Public relations is about influencing and being influenced, right? You know, the two-way symmetric model to affect mutual understanding. Right?

Well, from my experience, the vast majority of practitioners are looking to exert influence but invest considerably less time divining insight from stakeholders and feeding that back into the organisation to improve decision-making.

For the best part of this week I've been in Miami hanging out with the members of ESOMAR who invest their entire time trying to work out what's going on in the minds of customers and prospects.

Miami beachESOMAR describes itself as "the essential organisation for encouraging, advancing and elevating market research worldwide". With more than 4,800 members from over 120 countries, ESOMAR emphasises its members' contribution to effective decision-making.

This particular conference series is focused on how social media has transformed market research. There have been two main thrusts so far...

Firstly, consumers have become increasingly reluctant to participate in 'traditional' marketing research approaches. Seriously, why should they bother? And if we're all egged on with the promise of some kind of reward or prize, how interested are we in responding accurately, diligently?

Secondly, there is, as Peter Harrison of BrainJuicer called it yesterday, the context gap. This refers to the customer being 'in the right moment'. For example, Peter imagines a Friday morning when you insist that you'll just have two drinks in the evening, but this response changes when you find yourself in the social environment of the restaurant or bar. Another presenter referred to this as either the 'hot response' – representing the actually behaviour the respondent is more likely to exhibit in the real situation, and the 'cold response' – the one they'll proffer to the researcher when out of context.

And this is where social media comes in; the media where we all express ourselves in context. We're at the match. We're out shopping. We're down the pub. We're watching the TV.

The market research community is grappling with how to take advantage of the opportunities that social media and continuous engagement with customers and prospects offers, whilst continuing to live up to its self-regulating ethical standards and scientific rigor.

As such there's an incredible amount of innovation underway in market research. We're learning about the 'researchification' of games (a pun on and extension of the 'gamification' trend), facial imaging for automated recognition of emotional response, and the specific characteristics of mobile phone based research.

For my part, I'd like to see a joint ESOMAR CIPR conference so the two can learn more about the other.


Written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.

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