Conventional wisdom says that 10 percent of the PR budget is the right amount to dedicate to research—a number that is several times greater than the average.
While many within the PR research community would be happy to see a higher percentage for their efforts, the suggestion that there is a specific investment threshold is inaccurate. Like so many of the “rules” of marketing and communications, the 10 percent rule is a myth. Consider the following scenarios:
- If you are responsible for launching the next game-changer—think iPad—a 20 percent allocation may be inadequate for proper objectives-setting, strategy development, planning and evaluation. Alternatively, for a campaign that milks a dying brand, 1 percent may be too much.
- If you represent a Fortune 500 company with an $80 million PR budget, 3 percent of your annual budget may be more than you need to spend on measurement. On the other hand, a small brand with fewer resources may be more affected by the actual dollars required—rather than a percentage—to conduct reliable research.
- If you work for an organization that leans heavily on PR over other forms of marketing, the need for PR to drive business outcomes is greater. As such, money that might otherwise go towards marketing research may instead be allocated for PR research. In this case, 10 percent may be just right. If, however, the organization emphasizes direct marketing or mass-market advertising, marketing should command greater resources, even if it siphons money from PR.
In these scenarios, different situations call for different levels of investment.
While budgeting depends on a given set of circumstances, blindly following conventional wisdom will almost certainly lead to problems. It is better to create your own wisdom. Consider the following guidelines for determining your PR research budget:
1. What are your organization’s objectives? Relating an organization’s activities and investments to its overall goals and objectives is not confined to PR or research, but not doing so is a surefire path to failure.
2. What are your department’s objectives? Just as it is essential for the PR department to support the organization’s priorities, so too must the research strategy and tactics support the department’s objectives. Not aligning your research objectives to the department’s goals leads to irrelevancy.
3. What other departments will be affected? In your quest to establish the optimal PR research plan, you should determine the impact, if any, on other departments. To go through the planning process without considering others is to risk that your plans will be less effective, or even counterproductive.
4. What other programs are currently underway? Know whether similar projects—marketing and communication research programs, for example—are in process. Larger organizations are often so decentralized that it is impossible for departments to coordinate with each other. It is essential that you know what else might be in play.
5. How will you use what you learn? Research is an essential step in PR planning and evaluation. While you may not know how you will apply every aspect of your findings, you should have a strong sense of what the research will reveal so that every dollar you invest will work towards that goal.
6. Who are your internal clients and how do they feel? Ultimately, the executives who provide the funding will determine your success or failure. Understanding their expectations and preferences can be difficult, but not knowing how they feel in advance is risky.
Research is a core element in PR, but it need not be mysterious, expensive or complicated. One way to ensure that your PR research program arrives on time, on budget and yields the results you seek is to begin creating organizational—rather than conventional—wisdom. Recognize your aspirations and limitations before spending the first dollar.