This is a guest post by Mark Vierthaler, director of communications, Servi-Tech, Inc.
Conducting research sucks. It’s time consuming, it’s about as far away from creative as you can get, it tends to be a solitary endeavor, and it’s expensive (at least if you’re doing it well). Or at least that’s the popular conception of research in PR. And while there are certain times that holds true, it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Here are four quick little bits of research you can do right now to make a huge difference in your day-to-day life. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that these don’t take time, but you’re not going to have to shop out a research firm.
1) Track Your Audience:
Public Relations doesn’t (or shouldn’t) operate like your rude buddy Darrel. Listen, observe, and track, so that when it’s finally your turn to talk, your message fits into the greater conversation. It’s easier than ever to keep tabs on current and potential customers. Twitter and Facebook’s much-improved search functions let you track both national and industry-specific trends to see what people are talking about. You can’t guide the conversation if you don’t know where it stands right now. Everyone loves a good listener, and all you’re doing right now is listening to your audience so you can help engage. Take the time to write down three or four keywords that you really want to pay attention to. Focus on those.
2) Learn Your Media:
The brief time that I sat behind the managing editor’s desk of a daily was enough to sour me on the entire idea of press releases. The several hundred pitches I would receive in a week ranged from relevant to mind-boggling misfires. The quickest way to get journalists to completely ignore what you’re pitching is to not even make an attempt to know what they write about. Best-case scenario, you get your carefully crafted pitch promptly deleted, and your e-mail slammed straight into the spam filter.
Worst-case scenario, you get publicly shamed. And rightfully so. You should already have a pretty solid grip on where your audiences are seeking out their information. Before you haphazardly send out your next release, take the time to really get to know the people you’re pitching to. If you want your client to get some attention from an influential mommy blogger, take the time to read their blog. Learn if they accept outside pitches. Most journalists have their own Twitter pages now. Read their articles to see if what you’re pitching is something they’re even interested in.
3) Read, Read, Read:
Research doesn’t seem so intimidating when you do it daily. Use an RSS reader, Flipboard, Google alerts, Apple News, or whatever your preferred newsreader may be. Just make sure you’re devouring a daily dose of news and information both about the industry you work in, as well as adjacent industries, and in the public relations world in general. For example, I’m particularly fond of Feedly when I’m on my desktop and Flipboard when I’m on my tablet and phone. I’m able to subscribe to several different topics – and self-select any available RSS feeds – so I have my own digital newspaper divvied up into the sections I need. You’re already getting news here at PRNewser. Just expand it, and keep your finger on the pulse. Use the available tools to let the news work for you.
4) Use Secondary Research:
Research actually is really expensive. Good, high quality, primary, quantitative, scientific research is invaluable and time consuming. Here’s the good news though – you can still access a lot of that information online. Sometimes it’s free; sometimes it’s behind a paywall. But it’s out there and it’s ripe for the picking. There are countless research firms, universities and professional organizations that conduct semi-regular research. The Pew Research Center routinely puts out studies in a huge range of media, from news media trends, ethnic media and digital media. It’s pretty likely that your industry conducts a good number of studies themselves. For example, in agriculture the Association of Business Information and Media Companies puts out an Agri-Media Council Study every other year. While there may be times you need your own research, don’t reinvent the wheel.
By taking advantage of these four simple types of research, you can ensure you’re better equipped for clients, without destroying your budget. And eventually you’ll realize – research is as simple as reading and acting.
This is a guest post by Mark Vierthaler, director of communications at Servi-Tech, Inc, the United State’s largest agricultural consulting firm and agricultural laboratory. Mark has extensive experience in media relations, publication management and community engagement. Find him on Twitter or on LinkedIn.