Last week at the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference, the light was shone on corporate affairs research. It is emerging as a core focus for corporate research teams.
Applications for corporate affairs research include managing stakeholder expectations, issues management, corporate responsibility program development, and crafting corporate/brand communications.
The core audiences for corporate affairs research goes beyond the consumer and includes other important stakeholders in the general public like opinion leaders, policy influencers, government leaders and voters, organizational employees and investors, and the media.
Corporate affairs research helps with PR crises. Organizations are innovating more quickly and cost-effectively than they ever have before, which can often lead to unintended side-effects that require some PR-led course-correction.
For many companies, this can take the form of less dramatic or instant issues like the growing focus on environmental sustainability. Look for example at Philip Morris, which went from one of the most admired companies in the US in 1990 to the “America’s most reviled company” nine years later in 1999. It was a general perception issue that changed and intensified over about a decade. Could it have been avoided through a more robust corporate affairs research program?
Using research to dig deeper to the core issues facing corporations (internal and external, current and future) helps define the reactive actions and communications that represent specific responsibility focus areas. Far beyond the traditional 5Ps of consumer research, corporate affairs research instead focuses on factors that impact a company’s product and perception: social acceptability, regulations and restrictions, responsibility expectations, fiscal and tax policy, and stakeholder activism. It’s a form of societal research versus customer research.
The more dynamic your industry, the greater your need for corporate affairs research. Projects could include landscape analysis, materials testing, external advocacy and engagement and campaign tracking. Can you identify opportunities or threats in your space that might impact your brands before those trends become too widespread and well-known?
So is your organization using corporate affairs research to inform business decisions? It’s an enormous area of growth and can define intelligent organizational shifts and expansions. Researchers looking to help impact their organizations’ futures should start an informed discussion internally about using corporate affairs research and broaden their vision beyond the consumer to the wider society that affects your company’s perception in the market. We can help you get started by focusing your research on the right target – get in touch.