic.
- Don’t make your survey too long. Some topics require a longer survey.
- Start with general questions, then go to specifics.
- Go forward or backward in time, but don’t jump around.
- Reverse scales to eliminate habitual responses.
Types of Samples
- Census: A 100 percent sample. Identify all the people in your universe and give each one an opportunity to respond. Especially useful with small well-defined populations. If your universe is under 300, consider a census.
- Probability samples: A scientific sample drawn in such a way that the probability of being chosen is equal or is known. A random sample is a good example.
- Nonprobability samples: More informal selection of persons to be interviewed.
Nonprobability sampling is easier and faster than formal methods and can be considered to be representative of the total population that interests you. While it can give you quick clues to a group’s opinions or behaviors,it cannot be projected on to the universe.
- o Convenience or accidental. Drop by the company cafeteria and ask questions of whomever you find there.
- o Quota. In a school, find 10 elementary teachers, 10 middle school teachers, and 10 high school teachers. Any 10 of each kind.
- o Dimensional. Identify a specific number of male or female employees, employees in clerical or technical jobs, employees who are married or single, or some combination of characteristics such as married female technical workers. Any employee is acceptable ifhe or she matches the dimensions.
- o Snowball. You may know only a few users of a certain type of computer, but they probably know other users. You contact the first few and ask them for names of others. Proceed in successive waves of questioning to find the universe you desire.
- o Purpose. Identify a sample that suits your purpose. For a quick check among music lovers, do intercept surveys in the lobby before a symphony concert. For opinions of golfers, hang out at the 19th hole and buttonhole people. For business executives,choose a specific location or industry and contact staff officers identified in annual reports of selected companies.
Sample size and accuracy
+/- 5% is standard
Focus group research
Focus group interviews are focused discussions led by a moderator and involving eight to 12 participants each. This observation technique is popular for marketing and public relations research. It is qualitative research.
Why do we use focus groups
- Focus group interviews help us explore the feelings people have for a given product, service or idea.They help us understand the language people use to express these feelings.
- Focus groups help us gain insight into why people feel the way they do. They may reveal misperceptions or misunderstandings about a given product, service or idea.
- Focus groups are valuable and often sufficient by themselves to test market assumptions regarding the emotional responses people are likely to make to a given concept.
- Focus groups are useful to pre-test creative ideas or to seek creative ideas for expressing benefits of a product, service or concept.
- Focus groups are helpful in identifying what benefits the market or public is most likely to associate with a product, service or idea.
- Group interviews tend to have a synergistic effect on how individuals respond. The group interaction typically stimulates a broader range and, sometimes, a greater depth of response, than one would get from individual interviews.
- Clients tend to like focus group interviews. They like the direct contact. They may trust relatively unstructured, verbatim responses more than numerical data from surveys.
Uses with Surveys
- To precede a survey—Because of their power to expand on the feelings and ideas of people and how they express these feelings and ideas, focus groups are useful to precede surveys. They help expand our understanding of what is to be surveyed and help identify the language to be used in asking the survey questions. They give the researcher and client overviews of trends, themes,variables, issues and points for survey questionnaire design.
- After a survey—Focus group interviews are useful after the survey is completed to explore in-depth problems and/or opportunities that may be observed in the analysis of surveys.
Limitations of Focus Group Interviews
- Because they are qualitative research, not quantitative, focus groups cannot be used to statistically measure human behavior.
- The individuals interviewed are drawn at random from the populations to be studied, but their numbers are too few to offer any statistical assurances of the validity and reliability of the observations.
- One knows only the feelings of the group interviewed. This makes it critical to conduct a minimum of two interviews with a given market or public whenever possible. This affords the opportunity to demonstrate that the behavior observed in the first group may be more likely to represent the population being studied through replication of observation. The second interview often provides the opportunity to gain additional insights and helps avoid a group bias resulting from a line of reasoning that may have been set in motion.
Parameters for Focus Group Research
- The Setting
- Group Characteristics
- Physical Location
- Length and Time of Interview
- Group Recruitment
Scientific Method research
- The scientific method suggests a series of small steps, or that one study or one source provides only an indication of what may or may not be true.
- The scientific method is self-correcting in that changes in thought or theory are appropriate when errors in previous research are discovered.
- Science attempts to provide more reliable answers than those provided by other generally used ways of knowing.
Scientific Method Research Procedures
The scientific method of research can provide an objective, unbiased evaluation of data. To investigate research questions and hypotheses systematically, both academic and practitioner researchers should use these steps.
- 1. Select a problem.
- 2. Review existing research and theory (when relevant).
- 3. Develop hypotheses or research questions.
- 4. Determine an appropriate methodology/research design.
- 5. Collect relevant data.
- 6. Analyze and interpret the results.
- 7. Present the results in appropriate form.
- 8. Replicate the study (when necessary).