Many focus group facilities are using email blasts to their database to help screen potential participants. I’ve written on this subject before when the market was just heading in this direction, but over time my point of view has solidified. As moderators hiring facilities/recruiters, we need to provide them with the best tools possible. So, I’ve starting providing facilities with an email-blast screener plus the full screener at the start of all my projects. If they don’t plan a blast, they can ignore that version. However, by providing the email-blast version, I’m able to make sure of two things:
- The right questions are asked in the right way.
- That sufficient masking is provided so that participants don’t know who the client or what the topic is.
The Right Questions the Right Way.
When I write a paper screener, the assumption is that the recruiters will speak to each participant by phone (even for online studies), so my screeners are written as “interviewer-administered.” By definition, email blasts are “self-administered” and the questions must be written differently.
I try to ask more yes/no questions vs. those requiring detailed responses. For instance, I don’t ask someone how often they consume a product in an email screener, but rather if they consume it. Facilities/recruiters may want to get at the frequency question via email (it will save them time), but I think that’s a mistake as it allows people to over-think potential responses before they’re called for the full screener.
Also, keep in mind that recruiters are typically not trained researchers. It’s really not their job to know the impact of question wording or the nuances of changing a question from interviewer- to self-administered. It’s my job.
There are two major ways that I mask the topic/client for the email blast:
- First, I make sure respondents will go through the entire survey. (If an online survey tool is being used, I make sure there are no points of termination and ask that the back button is disabled.)
- I then limit the number of questions to 3-5 plus a few demos. In my opinion, the more questions asked, the harder it is to mask the topic.
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While clients approve the full screener, I don’t feel it necessary to share the email-blast version. I’m not changing the question intent; I’m just adding a quality-control step to the process.
On my most recent study, I had a great recruit by both facilities. The extra step of writing the email version took me an additional 30 minutes – well worth it. And there was an added bonus: I became a better client for the facilities because I helped them do their job better (and saved them time)!
One final thing: I learned from some colleagues recently that facilities may be using Craigslist to find participants. They’re now telling facilities that Craigslist can’t be used to recruit on their studies. Another new item I’ll be adding to my recruiter instructions right away!