An examination of opinion research firm specialists' perceptions toward public relations practioners as clients as compared to marketing and advertising practitioners as clients

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Crossman, Marylou K.
Sharpe, Melvin L.
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This thesis sought to test the null hypothesis that stated: There is no difference in the perceptions of public opinion research firm specialists toward their client relationships with public relations practitioners as compared to practitioners in marketing and advertising.A mail survey was sent to 129 opinion firm member organizations of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations. A total of seventy-one responses were returned representing 54.3 percent of the population. Of the returned surveys, twenty-one respondents, or 29.5 percent, had conducted research for public relations, marketing, and advertising practitioners within the last year and were able to complete the questionnaire.The findings rejected the null hypothesis and indicated areas where perceptions differ. According to the surveyed researchers, their public relations practitioners fell short of marketing and advertising practitioners in understanding research methods, in possessing the necessary research skills needed to interpret statistical data, and in fully using the available services of opinion research firms.In addition, sixteen client/researcher characteristics were explored to focus on specific strengths and weaknesses, as seen by researchers, in relationships with public relations, marketing, and advertising clients. These characteristics explorations were used to create an ideal client/researcher relationship profile for comparison. This clearly found distinct differences in opinion researchers’ working relationships with each practitioner. To begin, while public opinion researchers thought understanding long-term project goals was the most important characteristic in an ideal client/researcher relationship, it was one of the least practiced characteristics by public relations practitioners. Similarly, researchers thought characteristics, including decisiveness regarding decisions, clear-cut objectives, understanding a study's limitations, and support from top management were very important in relationships. These same characteristics were not regularly practiced by the surveyed researchers' public relations clients. Concurrently, among those characteristics considered to be the least important by the respondents in an ideal client/researcher relationship, public relations practitioners most regularly practiced them. These include freedom allowed the researcher to carry out a study, enjoyment between client and researcher while working together, and simple approval procedures.Advertising clients fell dramatically behind the preferred ideal relationship in only two areas according to the surveyed respondents, involving candid communications between researcher and clear-cut objectives. Marketing practitioners did not deviate far from the ideal client/ researcher relationships according to opinion researchers. Overall, marketing practitioners are the preferred client.