This semester I am also enrolled in Urkovia Andrews Public Relation Research class. Our class is responsible for finding out opinions and thoughts on implementing a tobacco-free campus. There are about 6 groups in the class and some of them are responsible for finding the Georgia Southern student’s thoughts. The others are responsible for finding out the staff and faculty’s thoughts on it.
For this study our group has had to observe the tobacco users on campus, pass out a web-based survey, and hold a focus group of five to ten students. The focus group has been the most difficult part thus far. Getting the students to commit to coming to a focus group at 7 p.m was hard enough. The only way we got them there was the through the bribery of pizza and pop. The hardest part was after taping the focus group, we had to transcribe it. We had to write every little cough and laugh we heard. We had over 30 pages of transcripts! I would like to give some advice if you ever decide to do a focus group for research:
1. Make sure there is only one person out of your group speaking and asking the questions. Don Stacks who wrote “Primer of Public Relations Research” calls that person the moderator. That person is the one in control of the discussion . It helps the group discussion flow and move in a timely fashion and matter. Have a set of questions ready with probe questions behind them. When you ask a question…pause, and if no one answers use a probe question saying “why do you think that?” ” how did you come to that answer?” It will really get people to open up and speak their ideas without feeling shy or uncomfortable.
2. Have a back-up assistant. This person helps the moderator if something goes awry and assists when they need to.
3. Bring a tape recorder. Record everything you hear. It will help at a later time when you need to back track and get more information. Also, make sure you test the recorder ahead of time. You don’t want to think you are recording the session and in reality aren’t!
4. Bring a notebook. Write down as much as you can. Our group made this mistake and didn’t write anything down. The more information you have, the better research results you can offer.
5. Make sure you have the participants secure a time and place they can come and make sure they don’t back out! Also, have something they can sign when they get there. You want to make sure they know why they are there and that they will be kept confidential unless otherwise told differently. Also, pick random people if you can. You don’t want all people who are exactly alike. You want as many different opinions as you can get. Also, thank them for their time. It isn’t exactly fun to go and sit for an hour telling people how much you like or don’t like something. Bring food and treats if you can! People will feel more comfortable!
I hope some of these tips have helped if you ever have to conduct a PR focus group!