By Reg Baker
While I recognize that it’s not very fashionable to complain about being quoted out of context in this era of “You didn’t build that” I’m going to take a run at it nonetheless. Back on July 12 in a post about the MRMW Conference I noted that we are moving into an era when data will be plentiful, cheap and of uncertain quality. If your MR business features high quality data as the key differentiator then you are in for a tough time because clients will not be looking for data, clients will be looking for smart people who can filter through all of those data and help put them to work in their companies.
My buddy Jeffrey Henning seized on one sentence in that post and tweeted Reg’s law: “Clients will buy good data over cheap data every time.” That’s not the point I was trying to make. Edward Appleton, a client-side researcher, more or less took Jeffrey to task in his blog and rightfully noted that my post was much more balanced than that single out-of-context quote might suggest.
All that aside, what was I getting at? As I wrote in a subsequent post, “Good research balances evidence and insight.” Too often in contemporary MR the quality of the evidence is not what we might wish it to be. That’s not going to change. So it is more important than ever to evaluate evidence, understand its strengths and its weaknesses and characterize it correctly. Clients need to be able to judge the quality of our work and the only way they can do that is if we are completely transparent about what we have done, being forthcoming about the limits the evidence imposes on what we can conclude.
Transparency is a long-held value of the research profession as it is with any discipline that claims to be scientific in its methods. Today we are competing against new entrants in our industry whose values and skills are primarily entrepreneurial and often at odds with the traditional values of our profession. Transparency is one of those values.
At MRMW there was a panel session on social media that got bogged down in a discussion about “benchmarks” that at its root was really about transparency. At one point a somewhat exasperated client-side researcher blurted out, “Social media does not predict behavior!” Apparently someone had told him that it did.