Targeted public relations alone can definitively shift consumer awareness and perceptions, according to a new study commissioned by Chandler Chicco Agency and conducted by researchers at Ohio University.

CCA worked with Ohio University to design the study, which measures the impact of public relations using advertising’s reach and frequency metrics.  Pre- and post-placement surveys were conducted in Kansas City and St. Louis—selected because of their similar audience demographics and psychographics—to gauge any difference in the general public’s knowledge, attitudes and projected behaviors before and following media placements. 

The study focused on Allergan’s Botox treatment, selected because of relatively low consumer awareness of medicical uses—cervical dystonia, strabismus, blepharospasm—and the lack of advertising activity during the study period.

After a public relations effort in Kansas City, the study showed an increase in the awareness of strabismus (or crossed eyes), from 32 percent pre-placement to 47 percent post-placement and in the post-placement survey, 18 percent of total respondents shifted from a negative to neutral in their perception of Botox use, indicating a 200 percent increase in the number of “persuadables,” or those who indicated they were “on the fence” regarding future use of the drug.

According to Dr. Diana Knott, co-study author and assistant professor at Ohio University, “Such neutral attitudinal positions are desirable because these respondents, who we can refer to as ‘persuadables,’ can be more readily influenced.  Although there is still more research to be done in this area, these results are an extremely positive indicator that we are getting closer to understanding ways in which we can effectively measure the role of public relations in shifting consumer perception.”

Robert Chandler, founding partner of CCA, adds, “Our work with Ohio University reinforces our belief that public relations can serve to persuasively educate, which in turn can change or neutralize attitudes and motivate behavior.”