Public Opinion is the desires, wants, and thinking of the majority of the people or the collective opinion of the people of a society or state on an issue or problem. From the smallest independent businesses to the largest international corporations, businesses often rely on public opinion surveys to learn more about their products, services, competition and customers, and they react accordingly based on results.
Politicians rely on opinion polls to gauge what voters feel are the most important issues, so they can champion these issues in hopes of getting elected. Just about every level of government agency relies on public opinion polls to find out and prioritize what services and programs taxpayers want and need. Public opinion polls and surveys can be conducted on the telephone, by mail, e-mail, website polling or by way of personal interview.
Your communications, marketing and organizational skills will be your main tools to make this business prosper. To get started, create and conduct a few of your own public opinion polls on topics that would be interesting to the public at large. Send local media the results in the form of a press release or media alert, and use the media coverage of your polls and surveys as a public relations tool to secure paying customers for the service. Once the objective has been identified, the next step is creating an effective plan to influence the attitude and opinions of the public.
Bellow are reasons why Public Opinion is important in Public Relations practice
Public relations is often used to introduce a new product or revamp attitudes about an existing one. The goal is to get consumers to purchase the product. To accomplish the goal, public relations needs to impact the way the consumer feels about the product. This is done by showing how the product is different from other products, and creating awareness that the product is out there. For example a company might be selling a new makeup line called Beauty giving away free makeovers to new customers using products from the new makeup line. This can make prospective customers feel good about the way they look and thus may encourage them to purchase the products.
Sometimes a company is not reaching the public because their brand is not strong enough. Perhaps, customers have never heard of the company or do not know where to buy their products. It is the goal of public relations to create a brand that influences customers to shop with the company. To do so, a company might try to get as much exposure as possible. For example, a new educational company might create a program to enable employees to volunteer as after school tutors. This lets the community know they care about the education of children and thus creates a brand that consumers trust and will look forward to future products and services.
Researching public opinion means more than just trusting your gut. Read the papers. See what’s talked about on TV or on the radio, especially if there is a talk radio station or two in town. Then write down the important issues, listing them in order of priority. You can then ask colleagues, your friends, your neighbors, and even your spouse for input.
Talk to community leaders.
Call the Chamber of Commerce, the mayor, selected members of the city council or town board. If there is a neighborhood association near your facility, talk with the president or chairperson. Be candid about what you’re trying to do, and you’ll be amazed at how eager these folks are to help. If you do editorial board meetings with the local press, ask them what they think. They’ll be impressed that you asked, and reporters are usually in tune with the community.
Hold community focus groups.
For example, conduct a focus group discussion in a community to see what issues people care about, is it health, education, security? it involves roughly a dozen representative members of the community. You invite them in for an hour, maybe offer some light refreshments, and then explain that you are trying to get a better understanding of what’s important to them and the community.
You’ll have to facilitate the meeting, but in the end the people you invite will only refine your grasp of public opinion. And they’ll be impressed that you asked. Oh, by the way, don’t just invite your friends. Any effective public relations strategy needs a diversity of opinions and brutal honesty.
Conduct a community survey.
This is the effective, established public relations method of determining community issues or gauging the temperature of your audience. It will give you a benchmark in the event that you want to repeat the survey to see how you are doing. It is not easy to do a reliable survey, so read up on it or hire a professional public relations firm.
You can do the survey over the phone. Keep in mind that phone surveys can be time consuming. Research companies like Ipsos Uganda which is part of the 3rd largest research firm globally, called Ipsos Ltd. With worldwide headquarters in Paris.
If you are polling a group of people you can identify, you should be all set. If you want a more general look at the community at large, you’ll probably need some help. Or keep the survey very short and ask people at the local shopping mall. Compiling data is an important step in researching public opinion, but you’ll then need to strategize how to craft your message, product, or program to reach your audience where they will be the most receptive. Repeating some or all of these steps will allow you to gauge how much your research accomplished and allow you to adjust your public relations strategy accordingly