Research and evaluation are key vital components of any public relations programme and participating in the implementation of The Stockholm Accords means including a robust evaluation process as part of your actions.
You may decide to work on one of the Accords themes or implement them all but, whatever you decide, we suggest that you first undertake the initial research necessary for the success of any programme. This will allow you to benchmark the current position or state-of-play in your locality or organisation and help you to develop your programme.
Your benchmark data should provide you with the following information
- What do the stakeholders you selected currently think of the profession?
- How do their perceptions of public relations and communication management compare to their perceptions of other management functions and professions?
- To what extent has public relations been integrated into management university curricula?
- At what level do public relations and communication professionals operate within the organisation’s dominant coalition – e.g. are they operating at board or governance level or as adjunct to departments?
- The perception, reputation and portrayal of the profession in business, general mainstream and digital media
The last three indicators can be revealed mostly through desk analysis, but the initial indicators will necessarily involve you, the ‘actor’ in action research and active listening, both before and after your Accords programme.
A little – or a lot?
What you do is up to you. But whatever you undertake, evaluate and report on your progress.
If, for example, a professional association decided to implement the Accords, it is important to:
- analyse the current levels of integration of public relations into management university curricula,
- identify the number of public relators belonging to organisational dominant coalitions (from private, public, and social sectors)
- interpret the current portrayal of the profession in business and general mainstream and digital media
- select, on the basis of the specific knowledge of its own territory, which of the six themes of the Accords can best be the subject of positive advocacy in a two year period, and with which of the many potential stakeholder groups this effort is best directed through a conscious and planned advocacy program.
Again, as an example, in Country X the internal, external and alignment themes (those claiming the operational value of public relations to the organisation and society) may appear to be more mature. In another region of the world instead the association might prefer to argue the more organisational and societal values contained in the sustainability, governance and management themes. Or, in a third, it could well be a combination of the both groups, or all of the themes together.
Similarly, Association A might wish to direct efforts towards its own members as well as potential members, or to the media and the business community; whereas Association B might prefer to work with the public policy process or with the cultural and educational elites; while Association C decides to apply the entire Stockholm Accords advocacy program to all of its stakeholders.
Whatever the case, once this is decided, the first step implies the evaluation and measurement of:
- Credibility of the source (the association.. or any other actor, for example yourself, your organization… ), the credibility of the selected contents, and their familiarity amongst different samples of selected stakeholder groups;
- Perceived level of reputation of the profession compared both to other professions and other management functions, amongst the same samples of selected stakeholder groups.
This base, or formative, research means that the specific quantitative objectives can be set and worked towards over two years item by item and stakeholder group by stakeholder group. At the end of the period, evaluative research can then be undertaken and the results considered.
The Accords state that listening to stakeholders before organisational decisions are taken is, by itself, a highly relevant part of communication.
During the base research process, it is possible that some of Accords arguments could reveal too low – or too high -familiarity among stakeholders; much too low – or too high - credibility of the source (the association); or even of its contents to justify and support an all-out advocacy effort. If this is the case, then the association, organisation or individual may well find that they have to adjust their approach.
Another merit of early research might well suggest to either change the selected theme, its actual contents, or even the chosen stakeholder groups.
So the application of the suggested research method is situational and bends itself to the ‘specific applications’ and the ‘specific public relations infrastructure’ of the territory in which the association operates.