The market research sector in Northern Ireland took a great stride forward this month following an endorsement of our efforts to establish a Northern Ireland network of the Market Research Society.
More than 20 of the sector’s elite practitioners including Ipsos MORI, PwC and Millward Brown, together with a representative from the Market Research Society in London were invited to participate in a discussion in our head office in Belfast. The event focused on the benefits of a regional network to drive forward standards and successes in market research in Northern Ireland. We were delighted with a huge turnout and resoundingly positive response.
This is something I had been working towards since September 2015 as I was very aware of numerous important drivers for a regional presence of the Market Research Society.
Public trust and confidence
The sector relies on public support to achieve our objectives. Their confidence in our methods ensures they see participation as worthwhile and trust us to report the findings impartially. All well and good, but what happens when things go wrong?
Even with the best intentions, misunderstanding the message in a research report can result in a knock-on misrepresentation of the facts. This can result in the dilution the integrity of market research, which in turn erodes public trust and confidence in our work.
I felt that the sector needed to have a voice in Northern Ireland and that a communication channel that fairly represented the sector will have more gravitas than any organisation operating alone.
I felt that there can be misconceptions of market research with some groups of the general public. Rather than seeing participation as an opportunity to share, invest and improve matters that are important to them, participation can be seen as an inconvenience, an irrelevance, a waste of time. Opportunities to truly influence can be lost in the noise of marketing and sales messages.
If the sector can cut a clear path through this chatter, we have an opportunity to reposition market research where it belongs, as a public asset that exists to channel consumer opinions to decision makers.
Organisations operating in the sector have various strengths in different research markets, be that in public sector work, ethnographic research or opinion polling. Underpinning that variety are core standards of professionalism and conduct. With mutual and consistent buy-in across all organisations, we can maintain standards and thereby the reputation of the industry.
The Market Research Society has the responsibility for upholding standards in our sector, and can take action when things go wrong. However this seems almost like relying on Car Accident Lawyer rather than making a manoeuvre to avoid the accident. A strong local body sharing best practice and support would help ensure we avoid making the mistake in the first place.
The Market Research Society nationally coordinates many networking opportunities and events to share best practice to encourage learning and improve abilities. Nationally, organisations in our sector take great pride in developing and sharing new solutions and services. Attending these on the UK mainland takes time and money and those very early flights can result in a big disruption to the working week.
However Northern Ireland also has its share of stellar performers developing new research concepts and a regional network allows us to take advantage of these opportunities. Inviting other regions to come to us provides our regional talent with a platform to share advances, improving the positioning of Northern Ireland operators at a national level.
I am convinced that a regional network will bring significant local and national benefits to our sector and intends to invest in its success.
If you would like to join the Market Research Society NI Linkedin Group, please click here. This group is open to both members of the Market Research Society as well as non-members.