Execs Highlight Need for Research and Stories
Five of Chicago’s PR leaders gathered at a PRSA forum this week to discuss current trends and the future of public relations. The discussion was striking in how fully it echoed the trends and challenges facing the polling and research industry, and what we need to do to keep our eye on the ball. Here are a few take-away ideas from that forum that apply to both PR professionals and their research partners:
There will always be a need for good storytelling. This point was eloquently made by Susan Howe, President of Weber Shandwick Chicago. The media through which stories are told is shifting, but the fundamentals of good PR remain. Likewise for research, the tools we use are changing every day, but turning data into stories is a constant that underlies change.
You know the story better than anyone. Rich Jernstedt, EVP of Fleishman-Hillard argued that good PR professionals own and communicate the client’s story at every phase because a reporter will never know that story as deeply. Likewise, an effective research partner helps a client communicate data from beginning to end, long after the “report” is delivered. Nobody knows the research as thoroughly as we do.
We need to add value. Janet Cabot, Co-President of the Chicago Office of Edelman, highlighted the importance of research and intellectual capital because effective tactics are now a “given” and clients are looking for more. The same goes for research itself. Focusing on data collection and tabulation no longer adds value. We need to leverage our considerable intellectual capital by helping clients interpret, grasp and communicate the research.
It was an optimistic and inspiring forum that was consistent with our thinking at Versta Research: Change is an opportunity to focus on (1) the fundamentals of what we do (designing rigorous research to answer critical questions) and (2) the value we add (turning data into stories), both of which make for strong and lasting partnerships with our clients.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.