Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What is a hard to reach group? Not what you think.

I saw a title of blog post recently titled "What is a hard to reach group?" The answer seemed obvious - young men, hispanic people, people with high incomes. There are lots of demographic groups that are hard to reach and cause researchers a lot of stress when it comes to filling every cell in a sampling matrix.

But that wasn't the first thing that came to mind for me. The first thing I thought of was that hard to reach people are those for whom we haven't found the right value proposition. We haven't found the incentives that are meaningful to them. That's the simplest answer.

But, it also means we haven't found the type of research that feels important to them - our surveys aren't meaningful to them, our focus groups don't put them at ease, our individual interviews feel unnatural to them.

Maybe these 'hard to reach' groups aren't hard to reach at all. Maybe we've spend all of our time trying to attract and interest mini-mes. People just like me. People who completed highschool. People who went to college. People who work from 9 to 5 and then go home, make dinner, take care of the kids and get to bed by 11.

Maybe, if we stopped trying to recruit mini-mes, if we stepped into the shoes of someone who works the nightshift, someone who plays video games until 3am, someone who only wears designer shoes, maybe we'd find that these hard to reach groups aren't so hard to reach at all.



Annie Pettit, PhD is the Chief Research Officer at Peanut Labs, a company specializing in self-serve panel sample. Annie is a methodologist focused on data quality, listening research, and survey methods. She won Best Methodological Paper at Esomar 2013, and the 2011 AMA David K. Hardin Award. Annie tweets at @LoveStats and can be reached at annie@peanutlabs.com.

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