Increasing visibility

John recently wrote an interesting post about (good) planners being invisible.

It is a similar story for researchers. After all, aren’t planners glorified researchers? (Well, to some extent, it depends on the type of research but, generally, no.)

John suspects this inherent invisibility, coupled with a desire for recognition, is the motivation behind the many blogs and conferences. It does seem to be a particularly vibrant environment, and from it I’m even able to know the picture I’ve chosen for this post is doubly relevant.

Sadly, this is where the similarities with research end. There are notable exceptions (and I REALLY need to update my blogroll to reflect this), but vibrancy is not a word I would associate with the researchersphere, if such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

So why are so few researchers blogging, and even fewer researchers engaging in stimulating discussions? And why is it that research conferences are almost without fail dull and repetitive?

I suspect it may be due to the following reasons:

  • Both planning and research are a combination of ideas and execution. In planning, the former tends to be the most important but in research it is usually the latter. Ideas are harder to replicate (and get away with) than processes, so planners are more willing to share, while researchers are more protective
  • Planning will at worst cover a campaign, and at best the entire product/service direction. Research tends to be project based. It has a definite start, middle and end. There is little chance for serendipity or reaction, and less opportunity to note and act upon interesting opportunities
  • The fruits of a planner’s labour are visible for all to see. Most research is initially designed for an internal audience, who then cherrypick the story they want to tell for an external audience. This inherent, proprietary, knowledge gets locked up and never seen nor spoken of
  • There are far fewer planners than researchers (I assume, I actually have no idea on numbers), and it is a harder profession to get into. Therefore average ability and motivation is higher, fostering a vibrant environment

There are probably many more reasons, but those are just from the top of my head.

Can this be changed? In the widest research sense, probably not. But there are pockets of innovation, some truly excellent researchers and massive differences in the nature and scope of project work. So there is some hope.

On January 1st, I said I wanted to read less things, but better. I ended up switching to a more time-consuming job, so just ended up reading less. This blog also became noticeably quieter since I switched jobs, and my link updates stopped.

This coming year, I want to move more from passive to active. There may not be a researchersphere, but I want to do my part in fostering thought and debate among my readers (thank you for persevering with me) and those I read.

Jeremiah Owyang says he likes to pay himself first – he does that through his blog concentrating his thought processes and the recognition he receives for it. I’m not very good at getting up before 8am (or noon on weekends), so I’m going to try to end the week by paying myself.

That will involve more time spent not only reading but also thinking, writing and talking about things. Some things directly related to research (though these thoughts may go on the Essential blog, which currently features our 2009 Christmas awards), and other things related to media, technology and marketing. And I’m also going to try to resuscitate a truncated link update.

I wish you all a prosperous 2010

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chaoticgood01/3786273684/

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7 Responses

  1. There have been flickers, I think – the outsourcing debate could have gone somewhere; Ray P’s been doing his best to push along a conversation… but yeah, you’re right and you’re right about the reasons.

  2. I’ve often similarly pondered the lack of media owner bloggers out there (comparatively) but you’ve captured some good points here. Your posts are always well thought through and intelligently written so looking forward to some more thought provoking posts in 2010. Have a great festive season Simon.

  3. As suspected, Simon, I LOVE the picture…

    And more importantly, I love the post too. Planner/Researcher crossover is high; my first media job was in the media research department at BJM (long since rolled into TNS), and it provided me with an invaluable grounding in thinking about people.

    And to Neil’s point about media owners, I spent three and a half years in the ‘planning & insight’ department at Viacom (now CBS) Outdoor. So I’ve got a decent understanding of the cultural differences between those places.

    In addition to your points above (which I very much agree with), I wonder if there’s something about the space that already exists in a planning function at an agency (read & think about & create things) that doesn’t necessarily exist in the majority of either research agencies or media owners…

    …and it’s a space where blogging acts as a marvellous foil to the job. But if you were the MD of a company and someone asked for more time to think about things, the write about them where the competition can pick up everything for free… creating that space in companies where it doesn’t already exist is hard I think.

    But what we might see, increasingly, is more people like yourself, Tom (and Neil on the media owner side) start to write and contribute to blogs ‘without permission’ from the folks who run the companies they work for.

    So maybe ‘Planning’ got there first because the space/culture was there already. I’d have thought other divisions and businesses in the marketing sphere will start to catch up…

  4. Thanks for the comments chaps. My first two proper jobs to date – large research agency and media owner – had pretty similar cultures where a wide knowledge/interest was theoretically useful, but realistically didn’t need to go beyond reading MediaGuardian and Brand Republic.

    It is a bit different here, but not to the same extent as the media agencies where I envisage (having never been in agencies for any longer than 90 minute meetings) a much wider bank of influences is more actively encouraged. Presumably, this helped “light a fire” in the plannersphere

    In terms of planning at research agencies, Tom is probably the best example of a person I know doing something similar (my first agency had a couple of similar people attempting it, but they weren’t as active online outside of project work). Certainly something for me to aspire to, but more difficult when you only have a dozen people around you working flat out ūüôā

    Can other departments catch up with planning? I’m slightly sceptical as that collaborative, playful environment isn’t as naturally suited, but hopefully pockets can emerge

    All the best
    Simon

  5. Hi Simon, love your posts! Why haven’t I been reading your blog before? Very interesting and thoughtful.

  6. Hi Simon,
    Some great points. I have been wondering if researchers should be more like planners (or vice versa even). I have found it difficult to get younger researchers together to chat about research-y stuff/issues (beyond the usual 6 montly R-Net booze up). Planners and Researchers all seem to as busy bees and both are opinionated. So, what’s the difference? My guess is that researchers don’t own as much of the project as planners do; we can dip in and out of projects; seeing ourselves as a smaller part of the picture (similar to as you have written above).
    Whatever the answer, you are correct in saying the research community could be more vociferous online and face-to-face (me included!). Best, Simon

  7. Thanks for stopping by guys, and for continuing to posit interesting thoughts and questions of your own

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