How Focus Groups Can Help Your PR Plans
[By Jason Mollica]
One of the great things about public relations is digging deep into research you or your team has done to get better insights into a potential campaign. By now, many brands have discovered that investing in research about a new product, different markets, or among clients and champions, can bring great rewards and help shape a brand’s future.
Many research tools are available, but focus groups can be valuable in getting insights into how a product may or may not work. Focus groups are small groups drawn from the larger audiences from which you need information. Participants are led through a series of questions in conversational patterns. The group questioning process is structured enough to cause participants to give you the information you seek, yet informal enough that participants build on others’ comments and ideas.
The biggest difference between surveys and focus groups is that the former gives you data; the latter gives you information.
An advantage of a focus group is that it is individualized to the project at hand. You can use a focus group to seek fresh ideas or try to gauge reaction to changes you want to enact, or test a new product. Larger companies might test employee attitudes about social communications or a potential rebrand.
When you conduct focus groups, you are saying something very important about your company or brand. You are showing an interest in what your stakeholders think, and you are backing that up with an obvious investment of resources. People, especially in this day and age, like to be asked their opinions, particularly face-to-face. This can be looked at like relationship marketing, but in group form.
Most focus groups are informal and relatively casual, which is a huge bonus. You want honest responses and the relaxed atmosphere of a focus group can really help you reach that end goal — that is part of its charm. Focus group reports can be pretty in depth, but it is this type of information that will help in developing that new brand or product.
It’s important to also break down the reports into the levels of information you can use effectively. You should have the raw notes from each session conducted; a separate report from each session, covering topics researched or that emerged; the overall report of findings, which gathers the information about the topics covered; an executive summary assembled from the overall report of findings; and a list of recommendations.
Now, will the results be something that you are happy with? Not always. The great thing about focus groups is that they are part of a process that will lead to an end result. Letting stakeholders know you carried out focus groups is also a great way to create further loyalty and champions for your brand.
How have focus groups been helpful for your brand or company? Let us know!