On June 29 Toby Bloomberg, author of the Diva Marketing Blog, posted an article questioning the results of a JupiterResearch (now JupiterKagan) study. A press release distributed by the firm seemed to indicate that a significant number of large corporations were going to be launching blogs this year. She attempted to clarify the study with JupiterKagan’s public relations (PR) firm Peter Arnold Associates, but was rebuffed.
Her post and the reception she received from Peter Arnold Associates prompted me to look into the matter. I contacted the PR firm and asked for more information about the study’s demographics and methodology. However, I was also turned away.
To learn more, I purchased the report and was far from satisfied with it. The document raised more questions than it answered.
In my original post, I mentioned that I had scheduled some time to speak with the analyst responsible for developing the report, W. Gregory Dowling. I was interested in getting answers to a number of questions I had about the research. On July 11, I spoke with Dowling and Corina Matiesanu, a senior analyst with JupiterKagan’s data research group. Dowling and Matiesanu were candid and more than willing to answer tough questions about the study and clear up misconceptions I (and many other bloggers) had about it.
I was ready to post an article based on my conversation with JupiterResearch’s analysts, when I read this post on Bloomberg’s blog highlighting new commentary from David Schastky, president of JupiterKagan, on this issue. Because Schatsky’s comments contradicted Dowling’s statements, I contacted Dowling to clarify JupiterKagan’s position on the study. Dowling put me in contact with Schatsky who e-mailed me with more information.
I was awaiting Schatsky’s permission to publish portions of his e-mail when I came across posts from Dowling and Schatsky clarifying the survey’s methodology and explaining JupiterKagan’s policies on blogger relations and how it will reveal information about its studies in the future.
I am pleased that Dowling clarified the study. Clearly, we all got it wrong. JupiterKagan is not implying that 70 percent of large corporations will deploy customer-facing blogs in 2006. Rather, JupiterKagan is saying that 70 percent of IT Managers with decision-making authority on Web site budgets in companies with $50 million or more in revenue either have or plan to deploy blog authoring technology in 2006. JupiterKagan is saying nothing about how companies will use these new tools. Four Lessons I Learned From This Incident
Following are four lessons I learned from this incident.
Lesson I: Clarity Is King
In communications 101, you learn that clarity is king. If people can’t figure out what you’re talking about you have no chance of motivating them to change their beliefs or behaviors. As JupiterKagan’s PR firm, Peter Arnold and Associates is responsible for ensuring that its client’s data is clearly communicated to the media and the public. In this instance the firm failed. I hope Schatsky and JupiterKagan’s analysts closely scrutinize releases the PR firm distributes in the future to minimize the chance that they will be misinterpreted.
I also think that companies releasing research have a responsibility to provide enough information about a study’s methodology to avoid misinterpretation of the data. I plan to be doubly sure that any research published by my firm Envision Solutions adheres to the highest standards of clarity and transparency. We should expect nothing less from JupiterKagan, Forrester Research, Cymfony, Nielsen BuzzMetrics and other companies.
Lesson II: Bloggers Can Make A Difference
On numerous occasions we have seen how bloggers have challenged companies like Dell and Microsoft. Today, we have witnessed how a cadre of bloggers have forced JupiterKagan to rethink its data disclosure and blogger relations policies.
The JupiterKagan incident is a perfect example of the power of the blogosphere.
Lesson III: Bloggers Are Not Journalists, But Should Act Responsibly
Before he died Spider Man’s uncle told him: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Companies are engaging and entering the blogosphere in greater numbers. If business is taking bloggers seriously, we must elevate our game. As Susan Getgood observed, bloggers are not journalists, but if we want to be respected we must “do the same job we expect from a reporter from the daily paper. Fair and balanced reporting. Check the facts. Check your spelling or get a copy editor to do it for you.”
Bloggers: If you engage a company, you have a responsibility to get your facts straight. Kudos to Bloomberg for acting responsibly and for prompting real change.
Lesson IV: PR Goes Way Beyond Distributing A Press Release
Peter Arnold Associates prides itself on “[mixing] proprietary methodologies and years of experience to communicate proactively and reactively with major business media.” Clearly, the agency views itself as a provider of solid communications counsel to its clients.
In this case, I think Peter Arnold Associates dropped the ball. At a minimum, they should have anticipated questions from bloggers about the survey. They also should have worked with JupiterKagan to develop a blogger relations strategy long before this incident. The PR firm needs to do a better job of helping their client understand and navigate the blogosphere.
We’ll see whether this incident results in real changes in how research companies publish their data and interact with bloggers.
As always, your comments are welcome.