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RESEARCH (500 words) / 20 points awarded (Tiers 1-3/Student)
Research is the systematic gathering of information to describe and understand a situation, check assumptions about publics and their perceptions, and check the public relations consequences. It is the foundation for effective strategic public relations planning.

Each project profile should include enough background information on the company and project to give judges a sense of the situation and purpose.

Research can be identified as:
• primary or secondary
• formal or informal
• qualitative or quantitative

Primary Research - Investigation or data collected you do yourself or you hire someone to do for you.

Secondary Research - Using research findings of others or collecting information secondhand.

Formal Research - Gathering information using principles of scientific investigation, such as the rules of empirical observation, random sampling in surveys, or comparison of results against statistical standards.

Informal Research - Methods of gathering information that don’t necessarily follow the scientific method and are usually subjective and exploratory.

Qualitative Research - Research that gathers impressions and feelings about topics or probes understandings of issues without relying on statistical methods.

Quantitative Research - Research that can be numerically stated or compared and may use statistical standards.

Research methodologies include:
• Focus Groups
• Surveys (phone, mail, online, email)
• Interviews (phone, intercept, in-depth)
• Tracking (calls, purchases, hits, actions, placements, etc)
• Media analysis
• Content analysis
• Observations, visits, field reports
• Complaint reviews


PLANNING (500 words) / 30 points awarded (Tiers 1&2); 20 points (Tier 3/Student)
Successful public relations programs require proactive, strategic planning. Planning includes measurable objectives grounded in research and evaluated for return.

Goal - Goals are longer-term, broad, global, and future statements of “being.” Goals may include how an organization is uniquely distinguished in the minds of its key publics.

Example: To become the recognized leader in our industry and foster continuing public support.

Objectives - The measurable result that must be achieved with each public to reach the program goal. Objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific) and may establish milestones toward a goal.

Objectives should do the following:

1. Address desired result in terms of knowledge change, opinion change and/or behavioral outcome, not in terms of communication output.
2. Designate the public or publics that should show the knowledge, opinion, or behavior changes.
3. Specify the expected level of accomplishment (knowledge, opinion, or behavior change).
4. Identify the time frame for these accomplishments to occur.

Example: To increase ridership of public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area by 8 percent among workers earning less than $25,000 per year within the first six months of the communication program.

Strategies - The overall concept, approach or general plan for a program designed to achieve objectives. Strategies indicate how someone will accomplish an objective.

Example: Use communication vehicles that can be understood by a public with limited education to demonstrate that riding public transportation to work is an attractive alternative to driving.


IMPLEMENTATION (500 words) / 20 points awarded (Tiers 1&2); 30 points (Tier 3/Student)
This section documents how the plan was executed and communicated to the target audience or publics. A timeline, budget, and list of tactics should be included. The entrant should tell the story of actions taken, messages sent, and resources utilized.

Tactics are the exact activities and methods used at the operational level to implement a strategy and reach an objective. Tactics are specific ways you will use your resources to carry out your strategy and work toward objectives.

Example: Conduct a “Why I’d rather be riding” essay contest.

The budget may include staff time, volunteer energy, and out-of-pocket costs (expenses for transportation, images, materials, and fabrication).


EVALUATION (500 words) / 20 points awarded (Tiers 1&2); 10 points (Tier 3/Student)
Evaluation measures the effectiveness of the program or tactic against the stated objectives.

1. Verifies that public relations efforts were effective (because they met objectives)
2. Demonstrates return on public relations investment
3. Provides information for refining future public relations strategies

Examples of measurement methods include:
• Phone interviews
• Surveys (phone, online, mail, intercept)
• Content analysis
• Media analysis
• Tracking (calls, purchases, investments, etc.)
• Focus groups
• Analytics
• Anecdotes


CREATIVITY / 10 points awarded (Tiers 1&2); 20 points (Tier 3/Student)
Measures this project’s overall uniqueness. How creative was this entrant’s approach to the project? Did the entry surpass expectations or approach an issue from a new perspective? How engaging was it in its presentation and use?