When it comes to research in communications, there are many different types, so many that I couldn’t possibly, effectively relay them to you in just one blog post. In this first post in our research series – Putting Your Research Where Your Mouth Is – I am going to detail the best tools to help you conduct the initial research that must be done before launching a brand to ensure your communications program kicks off with a bang.

Having the right research in place is critical to achieving success with a launch. It’s important to develop and fully understand the message you are trying to convey, along with recognizing who your competitors are and how your brand differentiates from theirs. To get to this place there are two types of research needed – messaging and competitive research. Having thorough messaging research and competitive research will help when developing PR plans and executing them.

Messaging Research

To develop messaging and understand what buyers need and what they’re interested in, as well as key phrases that resonate with them, is important. Having established messaging that resonates with your audience can be the difference between hitting the mark or not on a company’s launch and longevity. At McGrath/Power we use several tools, free and fee based, for conducting research. Here they are:

  1. Forsight, a part of Crimson Hexagon’s enterprise social analytics platform can be used to gather insights on target audiences’ preferences before putting key messages together. Through the use of what is called a “monitor,” users can input a Boolean search, select the mediums they would like the monitor to pull from (social media, news, reviews, etc.), and select a date range that they want the information to be pulled within. For Forsight to be beneficial, creating the right Boolean search is critical. For those who don’t know what a Boolean search is, Crimson Hexagon has a good blog post about it. The results reveal deep insights on consumer preferences, industry trends, sentiment, purchase intent, product feedback, and more.
  2. Cision, a leading global provider of public relations software, is a useful tool for identifying key influencers, crafting and distributing strategic content, as well as measuring meaningful impact. There are multiple products that Cision offers, but the one we use at M/P is Cision Communications Cloud. With Cision you can monitor across a variety of channels to see what is being said – broadcast, social, print publications, news websites, blogs, and forums. Having this access means you can aggregate trending and emerging topics, uncover key influencers and learn brand insights. This knowledge is beneficial to building out a brand story and messaging that is on point with your target audience and brand goals.
  3. Google is always a good resource for research. Creating searches that target identified key audiences can provide results that encapsulate what conversations are happening with those you want to reach. When doing these searches, I find it most beneficial to look under news and review the coverage being populated, specifically in publications that are targeted to those you want to reach. Here is where you’ll identify what key words are being used and resonating with the type of audience you want to engage with.

Competitive Research

Doing a competitive audit will give you insight into what is being said by competitors and help you determine how you can differentiate your brand. To dig into who really is your competition – whether it’s the so called top dogs or companies on the smaller scale – the above tools are also beneficial, as well as looking into social channels.

  1. For competitor research, Forsight is helpful to leverage for finding out what people are saying about those you’ve identified as competitors. This information is important as you look to differentiate yourself from others.
  2. Along with gaining understanding of what people in your industry are saying on emerging topics, who key influencers are, etc., Cision is also great for deriving competitive insights and understanding what people are saying about your brand vs. competition. This is useful for confirming who your true competitors are as well as what your competitors are doing and saying.
  3. Google searches not only allow you to identify who competitors are, but also what they’re about. An initial search utilizing key terms to your business can help you find who out there is in line with what you want to say, what you’re services are, and what you’re selling. From there I typically search for coverage on those identified, finding where they get covered and how they position themselves to media and, by extension, consumers and users. This is nice background information to have when putting together your own messaging, but also great to have for later down the road when you start to build out strategy on what key media you want to target and what you can say/offer that’s different from others.
  4. I also recommend looking through social channels and going specifically to your competitors channels. With social channels you can get direct insight into what people are saying on topics and about competitors. By searching words as well as hashtags you can follow conversations and see what audiences are actively discussing – their thoughts and opinions. Checking out social channels of competitors is also good for understanding their messaging further, who their target audience is (look at who they follow and who follows them), and can give you an idea on how to distinguish your channels when you get to creating them (or if you are looking to revamp them).

Now, with the research you have gathered, you can identify what will make you stand out from the rest and position yourself for a rocket of a launch.

What comes next? We’ll share tips and tricks on finding the right analysts for your company to meet with, and how to get those meeting scheduled. I’ll share how to find out which channels are right for you and will help you reach your audience(s), how to identify what types of content you should be sharing beyond your own, as well as where to access metrics and reach of channels and how to keep momentum going. Check back for that!

  • Katie Hyman