The Role of Research in PR Planning

Research is probably a term you hear a lot, but maybe you don’t really know what it means. Is there a drawback to not doing research? Is it really that important? The answer is an unequivocal yes. 

Successful public relations programs require proactive and strategic planning. That planning must be grounded in research. It should be the first step in the process — followed by planning, implementation and evaluation. 

Why Research Should Determine Your Goals 

Research, as defined by PRSA (the Public Relations Society of America), is the systematic gathering of information to describe and understand a situation, check assumptions about groups of people and perceptions, and determine the public relations consequences. Research helps define what the problem is, and the publics (a group of people) you want to reach. If you’re looking to influence any type of audience, like customers or investors, that’s done through public relations. Without research guiding the method of how you’re going to influence those people, you’re just throwing things at the wall and hoping something sticks. That’s not effective, or good for your brand.

Think about your company’s long-term goals as you’re trying to figure out what you want your research to help with. What do you want your target public to think? Goals shouldn’t be communications-related because we’re trying to solve business goals, and communications are only a tactic of how to do that.

Your goal shouldn’t be “I want to be in the Wall Street Journal;” but it could be “I want to show marketing directors I’m an expert in the marketing tech space.” This could be done through an article in the Wall Street Journal. It could also be done by a piece of bylined content in a marketing trade publication that marketing directors love to read. Think about the overarching goals when formatting your PR plan, and make sure they’re grounded in research, to identify objectives or OKRs that will map back to your overall business goals. 

Types of Research 

There are many types of research — and honestly, it can get a little confusing. This can sometimes drive people away from research entirely, which is the worst thing you can do. Let’s break research down into groups:

  • Primary & secondary research
    Primary research is new or original information generated through firsthand research. You’re deliberately initiating this research, like a scientist collecting samples of data. Secondary research is not something you’re undertaking. It’s usually an examination of research previously done by others (like when you Google prior research on the topic).  
  • Formal & informal research
    Formal research is designed to gather data from scientifically representative samples using objective measures. Results can usually be projected to the larger universe, and it can be quantified. This is how you come up with statistics like “36% of the population….” Informal research is everything else (that doesn’t use the scientific method).
  • Quantitative & qualitative research
    This one is a bit easier to understand. Quantitative = quantity, as in numbers. Quantitative research is numerically-based, can be compared, and uses closed-end or forced-choice questions (versus open-ended questions). Qualitative = quality, and usually provides a bit more in-depth answers than just a number. Qualitative research isn’t measurable since it isn’t based on numbers, and often provides more detailed information (think: focus groups). This type of research helps develop in-depth understandings of issues. 


Where to Start

Now that you’re an expert in all types of research, where do you begin? Your research ahead of any PR planning should answer some pretty basic questions:

  • Who do we want to reach?
  • What do we want people that we’re reaching to do?
  • What messages do we want to communicate to those people that will increase their knowledge and/or change their opinion?  

Think about what types of decisions will be made based on your research results. What information will be required to support that decision?  

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Other parts of your organization may have already done some type of research you can use (that’s that secondary research). Even if it isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, it can still be helpful when you’re starting. Think about these questions when you’re figuring out what type of research you’re going to do: 

  • How much time do you have?
  • What questions will you ask?
  • Will the results be made public, or will it only be used internally?
  • How will you collect data — via online surveys, telephone, mail-in, focus groups?
  • Does sample selection for a survey give you an accurate assessment of your target population (if you’re researching what common problems IT leaders experience, you wouldn’t survey a group of marketing professionals)? 


Information gathering usually begins with an analysis of relevant secondary sources. Sometimes secondary research is all you have the time or money to do. The key considerations in determining your scope of research are what you need to find out and how you plan to use research results. While secondary research may be enough in some situations, you will usually need primary research to establish benchmarks for assessing specific future outcomes.

Research Essential for Media Relations and SaaS PR

You’re likely reading this blog not because you’re a research aficionado, but because you want to elevate your SaaS company’s brand or public perception. And I’m here to help you do just that! There are a few specific types of research essential for media and public relations for SaaS companies. 

Content analysis
Content analysis is objective, systematic and quantitative description and evaluation of the content of documents, including print and broadcast coverage. An example would be reviewing your media coverage and your competitors’ media coverage to better understand how often each is covered and who has a stronger share of voice.

Media analysis 
A media analysis offers a more qualitative look at a brand’s media presence. This allows you to identify media opportunities that exist in the market and see why competitors are being covered. Could you steal their thunder? Perhaps — but not if you don’t know what their thunder is in the first place (cough, cough…research).

Both of these are important during the PR planning process, which is why BLASTmedia’s media landscape analysis (that all of our clients receive during their onboarding period) is developed using both content analysis and media analysis.. 

 PR is exciting, and it can be tempting to want to dive into planning or implementation right away, but it’s imperative that goals and the strategies and tactics to meet those goals are rooted in research, or else you’re just spinning your wheels. If you want more details on content and media analysis, make sure to follow BLASTmedia on LinkedIn; we have some more in-depth information on both of those coming to you soon.

Public Relations Pocket Dictionary – 25 PR Terms To Know

“Did you see that huge hit for X client? I am receiving a lot of great traction for that pitch angle!”

If you are a veteran of the PR world, you most likely read the above sentence and understood its meaning perfectly; you maybe even have had a slight, victorious smile on behalf of your fellow pro in the trenches. Yet to our friends, families and even some of our colleagues that are new to the hectic world that is public relations, that sentence probably seemed like it was written in a foreign language. As PR continues to evolve into a career that integrates writing, editing, social media, research, communication, events, and a whole host of other skills, the terms we use to describe our jobs and daily activities will grow and change – and staying up to speed is essential for the experienced and newbie alike.

 

PR terms
Photo credit: newcastle-edu.au

Though the PR universe is rich with lingo, we compiled a list of the 25 must-know words and phrases to get any professional off on the right foot and keep us all in-the-know:

  1. Angle – A specific emphasis we chose for a story that we present to the media – ie: presenting headphones as a great travel gadget because they are portable.
  2. B2B (business to business) – Clients that focus on resources by businesses for businesses – PR efforts deal a lot with trade and business publications as well as analyst firms.
  3. B2C (business to consumer) – Clients speak directly to average consumers with their products and services  – PR efforts deal with print, online and broadcast consumer media.
  4. Boilerplate – A short company description most often used at the end of a press release.
  5. Byline – Articles or tips that are authored by a thought leader at a company (or the company itself) about a topic in which they are influential. Used as part of a robust media relations campaign and often preferred by media because it is ready made (a.k.a. easy to publish) content.
  6. B-roll –Previously recorded video footage, often shown in the background, which can be used to bolster a news story about your client.
  7. Circulation – The total number of copies of a print publication that is available for readers, whether through subscriptions or newsstands. This is a number we share with clients as one of the factors to the relevancy of a piece of coverage they have received.
  8. Coverage/Clip/Hits – An article, story, blog or segment that mentions your client. Also refers to the physical copy of that mention that can be given to clients.
  9. Earned MediaThird-party endorsement for your client, whether from the sharing of media coverage or tweets, reviews and posts from consumers of your client’s product.
  10. Ed Cals – Short for editorial calendars, ed cals are a schedule of topics media will cover at a certain publication for the entire year. These can give PR pros a starting point for reaching out to an editor about a story.
  11. Embargo – The sharing of unannounced, relevant information between a PR pro and the media that cannot be published before an agreed upon time and date. For example, if you have a new phone model coming out, you contact reporters asking if they are interested in information, reach an agreement that they won’t post the news before a certain time and then give them a preview of the information to be announced.
  12. Exclusive – Offering first-look information or samples to a single, usually major, media outlet. This means that the information or product won’t be shared with any other outlets until the original outlet has posted their story. Can be a good way to kick off a campaign.
  13. Launch The official announcement, usually jump started with a press release, about a new product or service.
  14. Lead time – The amount of time needed by reporters to gather information for their story; varies by type of outlet, with magazines having the longest lead times and online the shortest.
  15. Owned MediaContent created by you and your client, such as company blogs, company website and corporate social media profiles.
  16. Paid Media – Not just your traditional advertising, this can encompass Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter ads that can work as part of an integrated PR and social media strategy.
  17. PitchA highly targeted note that is crafted and sent to an editor to gauge their interest in your client. Can also incorporate photos and videos, and ends with a call to action.
  18. Press kit – A set of documents given to media, usually containing press releases, fact sheets, photos, videos and other relevant material to them about your client or their product/service.
  19. Press tour – Usually done in anticipation of the launch of a new product or service, press tours are 1-2 day events where you invite select media to interact with your client and their upcoming offerings face-to-face. This can be a great way to enrich relationships with editors you may not often see, and allow reporters an early, hands-on look at unreleased projects.
  20. Round-up – A story that highlights several products/services that apply to a certain topic, which can range from Valentine’s Day gifts to best products from a trade show. Though these are smaller than feature stories, they are a great compliment to any media relations campaign and can often point out the strengths of your clients versus their competitors.
  21. Syndication/syndicate – A news service that takes a single story and places it on several websites or in several outlets nation/worldwide – Associated Press is an example of a syndicate. When a piece of client coverage is syndicated, it means that the same story ran in multiple media outlets.
  22. Traction – A term to denote interest in your client from a media outlet – this could be a request for more information or actual coverage.
  23. Trade publication – A publication targeted to a specific industry for people that work in that industry (usually not for consumption by the general public). Examples include: Variety (entertainment industry) and ComputerWorld (information technology industry).
  24. UVM (unique visitors per month) – The number of real, individual visitors to a website, determined by individual IP addresses of the visitors. A way to measure the popularity of a website (the higher the number the better), rather than relying on number of site visits, which can encompass one person visiting a site several times. Can help show clients how many people potentially saw their article.
  25. Sending over the wire/wire service – A distribution service for press releases that allows you to get news out about your client to several media outlets across the country in a short amount of time. Since there is a cost associated with wire services, they are usually only used in the event of big company news or breaking news. Businesswire and PR Newswire are examples of this service.

Though this certainly isn’t a complete list, it can serve as a quick guide for both PR pros and clients, letting them know what services you are expected to perform and can offer. If any of the above PR terms peak your interest as to what BLASTmedia can do for you as a client, please contact Lindsey Groepper. 

Any other terms you think should make the list?

Method to the Madness: How to Plan a Press Tour (And Execute It Perfectly)

Because of the fast-paced nature of news, journalists need to absorb information quickly and efficiently—picking out the high points of a pitch or press release via email or a phone call and reporting in a flash! It isn’t every day that a respected journalist at a top-tier outlet reserves time out of his or her day to sit down with a brand to hear all of the details about a new product or service. But with some products or services, this does happen—during press tours, one of the jewels in the crown of a strategic PR plan.

During a press tour, a brand receives face-to-face meetings with the press in order to provide a hands-on look and real-time presentation on what the company has to offer to consumers. For example, check out Senior Account Executive Kiersten Moffatt below as she enters the New York Times offices as part of a press tour for one of her clients.

How to plan a press tour

As PR professionals, it’s our responsibility to secure those crucial face-to-face meetings with press when our clients have important new offerings. Getting a journalist at an outlet like the New York Times, Engadget, Real Simple, or Bloomberg to invite your client to meet is not an easy task. Managing a press tour requires plenty of preparation and an eventual skilled execution from a public relations team to pull it off. Here is a quick checklist to guide you through how to plan a press tour, prepare for what will happen once you’re there, and execute it perfectly for your clients.

Planning a Press Tour

If you and your client have agreed that a press tour is an ideal way to showcase what’s next in your client’s product or services lineup, it’s time to get organized. Lay a firm foundation for the impressive coverage that’s to come by following these steps.

Determine your audience. Determine the appropriate audience(s) for your announcement. If your client’s product is an iPhone app or a tablet case, for example, don’t just assume that the only correct fit is technology outlets. The product may also be relevant to national news, women’s, men’s, outdoors, or parenting outlets, to name a few. Take your time considering all of the relevant options and what will truly benefit your client.

Give yourself two weeks. From experience, our team at BLASTmedia has determined that pitching for a press tour two weeks prior to the tour dates is ideal. A month or so prior to the date is too far in advance for coordinating with press schedules and allows too much time for schedules to adjust prior to the tour dates. It’s a hard two weeks of pitching, but allows you to pitch at the most effective time, instead of spinning your wheels too far in advance.

Pitch in tiers. It isn’t always easy to know what kind of response you’ll get, so be sure to separate your press list into tiers, starting with top-tier and highly targeted outlets and working your way down. This formula also allows you to have a clean, open schedule for your most sought after meetings. No one wants to haggle with an outlet like the Huffington Post about timing!

Pick up the phone. Begin the relationship on a more personal level and pick up the phone to pitch for a press tour. It’s often hard, if not impossible, to truly portray the coolness of some products or services over email. Phone pitching allows you to “get real” with the press and tell them why it would work for them and their audience. Plus, you are more likely to establish a connection over the phone, making it easier to portray your message and learn what would be mutually beneficial for both your client and the journalist.

Preparing for a Press Tour

You’ve already done a lot of the grunt work by setting a framework for when the press tour will be and what your goals are. Make sure to follow these tips for the rest of the preparation process.

Schedule smart. Before setting definite times with any meetings, double check the location of the meeting to ensure that you have enough time for travel. Consider how long each meeting is expected to last and use several online map estimates to determine how much travel time is needed. Schedule to your advantage wherever possible.

Supply a briefing book. Clients want and need to know about the journalists and outlets with whom they’ll be meeting. Preparing your client for a press tour isn’t just about media training. Your clients needs to feel secure and confident about each journalist that he or she is meeting. Include all relevant information about the outlet and journalist, contact information, and any details that should be easily referenced before or after a meeting.

Know where you are going. Timing and travel can get crazy during a press tour. In many cases, your team will be in and out of cabs, up and down elevators and checking in at front desks with heavy-duty security. Have each address, including cross streets, both in written form and logged onto your phone. Being able to quickly yell the location of your next meeting to the cab driver saves you time and gets you to your next big meeting in a timely fashion.

Executing a Press Tour to Perfection

You’re there! Your plane has landed, your client is ready to cover the high points of his or her product, and the journalist is ready with ears open and laptop handy to take down all the details. Here’s what to do once you’re on the ground at a press tour.

Introduce your client. Introductions may seem small, but they are key in kicking off the meeting on the right foot. After shaking hands with the journalist, immediately introduce your client so they can begin building a relationship for the remainder of the meeting. Before the first meeting, ask your client how they prefer to be introduced. Is it important that you mention their title? Is there any other professional or biographical information they would like you to mention during the introduction?

Make it relevant. When relevant, chime in to suggest various angles where the product or service would fit. Make sure your suggestions are relevant to the outlet and what the journalist covers at that publication. If the outlet has a specific section that is right up your client’s alley, reference it to show that you are both familiar with the publication and were thoughtful in scheduling the meeting.

Ask questions, take notes. When something is unclear, speak up. Feel free to ask relevant questions where applicable during the meeting and, more importantly, take diligent notes. It’s going to be your job to follow up with these contacts when you’re back in the office, so be sure to have ample information to reference.

Leave a press kit. Prepare an electronic press kit with images, a press release, and any additional information on your client and any upcoming announcements. Leave the press kit and your business card with each journalist you meet to ensure that they have what they need to promote the brand.

If you are interested in learning more about how a press tour can benefit your brand, contact BLASTmedia’s Lindsey Groepper. Read more of our helpful PR tips to add even more depth and creativity to your current PR plans.

Explaining the Benefits of Online vs. Print Media: Show Me the Value!

As PR professionals, we have all been in meetings with clients, both new and old, where the first outlets they describe as their “home runs” are print publications like Good Housekeeping or the New York Times. While these magazines and newspapers remain a crucial part of any PR strategy and campaign, they are steadily being eclipsed by their online counterparts and new Internet-only media.

Continue reading “Explaining the Benefits of Online vs. Print Media: Show Me the Value!”

The Evolution of Public Relations

Public relations may seem like a modern profession, but people having actually been strategically placing stories in the media for years. As far back as the late 1800s, famous historical figures and occurrences were promoted through smaller scale weekly newspapers.

The Early Years

One of the earliest cases of crisis management through PR was in the 1890s when 80 baseball players left the National League. As you can imagine, fans and owners were in an uproar. With the help of a little media outreach, the National League was able to help straighten out management-labor disputes and secure the relationships amongst the players, fans and owners.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

While this may not be the most modern form of PR (and was certainly not called “public relations” at the time), it’s important to be able to relate what happened here to the basics of our job: using interpersonal communication, literature, public events and art to persuade other individuals to believe in our client’s services and/or programs.

The First Publicist

Historical figures such as Henry Ford and Theodore Roosevelt have been attributed with being the first to utilize the basic PR concepts: “positioning” and “ready accessibility.” In other words, these men were able to position themselves as thought leaders who were easily accessible to the press. But it wasn’t until 1906 that a man came along and changed PR forever: enter Mr. Ivy Lee.

Ivy Lee was the first public relations counselor and was hired by famous industrialist John D. Rockefeller. Our friend Rockefeller was facing some serious issues in Colorado, known as the “Ludlow Massacre,” a strike against his fuel and iron plant. In the wake of his panic, Rockefeller turned to our good friend Lee to get the problem fixed, using some traditional media outreach.

So what did our old PR pro Lee do? He decided to change Rockefeller’s tycoon image into one of a man who was concerned for the livelihood of his workers. With this new image in hand, he was able to talk to the press, workers and stage events.

What is PR now?

Through the years, PR eventually evolved from newspaper boys yelling, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” to now, where PR specialists focus a large majority of their time on content creation. With the development of the Internet, PR changed drastically. According to Jack Leslie, Chairman at Weber Shandwick, PR has moved from a broadcast model to an engagement model, meaning PR professionals are in a constant two-way conversation with the media.

Now PR specialists are focusing less and less on traditional efforts and are trying to make outreach and engagement with the media more organic. By doing so, the messages that we are offering to editors seem more natural and specific to their interests, rather than a mass email that reads generic and regulated.

From award applications and speaking abstracts to analyst outreach and media relations, our focus is to shape a certain message for our clients based on underlying marketing goals. For example, if our client is looking to connect with potential investors or share their company image to acquire new talent, we might suggest a momentum press release sharing our clients product roadmap, recent awards and current successes. We’ll then pitch an over-arching story to select members of the media (think VentureBeat for investors and local newspapers for employee acquisition).

Below are examples of additional strategies and tactics we use that map back to marketing goals:

  • Analyst relations – so products and services can be recommended to companies who aren’t aware of options or who value analysts’ recommendations
  • Contributed content campaigns – to promote our client as an industry thought leader
  • Media relations gift guides – to allow media contacts to demo products and include them in upcoming gift guides or reviews
  • Award applications – to gain exposure about the company and its offerings

The above is just a small sample of tactics we deploy that lead back to a goal established by our client. Content marketing has taken the lead as one of the best strategies for any marketing goal identified.

Here’s a real life example:

Our client was interested in securing coverage and downloads for their annual report and to promote themselves as thought leaders in the marketing industry, while gaining exposure for its product that can help businesses increase conversions. With this goal, in mind we drafted a press release stating the relevant data from the report. We also shared a downloadable link to the report with the media and a PDF version for reference. About a week later, we supplemented the release of the report with bylines describing best practices to increase conversions along with images. And finally, we created an infographic that was then promoted. Our social media tactics complemented our PR efforts which assisted in our goal of securing downloads. Below are the results of our 60-day campaign.

  • The Form Conversion Report has been downloaded directly 1,859 times
  • The webinar to share key results from the Form Conversion Report attracted nearly 1,000 participants
  • Media relations efforts garnered 67 pieces of earned media coverage in publications, including Bulldog Reporter, MarketingProfs and Adweek
  • In total, the report received 167,663,871 total impressions

Want to implement modern marketing strategies for your company or brand? Contact Lindsey Groepper to find out how BLASTmedia can help!