Public Relations Research: Non-traditional Path to a Seat at the Table

A regular reader requested elaboration on an earlier career posting about public relations research, so Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research North America, volunteered to share his thoughts about this important aspect of PR. 


The traditional profile for a career in public relations will never disappear:  Being a great writer, a superior one-on-one communicator and a creative whirlwind will always hold promise in the established world of PR.  The purpose of this note is to offer an alternative profile for PR success – the quantitative thinker, the statistically-minded, the scientist – qualities with career potential which are just as great but with a talent pool that is far smaller.  If you fit the profile, you may be one of the “one-percenters” with a future in public relations research and evaluation:  let’s call them “PR Scientists.”

As public relations continues to evolve, the need to scientifically plan, execute and evaluate PR programs increases similarly.  As business decision-makers choose to invest in public relations, they are looking for ways to minimize risk and deliver outsized returns on their investment.  Enter the PR Scientist whose research skills help to discover and map the communications landscape; to set program objectives which are reasonable, meaningful and measurable; to develop pre-tested strategies and drive tactics to ensure compelling and credible campaigns; and to assess  program performance throughout the process so that PR performance delivers continual improvement.

One look at the PRSA or IABC credos and you’ll see the high esteem with which PR research is viewed.  In fact, good research is considered a core competency and professional foundation upon which good public relations is constructed. 

Rather than isolated number-crunching, the life of the PR Scientist is filled with team interaction in which your research is brought to life through a campaign which delivers – or exceeds – its promises to drive meaningful business results.

One of the best PR researchers in the field is a fellow who, after graduating from one of the world’s most prestigious PR Masters programs with a special interest in PR research.  Time after time, he was told to focus on developing his pitch-calling and release-writing skills and to leave the research to others.  Luckily, he found his way.  Given the opportunity to pursue his passion, he was a top executive at one of the world’s leading PR research firms before the age of 35.  His story could be yours.

If you think you may be a “one-percenter,” you will recognize the following characteristics in yourself: 

·        You are comfortable with data, can apply statistics and are capable of communicating research-based concepts with others

·        You have an analytical mind

·        You work well in a team environment

·        You love to solve puzzles

·        You value the creative process

·        You aspire to play a “go-to” role in the strategy-development process

To learn more about public relations research and evaluation, visit The Institute for Public Relations, a great free source of information, perspectives and the names of public relations research executives who may be potential employers.

Mark Weiner is CEO of PRIME Research in North America, one of the world’s largest research providers and home to many of the world’s greatest “one-percenters.”  Mark is the author of Unleashing the Power of PR:  A Contrarian’s Guide to Marketing and Communication, which is regularly featured among’s top 25 best-selling PR books.

One thought on “Public Relations Research: Non-traditional Path to a Seat at the Table

  1. I think the size of “PR Scientists” is larger than 1 percent. I feel that more people could actually fit into this field than we would like to acknowledge. The traits of a “PR Scientist” should be embodied by all PR practitioners.

    PR is based so much on research, and strategy development before execution. The execution part is small enough that a practitioner is only as valuable as his or her network of influencers once it is combined with an effective strategy.

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