Week 2: Formative Research

Week 2: Formative Research

“Issue Management Part 1 – Proactive PR…Issue Management Part 2 – Setting SMART Objectives…Situational Analysis Part 1 – Overview…Situational Analysis Part 2 – Using SWOT Analysis …Organizational Analysis Part 1 – Internal Environment and Public Perception…Organizational Analysis Part 2 – External Environment…Analyzing the Public Part 1 – Identifying Your Publics…Analyzing the Public Part 2 – Audience Segmentation…Analyzing the Public Part 3 – Geographics and Psychographics”


  • Issue Management Part 1 - Proactive PR
  • Issue Management Part 2 - Setting SMART Objectives
  • Situational Analysis Part 1 – Overview
  • Situational Analysis Part 2 - Using SWOT Analysis
  • Organizational Analysis Part 1 - Internal Environment and Public Perception
  • Organizational Analysis Part 2 - External Environment
  • Analyzing the Public Part 1 - Identifying Your Publics
  • Analyzing the Public Part 2 - Audience Segmentation
  • Analyzing the Public Part 3 - Geographics and Psychographics

Issue Management Part 1 – Proactive PR

  • Step one of the MBO process requires you to define a problem and strategize how to address that issue through formative research.
  • By the end of this module, you will learn about issues and issue management.
  • Formative research allows you to identify, analyze the issue.
  • The image is an illustration that when issues are not identified, managed and resolved, you will have to focus on restoring image and reputation of the organization.
  • When issues are not managed and become a crisis, then you will practice reactive PR. That is focused on fixing and mending rather than proactive PR. Issue management helps to identify emerging issues, so that you can formulate strategic responses.
  • Issue management is anticipatory strategic management process that allows you, the PR practitioner, to respond to emerging issues.
  • Emerging issues may also have sub-issues that you have to also address.
  • While the main issue here is reputation and trust, sub-issues that impact, these are policies and social influence.
  • Let’s begin with revisiting what issues are, that are highlighted in module one.
  • Issues are considered to have a lifecycle consisting of Early, Emerging, Current, Crisis and Dormant phases.
  • Early stages of an issue indicate that something is not critical, but could become critical.
  • If you detect an issue at the early stages, then you can manage and address it before it attracts more attention and becomes difficult to resolve.
  • As issue matures through the next four stages, it becomes reactive PR. The issue will intensify.
  • Issue management may move to restoring images and rebuilding that relationship.
  • The basic assumption about issue management that allows you to practice proactive PRR. One, issues can be identified early.
  • Two, early identification allows you to address the issue.
  • Three, addressing the issue follows the MBO process which is to ensure you respond appropriately.
  • Proactive PR is focusing on addressing issues before it becomes visible to the organization, its stakeholders and the key publics.
  • PR practitioners can identify, track issues by monitoring the media and scanning the environment.

Issue Management Part 2 – Setting SMART Objectives

  • Let’s stop for a moment and discuss what objectives, strategies, and tactics are.
  • I mentioned in part one that formative research allows you to set measurable objectives, determine a strategy to achieve the objectives, and implement tactics to bring those strategies to life.
  • Let’s see this illustration of the relationship between objective, strategy, and tactics.
  • Let’s say, you begin with a behavioral objective, to increase the employees registration for wellness program by 15% in the next nine months.
  • Strategies are your plans to reach the program objective.
  • For the above objective, your strategy may be to engage with each department of the organization to promote wellness program.
  • Tactics are the tools that help you achieve your objectives.
  • The key thing to remember when you’re setting an objective is whether it is SMART, meaning, specific measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
  • Regardless of which level of objectives you set, you need to keep in mind, SMART in your mind, keeping your objectives vague and broad such as to improve employee engagement, or to build brand awareness means you will have a harder time measuring the outcome to what you planned.
  • This objective aims to raise awareness such that you may measure comprehension, retention, and attention to your messages in your summative evaluation.
  • This objective aims to engage your intended audience to do something, takes up some action, such that your summative evaluation can focus on measuring the behavioral change.
  • I was specific as to which level of objective I wanted to achieve.
  • I ensured that the objectives are achievable, realistic, and within the time frame set for the communication effort.
  • PR practitioners conduct formative research to monitor, identify, and resolve issues at the early stages, before it matures into the next four stages of the issue life-cycle.
  • PR objectives can address awareness, or acceptance, or action.
  • Evaluation should be undertaken according to the organization’s communication objectives.
  • The three levels of objectives help you plan the best evaluation to undertake.
  • Meaning, evaluations connect to the objectives which we will discuss in detail in module three.
  • You also learn what objectives, strategies, and tactics are, and when and how to set objectives.

Situational Analysis Part 1 – Overview

  • The first step to issue management is situational analysis.
  • Situational analysis allows you to identify the issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Keep in mind that the same issue may be viewed differently from different organizations such as corporations, nonprofit, government.
  • Let’s begin by asking some questions that help you identify, access and analyze the situation that has created an issue.
  • What is the situation? By answering this question you identify the issues that the organization is facing.
  • Organizations may be facing multiple issues, but may only have one or two that needs to be addressed immediately.
  • What is the background of the situation? By answering this question, you begin your research to understand how the issue came about.
  • Whether it is something that is new or old? If it’s reoccurring issue? How was it handled before? And did it make a difference? It enables you to decide whether it needs to be addressed now, and justify why.
  • What is the significance of the situation? By answering this question, you will be able to prioritize what needs to be addressed, as well as assess the potential impact of the issue on the organization.
  • Basically how big is the issue? How serious is the issue and to what extent does that impact the organization? What is the scope of the issue? By answering this question you will be able to identify if there are issues.
  • What kind of information is needed to address the issue? By answering this question you will be able to decide what kinds of information you need such as primary or secondary formal or informal quantitative or qualitative research.
  • Once you have established this, you will perform a SWOT analysis on the issue.
  • Although McDonald’s contingency plan was to pull the hash tag, McDstories, let’s assume you are a PR practitioner for McDonald’s and you want to engage in issue management to address this negative public sentiment before it becomes a crisis.
  • Who is affected by the problem? What is causing the problem? Where is the problem occurring? When did the problem occur? And lastly, why is it necessary to fix the problem? Problem statements become the backbone to your PR program planning.

Situational Analysis Part 2 – Using SWOT Analysis

  • In this part two, I will guide you on how to use SWOT analysis to assess the relative position of the organization in addressing the situation.
  • Strengths describe the positive attributes, tangible and intangible, internal to the organization.
  • Some of the things you want to consider when filling out the S are, what the organization does well, what resources the organization has, it could be financial resource, human resource.
  • What advantage the organization has over the competition? Next is W, weakness captures a negative aspects to internal to the organization.
  • Weakness is a factor that is also within the control of the organization.
  • What detracts the organization from maintaining a competitive edge? What areas of the organization need improvement? Example, lack of expertise, limited resources, lack of access to skills or technology.
  • Both strengths and weaknesses are internal assessment of the organization.
  • Next, the O and T, which are both external to the organization.
  • Opportunities exist in the market or in the environment from which the organization hopes to benefit.
  • Threats include factors beyond the organization’s control.
  • All of the organization may not have control over these factors.
  • Weakness opportunity is the gain of external opportunity worth investing to improve the internal weakness.
  • You can simply establish a difference of plan as well, so the organization isn’t susceptible to outside threats.
  • Strategies use strengths to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Apple strengths are technical skills and the resource which can address the threat of rapid technological growth.
  • The strength-threat can be used to utilize as opportunity or address a threat.
  • Weakness is the change in management but there are still opportunities to expand.
  • The idea is to focus on correcting internal challenges to maximize external opportunities.
  • The internal weakness for Apple may be high prices and the threat is that accessibility and growth of Android-based phones.
  • The focus then would be in correcting the weakness to defeat the threat.
  • It is an essential tool in helping the PR practitioner assess the organization’s internal strength and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats that help you identify and justify the best response.
  • The next step to formative research is organization analysis.
  • Once you have identified and analyzed the situation, you will need to do the same for the organization, which I will discuss in the next video.

Organizational Analysis Part 1 – Internal Environment and Public Perception

  • There are three parts to organization analysis and I’ll walk you through each one of them.
  • Assessing the internal environment of your organization enables you to identify where the organization stands on the issue and how it may approach dealing with that issue.
  • Basically the idea is that you know your organization in terms of its mission, it’s decision making process, and its stands on managing the stake holders and the key publics.
  • One of the things that affect decision making is the structure of the organization.
  • There are two types of organization structure that impacts where PR is situated in terms of decision making process.
  • While flat organization structure means fewer management layers and decision making layers.
  • You, as a PR professional, must make decisions that satisfy the needs, the stance, and beliefs of your organization.
  • Part of informative research is to also find out where the organization stands with its key publics.
  • You want to understand the visibility of your organization.
  • Does your organization have a presence amongst the target audience? How well is it known? Followed by, what is the reputation of your organization? Meaning, how do the public perceive your organization? Both visibility and reputation enable you to tailor your response.
  • There are two ways we can discuss an organization’s response.
  • Do you think BP’s decision to communicate their Gulf of Mexico restoration on their website is driven by the organization objective or the public’s needs? If you said driven by the organization objectives, you are right.
  • You can think of the organizations response as being driven by the organizations objective.
  • The second thing you need to assess and analyze is the visibility and repetition of the organization among its target population.
  • You need to keep in mind how the organization is likely to respond to the public.
  • These two organization analyses will help you ensure you tailor your response accordingly.

Organizational Analysis Part 2 – External Environment

  • P.E.S.T. is an analysis of external factors or impediments that affect the organization.
  • First thing to remember is that P.E.S.T. analysis is an extension of the external opportunities and threats, you learned as part of the swat analysis.
  • Let’s go back to the Apple case from the P.E.S.T. analysis.
  • P.E.S.T. analysis allows you to rethink the opportunity and threat, and extend its analysis further.
  • P.E.S.T. analysis allows you to look at the big picture factors that might influence your action.
  • While S.W.O.T. analysis explores a position of the organization within that situation.
  • You now have the basic elements that will enable you to perform an organization analysis.

Analyzing the Public Part 1 – Identifying Your Publics

  • This lesson will focus on analyzing the public.
  • Part one will focus on helping you understand your publics.
  • Part two will focus on how you analyze your publics.
  • In order to analyze your publics, you must first identify, what do we mean by publics? How do we segment them? Answering these questions through formative research will enable you to collect information that is targeted and focused and such relevant to the right audience.
  • Publics refers to three kinds, primary or key, secondary, and tertiary.
  • Secondary publics are also important although they are not your target audience.
  • Tertiary publics are those you are not trying to reach, although they may be aware of the organization and issues.
  • When you can hunt further divide your publics into five groups.
  • This means they fall into tertiary public and such you may choose not to actively engage this group.
  • Latent public share an issue with the organization but don’t recognize the situation as an issue.
  • Latent public can also be considered as your tertiary public and such you may choose not to actively engage in this group.
  • Apathetic publics know the organization faces an issue, but just doesn’t care about the issue.
  • This group of public can be treated either as tertiary, in that you will assume that they will not impact you meeting your objectives, or as secondary in that they are not directly targeted.
  • Aware publics recognize the problem and know the consequences of the issue, but just haven’t acted upon it.
  • Active public not only recognizes the issue, but may be active in responding to the issue.
  • The issue is how you get the public interacting positively with your organization online.
  • Now, let’s take this problem and connect it to your publics and primary formal research.
  • In the case of online, since you are practicing proactive PR, you decide you want to engage bloggers to generate positive image of your organization and to start a conversation with your publics.
  • Of course, you wouldn’t want to engage them all so you differentiate them into your three types of publics.
  • They are what we consider to be non-publics and such are tertiary public.
  • You may also consider joiners to be latent public because they do not create the content although they have a presence online through maintaining profiles.
  • All of these three groups you may consider to be tertiary public as they do not help you nor influence your objective, which is to generate positive presence online.
  • Now that you understand the types of publics that you need to identify, let’s discuss the notions of audience segmentation further.

Analyzing the Public Part 2 – Audience Segmentation

  • Marketers identify specific segments of the population, and position their products to appeal specifically to that segment.
  • At McDonald’s segmenting is central to their marketing strategy, but the burger giant takes a different approach to segmenting that most companies.
  • At McDonald’s, instead of having a brand manager on Big Mac, and a brand manager on French fries, what we have are segment managers.
  • In order to target markets accurately, McDonald’s uses segment insights.
  • We’re constantly, every day, all week long, collecting information and data about the different segments, that each of our marketing people is responsible for understanding.
  • What we pull from these segments are insights, pieces of information that help us understand how to describe our products in a way that will be most compelling for the particular segment.
  • Consumer insights focus on the values, needs, and lifestyle of each segment.
  • Using these insights, each segment team creates a positioning profile for every product.
  • Then the creative team uses these profiles to produce ads targeted to relevant segments, as well as to the general population.
  • On the other hand, if you look at the African-American consumer advertising, we learned from marketing intelligence that the African-American consumer is less inclined to consider a salad, as a substitute for almost any of the sandwiches we have at McDonald’s.
  • We needed to develop our message in a way that said to this segment, this is a hearty, filling, interesting, and exciting salad. If you look at our Hispanic consumer segment.
  • The southwest chicken salad is full on ingredients that resonate with culture and heritage, and are compelling ingredients to the Hispanic segment for a whole different reason.
  • By understanding the various consumer segments and positioning their products to appeal to each segment, McDonald’s has been able to increase overall sales.
  • At McDonald’s, there are a couple hundred people who work full-time just keeping the information current, and keeping the information coming so that we can use insights to make certain our marketing is compelling, and that our marketing efforts do result in business-building marketing.
  • This video illustrates the importance of and how McDonald’s segments its audience.

Analyzing the Public Part 3 – Geographics and Psychographics

  • This is also the hardest segmentation to categorize your publics into, but also the closest to linking with your publics’ attitude and behaviors.
  • You want a segment that truly reflects your target publics.
  • How do all these parts come together? First you want to identify your public.
  • If you know you want to target both the primary, secondary publics, which were identified as creators and critiques.
  • You need to then segment your target public who are going to be the audience in your communication efforts.
  • If you segment and research your target audience, it helps you with your planning.
  • Most importantly, guides you in ensuring your objectives are specific to your target audience.
  • Audience segmentation allows you to target and tailor your PR efforts to ensure relevancy to your target audience.
  • Targeting and tailoring to interrelevancy to your key public is strategic decision making process.
  • In this module, you have learned about issue management, situation analysis, organization analysis, and analyzing the public.
  • The research is a strategic foundation for modern public relation management.
  • Formative research occurs at the initial stages of planning.
  • Formative research helps you, the PR practitioner assess and analyze the situation, an organizations performance, position, as well as what the public knows, values, and believes.
  • The key points to remember about informative research are, that it enables the peer practitioner to identify and analyze the issue.
  • Two, understand the position of the organization that aids your decisions about your planned PR activities as well as the perceptions of your publics.
  • In the end, formative research helps you make decisions with both your organization and the public in mind.
  • After you have completed your formative research that has helped you identify and analyze a situation, your next step is to plan your primary formal research.

Return to Summaries.

(image source)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *