Research: A major component to planning your PR campaign

A guest speaker poised a tantalizing question to my strategic public relations class recently. He asked how would we would reposition Planned Parenthood’s message to alter the perception of the nonprofit’s main services being an abortion provider to highlight other health care services they do offer.

It’s that question, which has me pondering exactly what would I do if I were responsible for the strategic communications plan for Planned Parenthood. Ideally, any organization should be proactive with their messaging, so they can control what is being said. Obviously the world we live in is far from ideal.

I kept asking myself, how do you get around the political football of abortion, especially as we venture further into the 2016 political minefield? I realized I needed to start at the beginning.

Take it step by step through the RACE process.


In this post I will concentrate on the research process.

Research, sometimes called discovery, is a major component of a strategic

Research image

Proper research will lead your entire PR campaign if done correctly.
Image courtesy of the Spectrum Center at the University of Michigan.

communications plan. You must understand what message Planned Parenthood (or your company/client) is currently delivering and how it is being received by various segments of the population.  What are proponents are saying about Planned Parenthood and its message. Is the message currently being talked about the one you want people to be discussing? If not, then you need to craft a plan to alter the message your firm wants to convey, in an attempt to get your talking points out in the public.

Identifying your stakeholders is another vital step. Some people may consider it action, but I classify it as research.  You have to understand the population you are trying to reach in order to properly communicate with them.  The way you write a message to women seeking birth control varies drastically from how you would write a speech for a C-suite executive addressing elected officials. Identifying the right medium to effective to reach your target audience.

• Are you trying to reach teenagers or 20-somethings?   Post a video on Snapchat. Keep it short as young people have very short attention spans. Create memes. 

• Trying to educate academia or nerds?   Publish your findings in an academic journal or trusted online news source. 

• Wanting to influence elected officials?  Try to get the news media to pick up your message. Pitch stories focusing on your message to The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Hill, Politico and other national or statewide news outlets. The officials’ communications staff often have top newspaper’s editorial desks numbers on speed dial. (Seriously, they do. I know a congressional staffer who keeps the phone number of my former newspaper’s editorial main phone on speed dial). 

After completing the research you can then move forward in the planning stages. Yet, that’s another blog post for another day.