Saturday, September 12, 2009

Strategic and Research Knowledge in PR

I've decided to recommit myself to blogging if for no other reason than to keep up my knowledge of the public relations profession. My goal is to read from one of my past PR textbooks once a week and blog about what I learned.

This week I've been reading from Manager's Guide to Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management by David M. Dozier with Larissa A. Grunig and James E. Grunig. If you're so inclined, you can actually read this book online. The link above will take you right to it.

Though much of the information in this book is more technical than I'm accustomed to reading, I found the material beneficial and applicable to my work in public relations. I was most intrigued in one chapter's discussion of strategic knowledge and research knowledge in public relations.
The book states that strategic knowledge includes the ability of a practitioner to:
  • Manage the organization's response to issues
  • Develop goals and objectives for your department
The first of these, managing an organization's response to issues is straightforward, but I was interested in how we should seek to strategically set goals and objectives. As the book points out, too often we tend to measure success in terms of the quality of the communications products we produce (press release, events, etc.), but we should strategically measure how these products helped us build mutually beneficial relationships with our publics. Our strategic goals and objectives help us measure this. We must remember "communication products are not an end in themselves -- they are tools used in the pursuit of desired relationships with key publics" (Dozier, Grunig and Grunig, 29).

Research knowledge involes the expertise necessary to:
  • Use research to segment publics
  • Conduct evaluation research
Dozier, Grunig and Grunig group publics into four categories:
  • Nonpublics ("not affected in any way by an organization's behavior")
  • Latent publics ("affected by a organizational behavior, but are not aware of this")
  • Aware publics (realize they have a common problem)
  • Active publics (aware publics that "organize to do something about their common problem")
Often our sole focus is on active publics because they are the ones mostly to have an immediate impact on our organizations, but we must not ignore the latent and aware publics. While active publics will "seek out information on the organization and the issue," they will also tend to "evaluate messages from the organization with a critical eye (Dozier, Grunig and Grunig, 31). Active publics also may be entrenched in their stance on the issue. Dozier, Grunig and Grunig advocate seeking to "communciate with latent and aware publics while there's still room for negotiation" (32). Only through thorough research can we identify our publics, hence the necessity for research knowledge.

More to come next week on the importance of research in public relations. Until then, if you get a chance to read Chapter 2 of this book I'd love to hear your thoughts.