The time for deciding what topic you will pursue for your final research project is at the beginning of your Programme.
It’s graduation season for Universities in the UK. I recently attended my own graduation and it had me thinking about the process that led me to that point. I am a nerd...I’m always reading and writing down my ideas for doing my own writing, this is the same approach I took to my dissertation while at Cardiff University in the International Public Relations and Global Communication Management Programme.
This however did not make me immune to the situation experienced by many of my classmates, changing my topic in the middle of the term. I made it work none the less, I completed it with time to spare and with distinction 😊.
This blog contains all the things I wish someone counseled me on in the beginning of my programme, so here goes:
What’s your topic?
The time for deciding what topic you will pursue for your final research project is at the beginning of your Academic Programme. If you can make a decision before starting, that would be even better.
Many students get into difficulty when they wait until summer is steering them in the face to make a decision. When this happens they find themselves with little or no time to do adequate meaningful research. When that happens, students tend to go for the low hanging fruit of content analysis or discourse analysis and end up not adding meaningful information to their field.
Starting early affords you time and more importantly it gives your sources time. This way, when one or two key sources take weeks to respond, its ok, because you would have already prepared for the delay. Another reason its better to start early is that it affords you the opportunity to be in an active mode of thinking about the topic, so when events happen in the industry during the semester you are able to tie these real life current subjects to your project.
Face to Face Interviews
Another thing you should consider doing are face to face interviews (when possible). There is something about a face to face interview that you just cannot get from sending questions by email. Even skype call or phone call is better than email. It’s the human touch. Seeing the interviewee, shaking their hand and just having a nice lead up conversation, there is so much to be learnt. Seeing them on screen also offers some opportunities to have lead up conversations. You may also be able to get more time out of the interviewees if you are sitting in front of them in person or on screen. More time means more information. If this is a person you greatly admire and would like to have them as a mentor, this is a great opportunity to ask.
There is a scarcity of resources in relation to communication in Jamaica. There are very few case studies, very few examples related to Jamaica in relation to crisis Managment and communication strategy. These resources are not scare because they don’t exist, they are scarce because they are undocumented and even when they are, they are kept in a company’s filing cabinets.
Creating research topic around certain topics creates the opportunity for the veil to be lifted on these topics. I attended a conference in early 2018 and learnt about the crisis communication behind the National Bakery Crisis where they had to halt a campaign because members of the public were complaining that the photo on their delivery trucks, promoting products looked like a child with a sexual predator.
This is a case study waiting to be done based right here in Jamaica. But I only learnt about it because I happen to be at this conference and it formed part of a presentation. This is a great opportunity for learning and growth of PR students using Jamaican context. When I taught PR strategies, I had difficulty finding case studies to discuss with my students. Most of the case studies were from overseas companies.
Creating a research topic around the state of communication as a profession in Jamaica. There is an argument that hiring a PR firm is better and more cost effective than hiring a PR Officer. This is a theory that may have some value, but what would it mean for PR professionals. This is information that would add value to the field.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Very few companies are serious about their corporate social responsibility in Jamaica, at lease that’s what the documentation suggests. The companies that engage therein typically commits a page on their websites to talking about it; the media carries stories of them talking about it, but what is its real impact, who is measuring it? And if so what are the results? Where do I go to find it? This is another area that needs exploration. Companies love to talk about the triple bottom line: profits, people and planet. But do we have anyway of seeing the effects of CSR and if so, lets get it in a book or journal article! This was actually my first choice when I considered areas of research for my dissertation, however getting information especially when you are not physically in the country was like pulling teeth.
Communication and Technology
As the technology changes, so much communication and public relations. The public or target audiences are no longer sitting in front of their TV waiting for information to be broadcasted. Local research is needed on how technology is changing communication in Jamaica. An interesting twist is that technology has not penetrated other parts of Jamaica in the same way as it has penetrated Kingston and St. Andrew. This is an aspect of out landscape that needs exploration. The response to some campaigns will be different depending on location and companies need to understand why so they can tailor their messages or channel accordingly. This is an area to consider.
These are just three of many areas that require exploration. There are different areas of PR that need development such as crisis communication, litigation PR and content marketing.
The time to start documenting the development of communication is 10 years ago, we are a little late to the party. So let’s get started.