The basic parts of the “four step” model are research, planning, communication, and evaluation. Research is the discovery phase- the beginning of the problem solving process. The research phase is where the practitioner gathers information to learn about challenges and opportunities the organization may have.
It is hard to plan anything without knowing the basic values of the organization you may be working for. Therefore, research can be conducted from within the organization or gathered from outside the organization by going through media sources. Gathering information and setting goals to develop effective strategies to implement communicates ideas that are essential in building relationships. An evaluation can and should occur after each step to ensure everyone involved in the relationship building process is satisfied.
The “four step” model is considered a “dynamic nonlinear process” because evaluations should occur after each of the other steps because what worked yesterday might not work today- and what worked today might not work tomorrow. Evaluation is a process that should be used after researching, planning, and communicating. There may be a need to make adjustments during this communication process and so the public relations practitioner wants to remain as flexible as possible to succeed in the two-way asymmetric communication using the “four step process”.
The difference between client research and stakeholder research is that client research is based on a service that is being provided to them by a stakeholder or group of stakeholders. The stakeholders are generally the group paying for a service and their issues are more on an administrative level (money, time, personell) whereas the client research would be based on an opinion of the quality of service that they received.
Research and evaluation are imperative to the “four step process” because they help the organization remain focused on their core values which it was built on.
The public relations practitioner may opt to conduct their own research by survey targeted towards the client base to get the breadth of the organizations impact or they may conduct research in the form of focus groups paying close attention to the stakeholders feelings about where their money is going in order to gain depth and gaining more depth. A whole other group of stakeholders would be the people who work/volunteer for the organization who might have a better understanding of where the organization is going because they have contact with both the client and the stakeholders.
When a organization loses touch with it’s publics a ‘communication audit’ could potentially save them from having to explain themselves if there is ever an investigation about the conduct of the types of communications that take place within the organization. Communication audits are “research procedures used to determine whether an organization’s public statments and publications are consistent with its values-driven mission and goals”.
*Ideas generated from my reading in Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach David W. Gruth, Charles Marsh