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Experts Urge PR Practitioners To Embrace Research

The Secretary General Of Association of Public Relations in Africa, APRA, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, and The Managing Director of Nielsen West Africa, Lampe Omoyele, have called on public relation practitioners in Nigeria to embrace research as a tool in meeting the needs of their clients. Both of them made the call in Lagos at the recently held Public relation Master class, which was put together by Public Relation Consultants Association of Nigeria, as part of its contribution to capacity building for practitioners.

Speaking at the forum, Okusanya said practitioners must begin to see research as critical to the development of the business, saying that unless agencies toe the line, challenges confronting the industry may continue to stir it.

He said: “We will keep on having the challenge that we are having if we don’t consider research as critical to our business. As it is often said, what cannot be measured cannot be valued. If you ask us to bring our p-note for the same piece of job now, I am sure you would find varying values. This happen because we have not placed real value or measure or some measure of exactness in what we are doing. Until we turn public relation from an art by converting it to a science, we will keep on struggling. In this clime, what we do is to measure output and not outcome. Until we start to measure outcome, we won’t get anywhere.

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“Take for instance, MTN report has it that it remains the telecom provider with greater mentions in the newspapers yet its perception among the Nigerians public is that of low reputation. That is where differentiation comes in, in terms of outcome as against output that is usually measured in our industry. And that is where research also comes in”.

“So, we must begin to see research as a business development tool. But unfortunately, we don’t see it as business development tool. So, for us in public relation, it is essential that we measure what we have done. As PR practitioner, we must begin to entrench the essence of measurement so that our business can fall in line with global practice”, he added

On his part, The Managing director of Nielsen West Africa, Lampe Omoyele, noted that the profession of Public relation suffers similar fate with other arms of marketing as they are all related. He, however, stated that the task to fashion out a standard measuring mechanism lies with the stakeholders, noting that it is about understanding of the brands before the campaign or activation take place.

He said: “I think I absolutely agree that we are often confronted with the issue of how to measure which also happens in marketing too. For me, I think it is important to, first of all, ask how do you measure perception and equity? I think before you embark on a campaign, you must have done a pre-campaign research. Once you understand the current perception about a product or brand, you can then set target. It is about thinking through it from the start and running through the campaign. But the tendency is that a lot of businesses don’t do that which is why a lot of brand equity does not improve over a period of time. I think it can be measured but we tend not to apply ourselves”.

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Asked to comment on the import of research in the last general election about how well it worked for each of the parties, Omoyele disclosed that the All progressive Congress victory in the last general election did not come on a platter as it was a consequence of their investment in research, stressing that the party did much in the area of research to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

He said: “I think the APC, purely from the background of the research, understood that Nigerians were just tired of the ruling party. So, it came with the mantra of change. Even though it did not matter whether people understand what the change meant. I think that was the key edge APC had against the PDP.”

Omoyele, who bemoaned the low level of investment in research by many organisations, noted that it was important for practitioners to place much premium on it stressing further that the amount of investment should be predicated on the basis of choice and resources but not by setting standard.

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He said: “I think there is no hard and fast rules in measuring percentages to be allocated to research. For a business, it depends on the choice and the resources available. Take for example, you can highlight the research you want to do, determine how much will it cost and so on. In other way, you can set aside a percentage for research by saying this is the maximum you would spend. Both ways can be deployed and they are mutually exclusive and reinforcing”.

Responding to issue of conducting national research in some specific locations, Omoyele said the rationale behind the locations are usually at the discretion of clients whose decisions are informed as a result of the amount of budget available.

He said: “I think a lot of it is driven by budget consideration. The truth of the matter is that Lagos, Abuja and Kano are the most commercial cities in Nigeria. So, once the client is thinking about research, what is in their mind is that once they get those cities, understand what is going on there. Of course, you also need to bear in mind that Lagos is cosmopolitan, which helps to give a fair idea of what can happen on different regions in the country. It is about phasing in terms of budget to get what you require.”