Research is Useless if You Ask the Wrong Questions

August 22, 2016

by Dan Ward

Thanks to James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal for highlighting this tweet from Bloomberg national political reporter, Sahil Kapur: “Monmouth poll finds that if @JohnKasich were the Republican nominee he’d be leading @HillaryClinton 57% to 33% in Ohio.”

Seems to be a clear indication that Kasich may have been a much stronger candidate than Donald Trump, right?  Maybe not.  As Taranto correctly points out, “Well, if [Kasich] were the Republican nominee AND all the Dems’ efforts were concentrated on disqualifying Trump.”

Monmouth mistakenly assumes the answer to a nonsense question holds value.  Kasich ISN’T the candidate, he has not faced media scrutiny as the candidate, and has not faced opposition advertising as the candidate. Asking whether he’d win the election now is like asking for the price of a car that isn’t for sale.

We do a lot of research in our business.  It’s the very first step in developing a successful communication plan.  If you don’t understand your target, you won’t know where to aim.

If you’re investing in research, make sure you ask questions that provide actionable information.  “What if” questions are fine if you’re asking about actions you might actually take.  Just don’t follow Monmouth’s lead and ask questions for which there are no real answers.


Know Your Audience

August 9, 2010

by Connie Gonzalez

We named our blog “Taking Aim” after careful discussion of what we do. There’s little question in our industry that targeted communication is the best communication.

So why is that solicitors think we will buy whatever they are selling when they come knocking at our door? Recently a group of solicitors showed up selling spa services and asked “so what kind of law firm is this?” What little chance they had at pedaling their products was lost when I answered, “We’re a public relations firm.”

As the gatekeeper in this office, solicitors constantly suggest that I ask around to see if anyone in the office would be interested in their product or service. I politely say no and send them on their merry way.

So whether you’re pushing spa deals or public relations, it’s up to you to know your audience.


Oh, to Be Young Again

July 28, 2009

by Dan Ward

Yesterday, my father received a letter that illustrates the importance of research in any direct marketing effort. 

The fine people at People to People, an educational exploration program founded by President Dwight Eisenhower, sent him this message:

“We are pleased to offer your son [me] a one-time-only opportunity to travel and study in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in the summer of 2010.  Join 5th and 6th grade students from the Orlando area …”

I would love to join the trip, but alas, I’m 38 years old and left elementary school when former People to People Honorary Chairman Ronald Reagan was in his first term in the Oval Office.

Unless my father has some serious ‘splainin’ to do with his wife, my guess is the direct mail list had at least one major flaw.

Now, I don’t mean to pick on People to People.  It is a fine organization with a more than 50-year-history as a leading educational travel provider. 

I chose to share this letter because 1) it’s funny; and 2) it’s a good lesson for those of us in the marketing communications field … do your research, know your audience, double check your work and choose reliable vendors.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pack.  I’ve heard Wales can be lovely in summer.


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