Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Using Research to Avoid Communications Malpractice

I had the good fortune to teach PR and PA Research online for George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management in January and February. Perhaps what I like best about the online teaching experience is the "Professor Chats" which I held for an hour each week. During these, my students would ask questions, and we frequently got some good discussions going.

One student noted that when his boss gave him an assignment recently, the student had suggested doing a bit of research first. The boss told my student to get on with the project and forget the research. My student asked what he should do in this situation.

I was flabbergasted. I do not understand how you can do any communications task without some research. If you are going to communicate:

  • You must know what your management or client wants to say
  • You should know who your target audience is
  • You should know what action your management or client wants to elicit from the target audience
  • You should know what the target audience cares about and what messages it will respond to
  • You should know which media are most appropriate for reaching that target audience in general and which are best for carrying the particular message you want to deliver this time
  • You should have some sense of what timing is appropriate (and how this fits with what your organization or client is trying to achieve)
  • You should have some sense of how you are going to assess the effectiveness of your communication

And these are just the basics. There a number of other issues you could research as well.

So, I told my student his boss was asking him to commit communications malpractice. Furthermore, he should be thinking about his future. In many organizations, this kind of boss will not last, and so, if the student liked the organization, he might wait for his boss to get fired or try to transfer to another department. If that wasn't going to work, I suggested he look for another job, because he is not going to learn how to do communications correctly in that kind of environment, and working there might even tarnish his reputation.


Michele said...

Bravo! You are absolutely correct.
It takes all of us to stand up and speak the truth on this. Thank you for addressing this issue.

Forrest W. Anderson said...

Thanks Michele.