In public affairs consulting services, research is an important part of the job, especially when it involves solving problems. It is almost certain that this type of work should involve research in the sense of applied research in the social sciences. Sometimes research is done even before the work begins, in this case it is desktop research.
Kiroyan Partners was once contacted by a client who started with the following statements and questions: “Does Kiroyan Partners have access to Mr. A (while mentioning the name of a community leader)? We faced chaos because Mr. A had masterminded the takeover of our company. You need to talk to him.” In dealing with cases like this, we are of course very careful. We do not immediately respond to client requests, because there are several problems here. Most importantly, because after the New Order era it was not common for people to take over companies by means of violence, times have changed.
We began by examining what kind of mess he meant. How did our client draw the conclusion that Mr. A was making efforts to take over the company. What we found was that this statement was based solely on conjecture. There was a retired officer who was involved in a business dispute with our client partner. This retiree had served in the same unit as Mr. A, and because of that our client immediately concluded that he wanted to take over the company.
What also often happens is that companies ask for help to solve “licensing problems”. We always state that it is foreseeable that a bigger problem is the reason for pending or ungranted permits. This is usually related to the environment, society, or relations with the government. For example, as put forward in the March 2019 issue of PR INDONESIA magazine, Sometimes it’s better to be quiet. The company does not know or does not try to find out the cause of the inhibition of permits to start operations, even though all the requirements have been met. As a result, the problem dragged on.
Stakeholder management requires identification of stakeholders first. Finding out what concerns or interests them require field research using a reliable method before drawing conclusions. All must be based on verified facts. Therefore, data collection must be carried out systematically, then interpreted systematically based on the scientific method. Only then can we seek answers to questions or problems that were defined appropriately before the research was carried out. Otherwise, research will reach erroneous conclusions.
Research is a tiered activity. It starts with defining the problem correctly. Begins with a good understanding of what the client asks for and an understanding with the client about how to achieve their goals. As a public affairs company, Kiroyan Partners is committed to solving problems in an ethical manner, and before work can begin, it is necessary to make it clear that the client agrees to this way. We were once asked to help find a solution for a project that was opposed by the community, which considered the project to be damaging to the environment and violating local customs.
The client said, there are supporting studies which have stated that their project does not damage the environment. But when we asked if they were willing to engage in scientific research with a reputable institution, they became doubtful. Later, we got word that the company was approaching it in spinning ways. As a result, the problems they faced were not resolved.
Seeing how important research is for public affairs consultancy, the consultants involved must also have a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Not all must have a background in communication science or public relations studies. As I have often stated, public affairs is a corporate communication activity that includes non-market factors, including social, economic, and political studies. As such, the approach is holistic and multi-disciplinary.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 59th Edition, issued on February 2020, page 48.
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