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Trust me, I’m a researcher

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What media research has in common with the healthcare industry

Last week, the Media Research Group (MRG) held their excellent annual conference at the Royal College of Physicians in London under the theme “Body of evidence” (see what the organisers did there?)

It was my privilege to participate in the conference as part of a soapbox session where several speakers debated the topic “truthfulness and trust in research”.

After the conference, several people asked me for a copy of my talk, but since my notes aren’t very self-explanatory, I thought I’d expand on the theme here as a blog post.

My context was the many parallels that exist between the worlds of healthcare and media.

For starters, both industries handle massive amounts of data, often from diverse sources, and try to make sense out of it. Consider the following examples:

Single customer view
In media, this is the holy grail – being able to track an individual across multiple platforms and gather rich data to help understand them …

"You're right, I'm wrong"

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… said no one ever on social media

I live in Lewes, East Sussex, the unofficial bonfire capital of the UK, nay the world.

This weekend, the population will increase fourfold as tens of thousands of people descend on the town to take part in a custom that has its roots dating back to the mid 1500’s when 17 protestants (the Lewes Martyrs) were burnt at the stake.

On Saturday night, six Lewes-based bonfire societies will parade through the streets, along with societies from outlying villages, carrying burning torches, before returning to their bonfire sites where they burn effigies and launch spectacular firework displays.

The event is steeped in tradition and ritual. It is anarchic, pagan and anti-establishment – anyone concerned with health & safety protocols would be well advised to stay away.

This year, the fireworks have been going off early though.

There has been a debate rumbling for a while amongst the townsfolk that has exploded into the mainstream media as part of “Zulugate”.

Put …

"Keep your eye on the ball"

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What business has in common with cricket.
This summer, I started playing cricket again after a hiatus of many years.
It was a very enjoyable experience and, although not especially elegant to watch or prolific from a pure numbers point of view, it did reinforce several lessons from my junior playing days, that felt every bit as relevant today as they were back then.

“Keep your eye on the ball”.

Pretty obvious advice for any batsman really, but also easy to overlook amidst the myriad distractions of diverse bowling actions, erratic line and length, unpredictable bounce, ever-changing field placings, scoreboard pressure, quick singles, fluctuating weather conditions and so on.

In such circumstances, it is very easy for the novice batsman (i.e. me) to make the wrong decision. To try to smash the ball they should be defending or leave the ball they should be hitting.

To predetermine what they are going to do as the bowler runs in rather than making a considered decision based on the ball they …

Wake up and smell the roses

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What time out of the corporate world has taught me

Amidst the flotsam and jetsam that flows through my LinkedIn feed on a daily basis, there are occasional posts that really grab my attention, for reasons good or bad.

One such post satisfied that criteria earlier this week, but unfortunately it was for all the wrong reasons.

The article referred to a software CEO who described a key question he asks in interviews - “Would you leave your family behind on holiday if work required you to do so for ‘important business’?”.

Any potential candidate saying “No”, would not be offered the job. What a great way of assessing their total commitment to the company before they even start, eh?

He even boasted about how he abandoned his own family at Disneyland during one holiday so he could go off and close a deal. I guess he was at least practicing what he preached.

To me, this post raises important issues for us all to consider – what is more important, family or job? Who do we want to be in control of o…

Celebrities, Influencers and the art of selling

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Why authenticity is ultimately better than borrowed interest

There were times last week when I felt a bit like a little boy standing outside a sweet shop, nose pressed against the glass, admiring all the delights on display within.

The reason for this was the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival – that time of the year when advertising’s leading lights gather on the French Riviera to talk about the state of the industry and hand out lots of awards.

I wasn’t among them.

In fact, whilst many friends and colleagues have been there regularly in the past as presenters, judges or regular attendees, I’ve personally never been.

I’d quite like to go one year, for curiosity as much as anything, but for now I remain one of those standing on the outside looking in.

However, fortunately my social media feed at this time of year is always full of pictures and observations from sundry venues, restaurants and yachts, allowing me to still experience the event vicariously.

Of all the advertising-associate…

Building a brand without research

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8 things I learned from a chocolate magnate

I always enjoy hearing from entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses, especially when they tell stories that I knew little about beforehand.

I heard one such story last week at Insight Intelligence’s Market Research Summit and it got me thinking about the role of market research in a company’s success.

The speaker was Jo Fairley, co-founder of Green & Blacks, the premium chocolate company she launched with her husband, Craig Sams, himself founder of the Whole Earth organic food company.

For those that don’t know it, Green & Black's is a British premium chocolate company, founded in 1991 on an ethical platform of sustainability and championing the virtues of high cocoa content, dark chocolate.

True to its ethos, it became the first chocolate brand to be awarded a free trade mark and has been declared one of the UK’s coolest food brands for 10 years in a row, as voted by Coolbrands.

Green & Blacks sold to Cadbury’s in 2005 …

When the customer loses her voice

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Why companies need to listen more to avoid humiliating back-downs.

So, McDonald's have become the latest company to withdraw a new ad campaign following a backlash from the general public.

In case you haven’t seen it, the McDonald's ad uses the theme of childhood bereavement in a clumsy attempt to promote their Filet-o-Fish product.

The ad was misjudged at best, cynical at worst and gives the impression of having been created in a corporate vacuum where no-one during its gestation had the nous to say “Are we sure this is a good idea?”.

Advertising like this does not just turn up fully-formed and ready to air.

A lot of people will have been involved in its development over many weeks at McDonald's, at their ad agency and at the film production company.

Approval processes must have been followed along the way.

And unless McDonald's – a family restaurant let’s not forget – had some wider agenda, then it seems bizarre that no-one could have seen the backlash coming and pressed …