December 2012 Archives

The Growing Importance of Employees Relations

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This page is from the Institute of Public Relations. This organization does many different kinds of Public Relations research. This year, they released some research results that showed companies with stronger employee relations are more successful. Consequently, companies now know that they can't simply inform employees with employee relations. They also need to motivate employees with their communication. The research states letting employees know how they are specifically helping the company is what leads to this motivation. This research is clearly important. It revealed there is an imperative public for companies to address that they may have otherwise neglected.

A Quality Focus Group or Not?

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This video features a focus group that asks people their opinion about packaging for salad dressing. In the focus group, the people are asked to describe what features of the different bottles they like and dislike. In addition, they are asked if they would be willing to switch brands of dressing depending on the packaging that is used. Lastly, they are asked how much money they would be willing to spend for a better bottle. All of this research yields clear information that would be very useful for an advertisement campaign. By highlighting the features on your brand's bottles that people tend to like, there is the possibility of converting individuals to your brand.
There are some good and bad aspects of this focus group. One positive aspect is the number of people speaking. There is not a single person that is dominating the discussion and there are not people that are reluctant to voice their opinion. Most of the questions were open ended but some were yes/no. It is okay to use these types of questions, but as we discussed in class, it is important that the questions are not too simple. If they are they do not provide insight.
One negative part of the focus group was the lack of discussion between participants. It simply consisted of the participants answering the moderator's questions. Discussion between the participants can often lead to the most helpful insight. In addition, there was a lack of elaboration on some of the answers. The benefit of human interaction is that this elaboration can easily be gained if the moderator asks for it. Despite these things, it seemed like an effective focus group. It simply could have been improved.

Copy Testing in the Real World

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On greenbook.org, there are countless research vendors that a person can search for. One category a person can search for is a vendor that specializes in advertising research. From here, the search can narrowed even more and a person can search for researchers in various kinds of copy testing. Since we just talked about copy testing today in class, I decided to look at a research vendor that focuses on television copy testing.
The research vendor on this page is The Pretesting Company/Media Check. There are things stated in the company description that make it clear it mainly researches the cognitive stage of copy testing. They do measurements of advertisement recall for one. They also have an in-home exposure meter. Measuring this exposure is another key aspect of the cognitive research. Lastly, this vendor uses an eye movement recorder to see where people have their attention during an advertisement. All of these things relate to the first stage of copy testing.

Google Analytics and Privacy

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I was surprised to find out that in Norway, it was being debated if Google analytics should be outlawed. Several officials in Norway said it should be illegal because of the infringement on privacy. The two main complaints against Google Analytics are that collected data is not anonymous and Google does not exclusively deal with analytics so they shouldn't be allowed to give these analytics to "other Google Services." I must admit, I understand the concern for personal privacy. The second complaint does slightly confuse me though. I think Google should be allowed to use analytics even if they have other services.
Web analytics are already a controversial subject. Some people feel that you should have to opt in to have your web traffic tracked. Currently, people have to opt out if they don't want it tracked. Due to this ethical question, it will be interesting to see not only what happens in Norway, but what implications that result could have for Google Analytics moving into the future. It really highlights the debate of personal privacy and public information.

Feeding Children Radiation!

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It is well accepted that consent is always necessary in order to carry out research ethically. This story covers advertising research that was carried out by Quaker Oats in the 1950s. The company wanted to figure out how minerals were metabolized in the bodies of children so that they could use that information in an advertisement campaign. Consequently, they fed 54 children their cereal in a study. The company asked for permission from the parents before they did the study. There was a problem though. They told the parents that the children would be fed nutritious food. They did not tell the parents, however, that radioactive calcium and iron were a part of that diet! This is a clear breach in ethics. Although the company gained consent, it was under pretenses that did not divulge all of the relevant information. So, this is not really gaining consent. During the class we talked about many different aspects of ethics codes. Though all of them are important, ultimately, informed consent is the most important.
The refusal to inform the parents cost Quaker Oats when they lost a lawsuit in 1997. My personal take is that there was some definite justice served when the company lost this lawsuit. Any strategic communication group that wants to perform studies in order to craft a message should have strict and harsh penalties imposed on them to set an example. Ethics need to be a top priority for groups and if a lack of ethics goes unpunished then there is no reason why the problem won't get worst. Frankly though, this story happened in the 1950s. I partially chose it to show how much better ethics have become since then. Now, there are several different codes in place (The Nuremberg Code, Declaration of Helsinki, etc.) to guide ethics of organizations. Organizations hold each other accountable for their actions and they strive to have the most ethical research possible.

A Disguised Survey

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There are many ways to do market research. While many approaches are traditional, there are several that are a bit more unorthodox. That is the case here with this marketing research conducted by Sony Music. There are several companies now using "gamification." This methodology is simple. It is administering surveys that are disguised as a game. Sony recently did a survey on a new music album but the format of the survey was a quiz.
It is clear why this tactic would be necessary and effective. It is important to get a high response rate on many surveys. People don't really like taking surveys unless they have something to gain from it. By making a survey more entertaining and interactive, more people will want to take it. This will obviously result in a higher response rate. In fact, "gamification" has the potential of being so entertaining some individuals don't even realize they are taking a survey.
We know that one of the main pros for a survey is the low cost. It is important to note that with "gamification," there can still be a low cost because it is really easy to tweak the surveys so they have a game-like format. For example, the article says by rewording a survey question it can be a quiz question.
This new research method is not yet prevalent. It will be interesting to see if it is effective and ultimately becomes a very popular method on the internet.

Websites Instead of Focus Groups

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This article proposed an interesting idea about focus groups. It claims that because "of online testing, web analytics and CRM data" marketers can gain more valuable insights simply by analyzing internet use rather than having focus groups. It argues that focus groups are likely to have biased feedback. As we talked about in class, this is always a possibility with focus groups. People are sitting in a room with the other participants so their responses are not anonymous. In addition, there is the possibility that participants will influence each other's answers. When people are a computer, anonymity and peer influence are not issues so there will be more accurate information presented. This does make sense, but there is also some importance in direct human interaction for marketing. A moderator can clarify anything for a focus group participant. Also, sometimes hearing the direct words of a person to understand their opinion is the best way to gain insight. If a company never had focus groups it would lose that important knowledge.

Focus Groups as a Career

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In class, we focused a lot on focus groups. As we talked about, focus groups--when conducted properly-- are a good way to gather qualitative information for marketing research. As I have been reading about focus groups, it has become apparent that many of the participants are often paid to be in the focus group. I stumbled upon this story about a person that made a career out of being in focus groups and I wanted to share it. It raises some glaring issues with focus groups.
Basically, this story is about a guy that would blatantly lie to be selected for focus groups. Since he had participated in so many, he knew all the proper ways to answer the recruiters' questions for focus group selections. He claims that recruiters for the focus groups would believe anything he said and wouldn't verify any of his information. Consequently, he has always been selected for focus groups. That also means the information he provides is totally false and not useful for the companies running the focus group. So, this simply provides us with the question, what can companies do in order to ensure that their participants are actually worth the money they are spending on them to participate in the focus group? According to the author, there really is no way for the companies to check that you are an actual customer. The only thing they could check--but rarely do--is how many groups you have participated in the last six months. It poses an entire new challenge for conducting a quality focus group.

Bottled Water

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This is a survey that is being used for an honors thesis by a student in the College of Food and Natural Sciences. It can be assumed that the survey was emailed to all University of Minnesota students. Before even taking the survey, there are a few things I noticed. First, the survey will consist of open ended questions. This is atypical, but certainly not unheard of for surveys. By having open ended questions, the person giving the survey will have to review the questions for a lot longer since it is qualitative information rather than quantitative. However, all of this information can provide more insights into the beliefs people have about bottled water.
Another thing to note is that there is a promise that the information given will be anonymous and participation in the survey is voluntary. These two pieces of information are very important as far as the ethics of the survey are concerned.
Lastly, there will be a drawing for Target Gift Cards for respondents. This is a clear attempt to increase response rate with an incentive.
After taking the survey, I don't have many additional observations. It was just filling in answers for some open-ended questions. Only one of the questions was poorly written. It required people to list how many times they have had bottled water in the last month. This is a piece of information that would be really hard for a lot of people to remember. Other than that, there were some well written questions in the survey.

National Student Survey

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Recently I was sent an email to participate in a survey that was intended to measure many aspects about student life as a college student. It was sent to my University of Minnesota email account and was conducted by an outside company. Before taking the survey, there were some observations I made regarding it based on what we learned in class. First off, it is a survey that is being sent by email. Really, it is simply a convenience sample because it is being sent to the email of college students across the country. They are simply hoping many people respond. As a result, this is non-probability sampling and the results should not be generalized to the entire population of college students. There is also a clear tactic being employed in an attempt to increase response rate. There is a random drawing and 30 respondents win a $50 gift card. It also addresses in the email that the questionnaire is totally voluntarily and completing it is granting consent. This is important because as we mentioned in class it is vital that people are aware they don't have to take surveys. The introduction of this study displays many of the concepts we discussed in class.

Social media use in Public Relations 2006-2012

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This study relates to Public Relations and social media use of the last seven years. It measures the ways and extent to which social media have been used in Public Relations. There has been a survey given out annually the last seven years to measure this. Since this has happened over an extended period, it is a longitudinal study.
Ultimately, this study concluded that social media are now a prolific force in the world of public relations. Furthermore, the article claims that social media are an easy access communication platform that makes it possible for a greater number of people to communicate with internal and external audiences.
The article explains that the increase in social media relates to many news sources going digital. As circulation for printed copies of newspapers continues to drop, the number of readers on the internet continues to rise. This is just one example of the digital shift that is occurring. With this shift the switch to more social media should be expected.
Ultimately though, it is important to analyze the research that was conducted to see if the results can be tied to this conclusion with any sort of credibility. As mentioned earlier, this study was longitudinal. From 2006-2009, the annual survey was conducted using questions that were deemed in need of revision by 2009, so the study only consisted of what was found from 2009-2012. In 2009 and 2010, an online questionnaire was given to individuals. The participants were voluntary. An email was sent to members of various PR groups and individuals could decide to take the survey. In 2011 and 2012, the survey was completed by PRSA members that received the email and decided to take it. Each year yielded a different number of response but they were all fairly similar with an average of 560 respondents.
There are a few things to address here. First, the survey is voluntary. As we know, the people deciding to participate in it could very well feel strongly about the subject. This would lead to bias in the sample rather than a generalizable result. Secondly, the sample for the four years changed. Two years (2009 and 2010), the sample consisted of individuals from various PR groups, the other two years (2011 and 2012) the sample consisted of only members from PRSA. This change in the sample is not ideal. A constant sample would be best for the most accurate results.
In the end, all of the survey questions showed clear views of attitude. As we know, a survey is a fine quantitative way to capture this information. Given the numbers--of which there are too many to go into detail--the conclusions drawn by the researchers appear accurate.
As I mentioned though, it all goes back to the method of gathering the information. This was a very specific questionnaire so it is obvious that confounding factors could not have affected the data. At this point, it is just important to consider the sample that is used. While this is realistically the best that the researchers realistically could have done with the research, there are a couple of concerning flaws in the methods like I mentioned.

"Giving Tuesday": Is the cost worth the reward?

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I recently read about the idea of "cause marketing." Basically, cause marketing is when a brand does something to help a noble cause so that individuals think more favorably of the brand. As the article notes, consumers are ", are nearly twice as likely to buy from a company that supports a cause that they care about." The article says that for marketers, this is any extremely important kind of marketing because it not only benefits the brand in the present, but for many years in the future. This is because people will support a brand for many years once they have a favorable image of it.
The article centers on "Giving Tuesday" which is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. While "Black Friday" is known as a day for selling, marketers say the "Giving Tuesday" should be a way to promote the non-profit work companies are doing. Basically, it is the perfect channel through which cause marketing can be conducted. The article also lists specific ways to make this cause marketing be effective.
As far as research is concerned though, I am concerned with this article. There is great detail in the article dedicated to explaining "cause marketing" and the ways that it can be conducted. However, the entire article hinges on the claim that consumers are "nearly twice as likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about." My questions are, what proof is there of this? What types of research was conducted? What was the research design? What was the sample for the research? The validity of the entire article relies on the accuracy of the statistic that consumers are far more likely to buy from a brand that supports a cause they believe in. Without confidence that this is true, the rest of the claims in the article are worthless. Their irrelevancy is brought on by their dependency on the truth of that single claim.
So, I simply wish the article would have disclosed the way that the researchers were led to the findings. The article itself revolves a very interesting topic. This additional information about the research methods conducted would have made the results more reputable. As it stands, there is simply no way to discern between quality and poor information in this case. The fact is, there only piece of statistical information in the article is one brief claim. This lack of information hurts the presentation of the study in this article.

This article mentions how important mobile advertisements have become for marketing and advertising efforts by companies. This widespread advertising is interesting because it presents a new platform that researchers need to become familiar with so they can strategically communicate most effectively. They need to make sure that their methods are effective in displaying the desired message to the appropriate people. As such, there are certain research methods that would have to be developed that address this specific type of platform for advertising.
There are many different survey methods that the researchers could employ to figure out what individuals really look at while they are on their mobile phones. As we have mentioned though, it will always be hard for the researchers to determine how effective these advertisements are. Causality is always hard to link for advertisement. The researchers best method would simply be measuring how many "click throughs" their site receives. There still is virtually no way to determine causality between the way the ads are presented on the mobile devices and the sales they produce. That is why in this instance, it is important for the researchers to conduct quality research. The main point here is simply the new nature of the research. Since it is a relatively unfamiliar area for marketers and advertisers, an abundance of informative research is necessary to ensure that the advertising is done in the best way possible.

Ridiculous claims

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This is an article regarding a medical related survey that was conducted. The results claimed that non vaccinated children are actually healthier than vaccinated children. When I read the headline, I was immediately very skeptical about the results. It was my understanding that modern science has proven that vaccines are very effective preventing disease. I thought it would be interesting to read the article and find out some specific details about the process the survey went through.
Upon reading the article, my suspicions were confirmed. This article only gives details about the resulting statistics of the survey. It does not provide any information about the process that was taken to administer the survey. In addition, there is a serious lack of information that states who the respondents of the survey were. Lastly, it includes no information about the questions the survey contained. There is no way of knowing if there were poorly worded questions. As we know, a poorly worded questionnaire can lead to highly inaccurate information.
In order to be generalizable to a larger population, the respondents need to be properly selected so that they are actually representative of the population. In this instance, there is no evidence that this occurred. Consequently, the credibility of this study can be dismissed, at least until more details surface.

The race for Ohio: A real nail biter

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The constant polls that come out during a presidential race are great examples of the ways that polls work. Essentially, they are what I like to call accurate estimates. In this election, the race in Ohio was incredibly tight. Polls have a sampling error and a confidence interval. That means that polls can simply determine that the election will be close. They have no way of determining who the winner will be though. There is simply too much overlap in the confidence intervals. For example, with a sampling error of +/- 3 three, there is a six percent confidence interval. Especially in a tight election, this is very large. The results of the poll could be very misleading so people need to keep the sampling error in mind. Without doubt though, the polls are still effective in gauging opinion. As this article shows, the polls conducted in Ohio were very accurate.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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