MP&F’s Top 25 PR Questions

August 13, 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 10: What is a focus group?

By Eric Tieles

I am frequently asked, “What is a focus group?

My short answer:        It’s when we get feedback from our audience on our work.

My formal answer:      It’s a group of people brought together to discuss a specific product, topic or message.

But what does that really mean? Bottom line, a focus group collects a special kind of feedback.

Typically, a focus group is a moderated question-and-answer session, conducted with a selected group of participants. The sessions are generally held in special facilities and are videotaped for future reference.

When I say “feedback,” I don’t mean any and all feedback. Focus groups are targeted. A survey or questionnaire is routinely used to collect quantitative feedback. That’s where you get number results like “three out of four doctors say” or “70 percent of registered voters choose,” but that just scratches the surface.

A focus group provides more qualitative results, allowing you to dig deeper into what those numbers really mean. You learn about why the doctors said what they said, or why voters voted the way they did. In most cases, a survey or questionnaire is put into the field first, and is then followed up with focus groups.

Keep in mind that no two focus groups are ever the same, nor should they be. Focus groups vary depending on a client’s research goals, topics, schedule and budget. Focus groups also vary depending on the composition of the participants. But, ultimately, all focus groups are held to gather additional feedback.

By studying this feedback, we as PR professionals can better understand decision-making behaviors that drive our audiences. Based on these decision-making behaviors, we can better create products that meet these needs.



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