Why "Duh" Research Helps Public Relations

To quote Nuke Laloosh, the dim and trim rookie baseball pitcher played by Tim Robbins in Bull Durham, “winning is like, you know, better than losing.”  Well duh.

The same reaction applies to “duh” research – those kind of studies that confirm the obvious like rain makes things wet.  While such a grasp of reality is hardly remarkable, the human behavior behind the methodology is pretty revealing.  Apparently we need to be repeatedly hit on the head with umpteen trials, multiple studies and lab experiments to even begin to think about influencing or changing our behavior, much less someone else’s.

When sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler repeatedly concluded after three decades of studies that too little sleep causes doctors to make mistakes, no radical changes were even considered until 2008.  Only then did the Institute of Medicine issue guidelines calling for limiting interns’ and residents’ shifts. Same thing with the dangers of smoking. Multiple studies over many years, combined with a change of regulations, legal cases and public education, now quantifiable show that today’s rate of smoking in less than half of what it was in 1965 – that’s how long it took for “duh” research to serve a meaningful purpose.

The point? It takes a lot, and I mean A LOT of factors, to affect change or influence human behavior, which is after all, the ultimate goal of any professional public relations practitioner. Whether the goal is to increase retail traffic, sell more widgets, gain more customers or expand operations, the bottom line question remains: Do you have the necessary research and due diligence behind the goal – which has to involve human behavior – to develop an effective public relations strategy that contributes to reaching that goal?  “Duh” research proves that people must be hit on the head over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over to have the slightest chance of prompting change of habit or mindset. Such research also validates the reality that public relations takes time. It’s not about a one-time media story or an uptick in social media followers; it’s about a well-thought-out public relations strategy that begins with research.

Well duh.




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