Recent Conference Experience: MRA Joint Conference

Rajesh Bhai and Bob GranitoEarlier this year I had the pleasure of Co-chairing the Joint MRA Philly/Greater NY conference.  The conference was held in April in Center City Philadelphia and planning started back in October/November.  Being my first time planning a conference of this magnitude, my initial reaction was how will we get this done in time!  However, I soon found that my fellow Co-chair, Bob Granito (Of Interactive Media and member of the Greater NY Chapter) along with all the wonderful and dedicated volunteers were equally committed.  From the get go the entire committee proved to make the planning process engaging and seamless.   In the end it was fulfilling to see the planning and hard work from all come to fruition as many attendees mentioned they enjoyed the conference from beginning to end.  The conference itself was a full day event with 7 engaging speakers making up 5 thoughtful presentations:

  • Steve Levine (Zeldis) and Jerry Valentine (AstraZenaca) discussed current trends in Disruptive Behavior.
  • Michelle Murphy Niedziela, Ph.D of HCD Research discussed the 5 phases of Neuroscience.
  • David Dutwin, Ph.D of SSRS gave the keynote discussing the future of survey research.
  • Nina Hoe, Ph.D of Temple University presented on building a city-wide panel.
  • John Hartman and John Shiela of Phoenix Marketing shared their research on wearable technology trends.

As I reflect on the planning stages, I am glad to have the experience under my belt as I transition to my new role as President of the Philly MRA.  I cannot thank all the board members from both chapters and volunteers who helped make the event a success.

-Rajesh Bhai

 

How to Talk to an SME

Craig Cardimon - MSG in a Bottle By Craig Cardimon, Senior Technical Writer

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs to the rest of you) are people, too. Terribly, horribly busy people that some of us need to communicate with.

Suppose a technical writer like myself needs to interview an SME about, say, new functionality that has been added to a company application. How would I proceed? Glad you asked!

Make an appointment with them. They might cancel on you a few times before you catch up with them, but take the trouble to set up an appointment anyway. If they seem reluctant to make such a commitment, respond by saying you know they’re busy and respect their time.

This usually works. If they shake their heads and say, “Just stop by,” simply ask them what day and time works best for them. When you get your answer, write it down immediately. Then create a calendar reminder for yourself.

Outline what you are going to ask beforehand. It might be wise to write out your “script” even before you try to make an appointment. Why? Suppose the SME says, “Right now works for me. Are you ready?” You want to say, “That’s great! I’m ready now, too.”

You don’t want to have to say, “Now’s not a good time for me.” You will have blown your chance to make a fantastic impression on the SME. You want to know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the interview topic.

I usually demonstrate my level of preparedness by knocking on the SME’s office door while holding my smartphone (with voice recorder at the ready) as well as notepad and at least two pens. Why two? In case one runs dry in the middle of the interview. I picked up this trick while working as a reporter for the school newspaper in college. Borrowing a writing instrument from your subject looks unprofessional.

Now, about that voice recorder…..Talk the SME into letting you use a recorder. I tell them that I can capture everything they say the FIRST time, and won’t have to bother them later for anything but clarification. They won’t have to repeat themselves. I haven’t had an SME turn me down yet.

Speaking about clarification, ask the SME if it’s okay if you clarify any sticking points that crop up later. Points of confusion always appear, so plan for them now. Something you understand when the SME explains it will immediately become muddy when you get back to your desk and look at your notes.
When you’re concluding the interview, thank the SME for their time and ask if they would like to see your finished transcript of the interview before you put it in the documentation. If they say they trust you, meaning they want to get on with their day, ask them if they would like to review the transcript for technical accuracy, because they’re the expert, and you aren’t. They usually agree. If they don’t, send them a copy anyway, mentioning that it’s for their convenience so they know what they said, and remember to thank them again for their time.

The QUIRK’S Event

We just returned from the second annual QUIRK’S event in Brooklyn. They did it again! There were over 1200 people registered and they had to turn some people away (we definitely understand the value in signing up early for this event).

There was a healthy mix of existing clients from the GENESYS, PRO-T-S, ARCS and U-Dial sides of our business as well as hundreds of corporate researchers.

Rick and Chewie

The exhibit hall was filled with more companies and booths than last year and even the hallways were lined with market research solution providers.

Both days were jam packed with sessions to attend, pictures with Chewbacca, IVR demonstrations, flying pigs, networking events – which included an MSG sponsored drink of an Arnold Palmer and Ski Ball.  An awesome evening filled with live music from a band comprised of market research musicians who played well into the night.

The consensus from the attendees we spoke with was that this was another great event and they were looking forward to attending next year.  We could not agree more.  Keep up the good work QUIRK’S!

Tim and Paul
Tim and Paul
MSG Booth Event
MSG Booth Event

 

 

 

 

AAPOR ‘s Task Force on Address Based Sampling

In January of 2016, AAPOR ‘s Task Force on Address Based Sampling published it’s finding for the AAPOR Standard’s Committee.  MSG’s Trent Buskirk and David Malarek played a pivotal role in the formation of the ABS Standards.  Below is the Abstract for the report.  The full report can be found here:

http://www.aapor.org/AAPOR_Main/media/MainSiteFiles/AAPOR_Report_1_7_16_CLEAN-COPY-FINAL.pdf

Arguably, address lists updated via the United States Postal Service (USPS) Computerized Delivery Sequence (CDS) file are the best possible frames for today’s household surveys in the United States. National coverage estimates vary, but are very high overall and nearly 100% in many areas, and coverage continues to improve. In addition, many address lists are regularly updated with changes from the USPS CDS file, reducing the need for expensive field work by survey organizations. Historically, field-generated frames were the only option for in-person surveys, but the high cost was prohibitive for many important national surveys, not to mention other valuable research surveys at the state, region, or community level. For many years, telephone surveys have been the low-cost alternative to in-person surveys with field-generated frames. However, the nature of telephony has shifted dramatically toward cellular technology (Blumberg and Luke 2014; Keeter et al. 2007). With more households switching from landline to mobile telephones, the coverage of landline-based random digit dialing (RDD) frames has dwindled (Blumberg and Luke 2014). Furthermore, because of legislation regarding how survey researchers may dial cell phones, and because of generally lower response rates for cell phone numbers, the cost of telephone surveys that seek coverage of cell-only households is increasing (AAPOR Cell Phone Task Force 2010). Address-based sampling (ABS) offers attractive solutions to these coverage and cost problems in the United States (Link et al. 2008). The accessibility of address frames has reduced the cost of in-person surveys and brought about a resurgence of relatively inexpensive mail surveys. ABS is often used in multimode studies, where different modes may be used for contact versus response in data collection or to follow up with nonrespondents (Alexander and Wetrogan 2000; de Leeuw 2005). Alternatively, advance mailings can be used to direct selected households to web surveys, with the hope that doing so may dramatically reduce costs. Furthermore, the ability to append geocodes, phone numbers, demographics, and other data to the address frame, although imperfect, can provide deep stratification and aid in designing more cost-efficient studies. Society is changing through the way people communicate. Letters and telephone calls are largely being replaced by texts, tweets, e-mails, and other electronic communications, although mail is still used for some formal and official communications. Surveys that push selected individuals to respond to surveys electronically (e.g., via the web) take advantage of today’s 1-2 prevalent modes of communication. Without general frames of electronic addresses, mail addresses provide excellent coverage of households. At the same time, initial contact by mail ensures that virtually every selected household can be reached, regardless of electronic capabilities. Creative use of ABS provides many options for reaching busy households and gaining cooperation. The purpose of this report is to describe the nature of ABS and its uses for conducting surveys. Multiple specific goals of the report are presented in Section 1.3. The report discusses in detail technical aspects of constructing ABS frames and samples, and the technical aspects reveal both its strengths and limitations. These aspects are important for effective use of ABS in survey design and implementation, as described in the report.

“Back Packs for the Homeless”

MSG was proud to participate in the Philadelphia area’s “Back Packs for the Homeless” Campaign this past holiday season.  The Back Packs program takes gently used back packs stuffed with snacks, hygiene products, small blankets, socks, gloves and other assorted goodies and delivers them to homeless persons in and around the Philadelphia area.  The collections started in early December and every employee contributed.  By early January, we had constructed 14 bags and had enough leftovers for the “Back Packs for the Homeless” organization to fill several shelves at their pantry.   Coordinating the entire effort (which was no easy task), was MSG’s own Kate Caceres.  Kate quantified, sorted and assured an equal probability of selection for each back pack much like she does when overseeing BRFSS related projects.  Kudos’s to you Kate!

Harvard Case Study

MSG continually tries to build bridges to the academic and social science world by using long established contacts coupled with the will, desire and need to use its assets to assist in projects that serve the public good.  Frequently these projects involve project consultation, pro bona delivery of sample frame design and data or, as was the case with an MSG/Harvard University project a combination of all three.

In the Fall of 2014, the student’s in Professor Chase Harrison’s GVT 1010 Undergraduate Survey Research class undertook a multi-mode project to gauge the urban/suburban attitudes of residents in the Boston area.  MSG supplied not only the ABS sample but also allowed the students to consult with MSG personnel.  The result was a high response rate and statistically sound survey finding.  MSG would like to let all of academia know that we are available to work on select projects and can offer advice, suggestions and data if the project meets qualifications.

As Professor Harrison commented “MSG’s willingness to donate the sample for this project is just incredible.  I always encourage my students to use the best tools available, although I don’t always have the resources to help them use those tools, especially for things like general-population samples.  Thanks to MSG, this group was able to use a sample that otherwise would have been beyond their reach, and were able to experience what it is like to work on real-time survey with professional tools.”

Click Here for the full case study.

Remembering Dale Kulp

On what would have been Dale Kulp’s 66th birthday, we wanted to take a moment to remember a man who not only is responsible for the founding and creation of Marketing Systems Group but made innumerable contributions to the statistical sampling and survey research fields.  Dale’s career was already flush with accomplishment before he founded Marketing Systems Group in 1987.  He previously had worked for industry stalwarts Chilton, Bruskin and ICR (Now SSRS).  With MSG, he envisioned the development of a PC based in-house RDD sample generation system (GENESYS) that would become the cornerstone product of the company.

Aside from being the driving force behind the industry’s first in house sampling system, Dale was integral in the development of list-assisted RDD sampling methodology at a commercial level, which revolutionized the process for reaching probability-based samples of households. Through his many technical notes and various publications he remained vigilant about addressing the operational issues challenging the viability of this methodology, particularly those resulting from the unfolding changes in the US telephony.

Dale also started several Omnibus telephone surveys that not only continue to thrive 20 years after their launch; they have in at least one situation created their company.  Centris Marketing Science was created by Dale along with Paul Rappaport after realizing the value of the census block level data that the Omnibus survey collected.

Realizing that MSG should not be a one-trick pony, Dale continued to pursue other product lines that would benefit the survey research industry.  He assembled a team that included current MSG President Jerry Oberkofler and Vice President Reggie Blackman to develop the first automated screening process: GENESYS-ID.  Utilizing the technology and philosophy of GENESYS ID and applying it the survey research industry, PRO-T-S was born.  PRO-T-S was the first predictive dialer built exclusively for the research industry.  In 2004, Dale brought the ARCS Panel Management software under the MSG umbrella. ARCS is now one of the leading software packages in the sensory and pharmaceutical industries as well as a recruitment tool for large civic organizations.

Since Dale’s passing in late 2009, MSG has grown substantially but has remained attached to the vision, products and protocols that Dale Kulp laid out back in 1987.  Not only do the MSG folks wish Dale a Happy Birthday but we thank him for his vision, contribution and foresight.

Reflections on the Presidency of the Greater NY MRA

Trade associations are essential to the marketing research industry.  They provide us with an opportunity to learn about best practices, new forms of record and industry trends.  They provide us with an opportunity to network.  One of the most overlooked roles of industry associations is their ability to be our voice in the government.  Their lobbying and advocacy efforts are vital to the future strengthening of the marketing research industry.

Over the years Marketing Systems Group has embraced this and encouraged us to take an active role in these associations.  Over the last 10 years I have been very active in the Marketing Research Association, both at the chapter level as well as the national level, culminating this past year as the president of the Greater New York Chapter.

I found it to be an incredible opportunity to put my fingerprints on the direction and message of the largest chapter in the association.  What I didn’t realize is how much goes into the chapter running  at the high level that everyone has come to expect.  You don’t realize how much work is involved to get one event planned, let alone 5 events.  Of course, I was not alone.  I was surrounded by nine of the most dedicated and hard working board members that I could ask for.  Their hard work made my job so much easier and I am forever grateful for everything that they did.

By far my favorite event was the Price is Right event which was a twist on the old game show by guessing on costs for industry related expenditures.  It was a fun and interactive way for attendees to volunteer and learn about parts of the research industry that they are not involved in day to day.

I have often been asked why I am always trying stay involved with the MRA.  The answer is simple – you can only get out of an association what you put into it.  My suggestion to anyone would be to get involved.  That can mean so many different things.  Start by attending events.  Maybe you learn something new.  Maybe you meet someone who will become a client, a vendor or a friend.  Once you are comfortable, volunteer.  Our industry associations LOVE volunteers and my years of volunteering have helped me in so many professional and personal ways.  I have developed client relationships and secured new vendors.  I have learned so much about the research industry outside of the world of sampling that I may have never been exposed to and this has only helped me understand my client needs better.  I have met many people who I now count among some of my closest friends.  I am very appreciative and thankful to those that encouraged me to get involved all of those years ago as well as everyone that I have met and worked with over those ten years.  And, of course, I am grateful to work for a company that understands the importance of our associations as well as our involvement in them.  I truly think that we are a better company for it.

Split-Frame Sampling

Oftentimes, researchers are faced with the challenging task of targeting rare domains in a population while maintaining the probability-based nature of the employed sample.  For instance, in a national RDD sample it might be necessary to oversample households with small children or those with even less prevalent attributes.  While an epsem sampling design, whereby all numbers have the same chance of selection, will provide the most efficient sample with respect to the precision of survey estimates, from a cost perspective such a design can be completely prohibitive due to the required level of screening for reaching eligible households.  This is where a cleverly designed stratified sampling alternative that employs disproportional allocation can prove highly valuable.

In practice, an optimal sample allocation scheme takes into account the unit cost per interview in each sampling stratum.  As such, a stratum with a high incidence of reaching members of the target population will receive a higher allocation as compared to other strata.  This disproportionate sample allocation should be exercised while providing a non-zero chance of selection for all telephone numbers to ensure a probability-based sample.

The objective of this stratification is to provide a means for over sampling the target populations by segregating higher incidence households into distinct sampling strata.  This is done by matching all numbers against commercial databases, which contain household and individual level demographic data, and identifying the numbers that meet the specified target.

With access to all the top commercial databases Marketing Systems Group can provide cost-effective solutions for sample surveys that aim to target rare domains.  By placing such telephone numbers in the “top” or high incidence stratum and the remaining telephone numbers covering the geography of interest in another, you can create a complete sampling frame.  Subsequently, using an optimization procedure a higher sampling fraction will be determined for the top stratum cognizant of the design effect that will result from a disproportional sample allocation and will need to be adjusted for when weighting.

 

 

TCPA Compliance

My name is Tim Antoniewicz and I am not a lawyer.  I am not legal counsel.  I once played Clarence Darrow in a junior High School production of Inherit the Wind but what I am about to say should in no way be considered legal advice.  However it may be considered helpful in sorting out the quandary that many researchers face when conducting research with a cellular sample frame.

In light of the new FCC regulations (6/18/15) that expand the TCPA, CASRO has provided the following guidelines:

The Federal Communications Commission approved new regulations that expand the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The new FCC rules broaden restrictions on autodialed calls to cell phones without differentiation for caller intent. 

ALL calls to cell phones made using an auto-dialer are PROHIBITED.

DO:

ALL calls to cell phones should be manually dialed.

Regularly update number databases to identify numbers ported to cell phones.

Don’t:

Use a predictive dialer OR an auto-dialer to call cell phone numbers.

Assume that human proximity to, or intervention in, the placement of an autodialed call to a cell phone provides exemption from the TCPA.

Staying educated and taking proactive measures are the key to compliance with the law. Here are some high-level guidelines to follow:

  • Mitigate the risk by verifying the types of phones numbers on your list
  • Get the consent of the current wireless subscribers to a number
  • Be aware of ethical considerations including respondent safety and privacy.

Marketing Systems Group can assist you in flagging likely wireless numbers, identifying ported landline-to-wireless numbers and real-time screening of active cell phone numbers.

MSG is committed to helping you navigate the ever changing regulation landscape from the TCPA and remain in compliance while accomplishing your research goals.

For more information about TCPA compliance, see http://www.tcpacompliance.us/