Research Cites PR as Honest Abe of Business
PR gets a bad rap in market research. My data wonk colleagues imagine that PR is about spinning, shading, and manipulating the truth. But it is just the opposite, and that is why I love working with PR professionals. To be sure, they are sensitive to the needs, complexities, and politics of the companies they work for, but they are also deeply interested in truthful research that helps document and communicate the most important issues that are relevant to their work.
My impressions of PR professionals were validated recently in a new academic study by two professors at the University of Texas in Austin and Baylor University. Their study was published in an article entitled “PR Professionals as Organizational Conscience.” It was a qualitative study based on in-depth interviews with senior PR professionals who had served as advisors to top management.
According to the research, PR professionals feel it is important to provide an independent voice, distinct from their organization’s perspective or politics. The authors summarize thus:
[They have broad] conceptions of their roles and responsibilities, including a fervent duty to the public interest. This often put them in the position of providing criticism to powerful organizational players. Rather than raising their ethical concerns as persuasive orators, they used subtle, resourceful, and experiential approaches to persuasion. Playing the role of organizational conscience typically necessitated gaining access to informal coalitions since access to dominant power coalitions often was limited or late.
What struck me about this description was how well it describes market research professionals, too. Few of us are the most dynamic and persuasive leaders in the organizations we serve, but if we are good at our jobs, we have data and insight on our side which we subtly, resourcefully, and experientially use to persuade leaders who are making the important decisions.
Hmmm…maybe it is no accident that Chicago is home to so many great PR firms and the best market research firms. Maybe there is some truth to the stereotype of the honest midwest? Well, either way, Versta Research, located here in the Land of Lincoln, is proud and happy to have worked with so many outstanding PR professionals who are the Honest Abes of business.