Tuesday, March 6

Crunching Numbers: Rare Method Interactive

Rare Method Interactive, an interactive marketing firm recognized as Alberta's second fastest-growing company by Alberta Venture magazine in 2007, knows something about the media. The media loves studies, especially those that seem compelling, if not a bit askew.

On March 1, Rare Method launched Kudos, which is billed as "a fast, fun, and easy way to harness employee recognition, improve communication, enhance productivity, and foster a positive corporate culture." Sounds amazing, and so does the study that graced the lead paragraph in the release...

"Studies show that 79% of employees leave their jobs in part due to a lack of recognition. Overall, 65% of employees felt that they were not recognized at all in the past year. Further studies say that 75% of employees are not fully engaged in their jobs. Steady economic growth and an aging work force are likely to result in further labor shortages and make the task of retaining skilled workers more difficult."

That's pretty big news, I thought, relevant in communication as well as recruiting. But just to be safe, I e-mailed the release's contact, a "PR Wizard" at Synergy Marketing & PR, inquiring what study the release references and where I might see the methodology. I received a prompt reply: "I am going to get the president to respond to your inquiry as they are his references."

Given that was Friday and today is Tuesday, and a growing number of media outlets including CNW Telbec, WDBJ7/CBS, Mediacaster, HULIQ, The Seattle Times, and others, along with several bloggers, already ran the Rare Method release in its entirety, I'm thinking that the the study may be as credible as the product tagline is original "Thank Different." Um, yeah. Right.

Still, I really don't know whether or not the numbers were pulled out of the sky so I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now. I'm more miffed that the media continues to run studies without asking the simplest questions, including sampling size and methodology. Next thing you know, someone will start writing something like "According to a CBS television network affiliate, studies show that 79% of employees leave their jobs in part due to a lack of recognition."

Except, we don't really know that this is true. It's a hard lesson to learn when you're looking for numbers. I became sensitive to studies and methodology years ago, primarily because of debunking several studies that our local media had run to further "best intention" agendas. Amazingly low sample sizes, erroneous questions, and logic leaps bigger than the Grand Canyon are tossed into the mix every day and the media screams for more.

Sometimes, as illustrated by Rare Method Interactive, you don't even have to cite the study to get some play out of the information. Just make it up, that's enough. Toss in an oh-so-original tagline "Got Studies?" and you're in business.

Of course I don't think it is enough. In fact, if you spend enough time looking up the studies that we do highlight, you'll see the common denominator is that they often make sense (or we question them if they do not). Er, on second thought, someone just read my blog and e-mailed me for advice ... and based on this comprehensive analysis of data (of one), I'm sending out a release tomorrow to say that we're the most influential in our field. Ha!

Digg!

9 comments:

Rich on 3/8/07, 5:23 PM said...

Famous NO words:

Rare Method Interactive ... too busy granting stock options to verify claimed studies.

Brian Clegg on 3/14/07, 9:44 AM said...

Hi Rich,

I'm with Rare Method and have been working on the Kudos project. You're right, citing 'studies' without being able to provide a source probably isn't the best way to promote a product. Further, I apologize that you haven't got a response yet.

But I stumbled across your blog today and, although its late, I would be happy to let you and your readers know where we came up with the numbers. All three stats in the first paragraph of the news release came from "The Carrot Principle" by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. The studies were conducted in partnership between the book's publisher, OC Tanner, and The Jackson Organization. You can find the stats that we used in our news release on pages 8 and 13.

We have a lot of respect for OC Tanner (www.octanner.com). Their books have played a large part in changing the way our company manages employees and was part of the inspiration for Kudos.

You can get some more stats on recognition in the workplace from our blog (where we took more care to cite our sources) and if you have any questions you can contact me directly at Rare Method - (403) 543-4500.

cheers,
brian.

Rich on 3/14/07, 10:19 AM said...

Hi Brian,

I really, really appreciate the clarification and someone taking the time to source the study.

It's an important piece of information. For those that don't know, "The Carrot Principle" is based on a 10-year study of 200,000 managers and employees and includes case studies from Disney, DHL, KPMG, and Pepsi Bottling Group. (I have not read it, but it looks worthwhile, provided you understand how much the workplace has changed in 10 years from the time they started).

There is a lot to be said for recognition programs in differentiating companies and their ability to win, without question.

Truly, it seems like Rare Method might be moving in the right direction in developing and application that can assist and my apologies for distracting from the merits of Kudos, which may be worthwhile for some companies. It's the very reason I stayed away from a product review.

For public relations practitioners, I might advise that credibility is why you always cite the source (beyond risking plagiarism) in a release. And, more importantly, you always follow up with someone who states they are "writing" something about it.

For media members who missed it, you missed an important part of the story because you didn't ask.

Kudos to you Brian for taking initiative and making contact and clarify what needed to be clarified. I'll add you're clarification to another blog where this story was posted.

Thank you again,

Rich

Rich on 3/20/07, 3:42 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

“Thanks. end of story. -30-" — from a "PR Wizard" at Synergy Marketing & PR.

Robb Johnstone on 5/7/07, 8:52 AM said...

Hi Rich,

"There are three kinds of lies...lies, damn lies and statistics."

Like Brian Clegg, I also work at Rare Method. Having finished "Freakonomics" a short while ago, I have to question all numbers when I see them in print, regardless of the source. I see from one of your earlier blog posts that you too have questioned the validity of work conducted by pollsters and research experts, even those as highly touted as Harris Interactive. So, even though Brian cites "The Carrot Principle," I think the greater insights come from the philosophy of Kudos, not the numbers that support its rationale.
We have field tested the Kudos system at Rare Method, and have noticed an increasing up-tick in staff morale since introducing the recognition-and-rewards online tool. People report being more satisfied in their jobs, they feel more appreciated, they have greater faith in the company and their own career choices, and staff retention has been high in a very competitive job market - not to mention highly the mobile nature of the marketing industry.
How do we know that? Not just from polls and surveys, but because we hold regular staff meetings, we conduct performance reviews and we simply speak to our people.
In short, we are "thanking different," and I don't feel much slighted by your criticism of our tagline's originality. After all, a person only has to Google "Writer's Ink" to get some perspective on originality.
As for our "PR Wizards," you only have to look at our press clippings from the past few years to realize they have been instrumental in attracting both attention and new employees. If not wizards, they must at least be skilled conjurers.

Cheers,
Robb "I'm certainly not here for the stock options" Johnstone

Rich on 5/7/07, 12:06 PM said...

Hi Robb,

I really appreciate you took the time to drop by. I have no doubt that there is validity that internal communication and recognition means something.

Just today I praised the NEA and PTA launching the World's Largest Thank You Card after 2,500 teachers participated in NEA's Teacher Gift online poll, which asked teachers what gift they would most like to receive from their students/classrooms. Respondents overwhelmingly chose "hearing the words thank you/receiving a thank you card" (48 percent). It's on our other blog.

Addressing this post, I appreciate that there might be some confusion. My original intent was to consider the media's willingness to publish numbers without asking for sources or methodology. I was also very interested in Kudos.

Things took a turn for the worse after some miscommunication, which Brian did a great job to clarify on behalf of Rare Method. I think that said it all. If your public relations firm works for you, I think that's great too. I have no reason to believe they are incapable.

As for Harris Interactive, I may have acted the part of a spoiler on some stats, but you have read deeper and some subsequent posts to find that other than relatively few differences of opinion, overall, we feel very good about Harris Interactive and its work on the concept of mobile advertising. Ergo, the original critique landed more on what the release communicated than the work.

That's the way it is sometimes. A release might not do the work justice (sometimes it is the opposite).

Suffice to say that I have no bad feelings for Rare Method nor the work it is doing. I encourage anyone so inclined to look at the research and see if it is right for them.

Thanks again for adding new information to the discussion. Several points were very well said.

Cheers returned,
Rich

Rich on 5/7/07, 12:22 PM said...

Last Words:

Our name and registered trademark has been around for sometime. So if anyone would like its history and serial number, feel free to send me an e-mail.

Anonymous said...

Rich,

You should look into Rare Method some more, you might be surprised what you find, especially staff turnover figures.

Rich on 10/30/08, 7:13 PM said...

Hey Anon,

I try to stick with communication, but it might be worth a peak. I'm working on something about how broken communication often reveals deeper issues.

Best,
Rich

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