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February 21 2012, The Wheeler Centre
By Emma Gilmour


The importance and increasing use of market research in our media is undeniable.  From the Herald Sun's "Great Victorian Love Survey" to the recent debate caused by the SMH's pole "Should universities teach alternative medicine?", it's clear that polls and market research are permeating the media landscape in ever more prevalant ways.

In the first Be Heard Event of 2012 over 30 members and guests gathered at the Wheeler Centre to hear Lachlan Drummond (Group Account Director, Head of Strategic Research at Newspoll) discuss all this and more.

In a session that covered everything from Don Burke's career to vajazzling (don't google this at work), Lachlan spoke about the three major trends that he is seeing in market research. These were:

1.    The rise of the backyard or DIY researcher and the perils of survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey;

2.    The increasing use of market research purely for PR purposes;

3.    The art of influence and the importance of storytelling in effective communication.

DIY Research  –  Most major articles have polls attached to them which range from the serious (" Who is your preferred Prime Minister?") to the frivolous ("Who should get Novak Djokovic's shirt?"). Lachlan talked about the risks associated with do-it-yourself polling. Firstly, these polls are not representative of the broader population and, secondly, people need to be sufficiently motivated to respond (in other words their opinions are more likely to be extreme). As a result, polls can get hijacked by special interests groups and given a faux credibility.

Market Research for PR purposes – Lachlan also discussed how companies are using market research purely to generate media coverage.  One of the reasons this is happening is due to the fragmentation of the media. A controversial piece of market research that produces a headline such as "More women spend more time personal grooming for Valentine's day than they do for a Pap Smear" will get more coverage across all channels.

The Art of Influence and the Use of Storytelling – Finally Lachlan talked about the importance of storytelling when conveying the results of any market research. While the science and statistics are critical, the ability to weave this into a compelling story is what makes it resonate.


Key tips for using free online survey tools::

·      Keep it simple – if your survey takes longer than 5 minutes it's too long.

·      Avoid overlapping code fields (18-25, 25-35 etc).

·      Use filters to eliminate unreasonable answers, for example limit the age someone can enter at 100.

·      If using a scale, think carefully about what to use. 1-10 does not provide users with a mid-point whereas 0-10 does.

·      An Importance Performance Matrix is often useful. Ask five questions on company performance, eg How do you rate us in terms of customer service? How to do rate us in terms of price? Then ask five questions about the importance of these things, eg How important is customer service? How important is price? This then gives you a sense of how well you are doing in comparison to how important something is.

Thanks to Lachlan for coming along and sharing his expert knowledge and to everyone who attended. See you on April 11 at the next event!