Dr. James E. Grunig has articulated three kinds of research in our field:

1. Research used in the practice of public relations to identify publics, set strategies and measure results.
2. Research on the practice of public relations to understand trends, best practices, etc.
3. And research for the practice of public relations to develop broad knowledge about what works, when, and why.

Where can you go these days and not hear about the first kind of research? Conferences, trade pubs, blogs and water coolers. We get it (even if we’re not always doing it).

But when it comes to the second and third kinds of research — not so much. We all know many practitioners, including people on our own staffs, who barely give a thought to this kind of knowledge. Where it exists and whether it matters.

How can we engage more colleagues in the search for the science beneath the art of public relations?

First, by example. As chief corporate communications officers and top public relations leaders, Page members need to show their own intellectual curiosity. Ask pointed questions about how research-based knowledge informs the work of your organization.

Second, by cultivating those who dedicate their careers to creating such knowledge. Visit college campuses respected for their public relations education and research. Invite noted academics to spend time with your staff.

Third, by taking advantage of ready sources of research-based knowledge. “The Institute for Public Relations’ Essential Knowledge Project is being integrated into professional development for GE’s entire communications staff,” says Gary Sheffer, Executive Director, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs for General Electric. This new online service seeks to guide practitioners to existing public relations research and translate this knowledge into our language.

The best practitioners in any professional field fully understand the underlying theoretical bases for what they do, and apply the power of research to help drive their work. Why would it be any different in public relations?