Marketing Research Association

MRA on the Upswing

Last week, I was thrilled to be inducted along with Janet Baldi‘ Senior VP of RTI Research, to the Board of Directors of the Marketing Research Association (MRA).   It was an honor to be nominated and to be elected.   This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved with MRA because of the amazing leadership, and in some cases sacrifice, that has been the MRA Board in the past few years.

MRA is an association on the upswing.  As I noted here a year ago, there is a noticeable sense of mission and energy with MRA that indicates strong leadership and purpose.  Leadership changes everything.  Your MRA leadership has made some difficult decisions and executed them well over the past couple of years.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • Hired David Almy as Executive Director.  Obviously David is a leader and visionary.
  • Moved the headquarters to Washington, DC.  This move made a bold statement that MRA was serious about representing the industry in the halls of Congress.  The move also positioned MRA among a wealth of association management talent so that the Associations’ leadership needs can be met for years to come.
  • Reduced the side of the Board of Directors from 18 to 11.  The Board was simply too large to be agile.  Several Board members were selfless in voting for the reduction and the elimination of their own seats.
  • Repositioning the “Fall Conference” as the “Corporate Researcher’s Conference.”  Not only does the conference now have a clear target market, the change boldly focused MRA on its greatest perceived weakness, the inclusion of research buyers.  (Did you know Corporate Researchers are 1/3 of MRA members?)  Now research buyers are involved and several serve on the Board.  MRA will now truly serve all facets of the market research community.

So, I am honored and a bit awed to be elected to the Board of an organization that is so clearly on the move.  Its an exciting time to be a part of this organization.  I can only hope to continue the legacy of the leaders who have made such dramatic and forward-thinking decisions before me.  The actions of these MRA leaders have ushered in an era of promise and possibilities.

Thank you to those MRA leaders who have laid the groundwork and sowed the seeds of a new era for MRA industry leadership.

MRA Conference hits a Home Run

I never thought I would call an MRA Conference a “home run” but MRA put together a terrific conference this week. There were plenty of areas to nitpick but on the most important element, content, MRA got it right.  The content stimulated high level thinking and was forward-focused.  Most of the speakers were well prepared and well briefed.  They focused on research as an industry rather than the details of a few methods.  Most of these speakers caused the audience to ponder the future of the industry and their place in it.

My two personal favorites sessions were:

  1. The face off between Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky was one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking sessions I have seen in a conference in quite a while.
  2. “What it means to be a connected human in the 21st Century” by James McQuivey of Forrester Research.

This conference and recent MRA decisions gives the impression that the MRA is on the rise.  The Marketing Research Association (MRA) has long been a great place for “data collectors” to gather, build friendships and share/commiserate with one another.  The association had little to offer other players in the industry.  That impression is changing at warp speed.

First of all, as mentioned, the conference content was far and away the best of any MRA Conference I have ever attended.

Second, the MRA Board announced that MRA is moving to Washington, DC.  This is an overdue and gutsy call by the Board.  MRA has long been the only MR association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill.  Now MRA will solidify their leadership as  our industry’s government relations voice and be located in the rich association talent pool of Washington, DC.

Third, MRA is boldly reaching out to Corporate Researchers by eliminating their fall conference and replacing it with a conference specifically programmed for Corporate Researchers.  MRA has grasped the understanding that if Corporate researchers are involved, the rest of the industry will follow.  Given MRA’s historic weakness in this area, establishing a Corporate Researcher Conference was another gutsy call.

There is only one way that an organization changes its trajectory so quickly:  leadership.  I want to publicly commend David Almy (the new CEO), Elisa Galloway (outgoing President) and the MRA Board of Directors for making some tough but necessary calls that put MRA in a new trajectory as an industry leader.

Regulation of Market Research: Looking Ahead to 2011

Laws and government regulation have a huge impact on the market research industry. As a member of the MRA’s Government Affairs Committee, I hear about many issues that make news and many that don’t. As a wrap-up to 2010 and a preview to 2011, I talked to Howard Fienberg, MRA’s Director of Government Affairs to get his take on legislative issues in 2011.

Here is a brief summary of three key issues:

  • Physician Incentive Payments: For the past several years, several states have passed laws limiting or eliminating payments to physicians, even for legitimate research. The industry’s fight has been to keep such limits from applying to research. The recent federal healthcare law dealt with physician compensation from pharmaceutical companies. Mr. Fienberg states that this bill seems to have “soothed” the state legislatures so that issue has been mostly put to rest for the time being.
  • Data Privacy: Internet data privacy is a huge, emotional issue and many sides want to see something done to protect individual privacy. The implications for all research, particularly online research, can be massive if access to people and information is restricted. The Best Practices Act (H.R. 5777) claims to focus on marketing and commerce, but actually includes research. The act would give unprecedented new powers to the FTC to regulate data privacy, including being able to establish definitions. Such powers would give the FTC control over data and set up under-the-radar decisions over “mundane regulations” that could have a dramatic impact on MR.
  • Auto-dialing of mobile phones: Current law outlaws auto-dialing of mobile phones with a fine of $500 and up for each violation. Auto-dialing means predictive dialing or any other type of dialing by a machine. Unless changed, this prohibition will dramatically downgrade market research productivity and increase costs. For instance, I no longer have a land line at home. I put my mobile phone number on everything, but I don’t always identify it as such. A firm could unintentionally call my mobile phone and be in violation of the auto-dialing prohibition. For more information, check out the MRA Position Paper.

These are a few of the issues of which researchers need to be aware. The MRA’s Government Affairs office is working to allow our industry to effectively provide information that propels our economy and generates jobs. The office has been successful in 2010 and is looking forward to a good 2011. Thank you, Howard Feiberg and LaToya Rembert Lang, for your work on our behalf.

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