From the consumer’s viewpoint, legitimate research for a company of product is extremely important. If I am being told a statistic or fact, it better have come from an intensive research process, and not pseudo-research that surveyed, like, 30 people. I also want to know if effort was put into a campaign to find out what consumers want to see. For example, whenever I see an AARP commercial with Alex Trebek as a promotor, I can’t help but wonder if the PR team surveyed senior citizens about their opinion of him.
As a PR student, I’ve learned that making the consumer aware of the research can legitimize a campaign, even if the study was quickly done and not peer-reviewed (Boynton, Shaw & Callaghan, 2004). For me, the words “studies have shown” and “surveys indicate” are far more likely to grab my attention than “we think” or “you should”. The opinion is coming from the consumers, not the company.
Sadly, sometimes research firms can be sneaky; the drive to complete research could be in the name of publicity and not for the actual result. What matters to some companies is the promotion of the research, not if honest and scientific methods were used to reach the desired conclusion (Boynton, Shaw & Callaghan, 2004). Researchers can skew or completely fabricate data to meet their goal; a quick scan of raw data could point out suspicious numbers and falsify the conclusion (Hopper, 2014). This occurs because a PR firm may have already made up their mind what the data needs to demonstrate for a campaign; using biases and dishonest research helps achieve that (Boynton, Shaw & Callaghan, 2004).
Luckily, there is apparently a shift away from predetermined results; The Council of Public Relations Firms recently released an initiative on garnering enthusiasm about research ethics, and the PRSA recognizes September as “Ethics Month” (Bowen, 2013) . However, there is the question of whether these ethics events are genuine or just a PR scheme for the PR business (Bowen, 2013). The new interest and upswing in ethics poses the question of why ethical research wasn’t as important before (Bowen, 2013). Even if the ethical research trend has a hidden purpose, it will surely encourage honest research that will allow PR firms to more effectively (and believably) conduct honest research for clients and produce results that the public will buy into (Hopper, 2014).
Boynton, P., Shaw, S., & Callaghan, W. (2004). How pr firms use research to sell products. British Medical Journal, 328(7438), 530.
Bowen, S. (2013, September 13). Explaining pr’s ‘newfound’ interest in ethics. PRWEEK US, Retrieved from http://www.prweekus.com/explaining-prs-newfound-interest-in-ethics/article/311265/
Hopper, J. (2014, January 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.verstaresearch.com/blog/why-you-need-your-raw-data/