Propaganda Masquerading As ‘Research’.

In the age of anxiety the world is fuelled by 24/7 sound bites. Technology has opened up efficient ways of distributing information and led to the advent of 24-hour news channels, mobile information services and more. And what the advent of 24/7 surround sound demands is content. News channels today are not only constantly looking for content, they are very often generating it themselves.

This context has played into the hands of the propagandists. People who use the distribution of information to contrive an outcome that is beneficial to them…or their client.

Many years ago I was involved in a program to help a radio network make more money. Basically it involved creating a ‘research framework’ that talked up the spending power of their audience and the combined influence on spending power of their audience to justify advertising expenditure increases.

That same ‘research’ model is even more easily used nearly 30 years later. The media craves new fuel in the form of content. It can’t get enough of it to meet its need to burn more and more. As a result we have a model that welcomes ‘research propaganda’ such as market studies that indicate…..whatever you choose.

If you are in the I.T. industry you can do a research study that indicates under-spending relative to international peers or that most dangerous of terms ‘best practice’. If you are in a union you can do a research study that indicates productivity relative to international benchmarking to support a wage case. If you are in the health industry you can do a study, which indicates a failing of government investment relative to other countries in the developed world. Etc etc etc.

The ‘research’ produces a sound bite that gets picked up and then quoted by others and then gathers momentum and has the capability of changing behaviour. A pebble that starts a tsunami.

The process is simple. What outcome do we want? What perception would influence that outcome? What seemingly insightful information would support that perception? How do we go about creating a study that manufactures that information in a positive way?

Create a problem and supply the solution. Except these studies are very fast and loose with real facts. Their methodology is questionable, the benchmarking parameters cloudy and the findings contrived. In retail, there is no escaping the need to do your own investigation. It is one thing to be aware of what is being talked about and discussed – the mood of media debate. But when it comes to resource allocation – be it time, capital, organisational energy or focus – you need to be sure that what is being presented is actually true and relevant within your context.

Retail is a research mechanism. We can try things easily and see the results. Listening to what others are saying is important. But not as important as test and learn. Your reality is what counts – no one else’s.