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What are we waiting for?

The Global Research Business Network (GRBN) have released the latest global results in their “Trust” report, a repeat of a study undertaken in 2014, 2016 and 2018.  The news for the Market Research (‘MR’) industry in Australia was positive with our net trust index increasing vs. 2018, but there remains a lot of work to do.

Overall, 75% of Australians see MR as beneficial to companies, significantly more than they see it as beneficial to themselves.  Over one third see surveys as being too long and not enjoyable.  And, not surprisingly, 18-35’s trust MR companies less and want to participate less, a trend we have been seeing for many years now.

For MR, COVID-19 has had a minimal impact on our trust scores, however, looking across categories, there was a significant positive shift for trust in health authorities, which makes sense given how well the Australian health system managed the crisis. At the other end of the scale, the media and social media companies saw negative shifts in trust, which could largely be attributed to the major issues over the past two years their industry has faced in terms of data privacy and protection of personal information.

So, the question has to be asked for MR, given the impact the Cambridge Analytica data scandal had on trust, can we afford to wait before we supercharge on mass how we engage with people?

To maximise engagement, similarly to most human interactions, the key to winning people over every time and achieving real human connection, is empathy, closely followed by belonging and authenticity. Let’s unpack what these 3 pillars mean for MR:

  1. Empathy: are we asking relevant topics in engaging ways? Are we asking interesting questions in an interesting way that people can make sense of? Are we really listening and responding like humans do?
  2. Belonging: are we feeding back why people’s views matter and what is happening with the information being collected from them? Do they feel part of the solution or just part of someone’s process?
  3. Authenticity: are we promoting good practice and calling out bad practice?

An interesting and topical example is the public’s interest in Black Lives Matter, and its varied focus for different countries and groups. Is the research industry showing empathy, belonging, and authenticity? If not, we need to start now.

If we want to move the needle on trust, we must tackle each of the three pillars seriously.  Globally it is a struggle to get the industry aligned on each of these issues as commercial realities (usually quite rightly) win out.  Believe me I get it, however for the long game we must invest together to change the dynamic so that more people want to contribute to what we do and do very well. The risk is if we don’t, we will end up talking to increasingly small proportions of the population, then what we do will be called out as inaccurate, something opinion and election polling are dealing with right now.

Remember every touchpoint a brand or government has with people is a chance to improve perceptions, create trust and demonstrate empathy. Every survey, pop up, intercept, video chat or diary activity is such a touchpoint.  If our profession is changing, it is clearly not changing enough to improve perceptions and create trust.  Let’s not wait for our own reputational disaster to hit.  One thing we can all do today, and every day is to stop and ask yourself before anything is sent out, “is this something that I or my family would bother engaging in?”. If the answer is no, then do yourself and all of us a favour and start again.

Peter Harris
Human
Board Member TRS
CEO Potentiate

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