MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

July 23, 2012

McNeely Pigott & Fox is celebrating 25 years in business during 2012, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by answering the 25 questions we are most asked about our business.

Question 7: Your client list is so diverse. How do you get to know your clients and understand their PR goals?

By Lacey Purcell

The broad perception of public relations isn’t always positive. We’re called “spin doctors” or “flacks,” and the humor is not lost on me that reputation managers work in an industry with a bad reputation. However, it’s important to know that what we do for our clients is not thought up out of the blue or meant to mislead or distract. We don’t sit back with our fingers crossed, hoping our desired audience responds favorably to what we’ve done. Everything we do is based on research – research on who we’re trying to reach and how we’re going to best connect with that audience on behalf of our clients.

Katherine Shonesy, an MP&F account executive, conducts a focus group and survey of Job Corps students.

The research aspect of our work is important because we’re not a “one size fits all” industry. Our strategies and tactics are based on customized, in-depth research into the minds of our clients, the client’s industry, competitors and who the client is trying to reach. We’re constantly digging deeper and asking ourselves, “What can we learn about these audiences to help us make the best decision for our client?”

Dr. Lisa Fall, an associate professor in the School of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Tennessee, has a lot to say about research. Her constant mantra throughout my time at UT rings in my ears still today: “Substantiate your claims.” What good is saying a strategy and tactic will support a client’s PR goals without some kind of research to back it up?

“On the front end (formative), research helps us to determine what we need to do. It provides guidelines for measuring our successes,” said Dr. Fall. Presenting our plan with formative research backs up our reasoning for the strategies and tactics we’ve suggested to implement.

“Results of our research (summative) help us to substantiate our claims, as well as to determine our next steps,” said Dr. Fall. We can present results to our clients in the form of numbers, but we can also present results in the form of direct feedback from their audience.

While the theory behind research may be discussed much more in depth in the academic world than in our office, a quick walk around our halls showed me formative and summative research in action. I saw:

  • One team working to organize focus groups in different cities across the country. In these groups, MP&Fers will talk in depth with small segments of the client’s audience to understand how they use the materials the client provides. MP&F will present these results to the client and suggest new ideas to include in the materials redesign.
  • Another team working on a competitive analysis for an industry. This information will show the client what others in their field are doing, and will identify opportunities to improve their transparency through media pitching, social media and other traditional tactics.
  • A team that had just wrapped up a conference and was distributing surveys to attendees. Results from this survey will help the client plan and improve next year’s conference.
  •  MP&Fers working tirelessly on behalf of a large retail client to keep up with the latest trends and most influential bloggers on the Web. They were looking to help the client stay current when making decisions on pitches for feature spots, blogs and other websites.
  •  One of our senior staff members preparing to write a statewide public opinion survey to distribute on behalf of a client.

We’ve found that methods like these are the best way to help our clients achieve their goals. This dedication to research is what helps MP&F get clients the results they’re looking for time and time again.

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One Response to “MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions”


  1. […] MP&F we believe that solid research is the foundation for every communications strategy. Surveying people is one way to collect […]


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