While traditional hard copies of written communication in business are still prevalent, email and online communication has become increasingly common. Types Two main classifications of written communication are in business, according to My Own Business, a nonprofit organization that works with entrepreneurs. Internal written business communication involves employers and employees at all levels of the company. External written communication involves clients, independent contractors, industry colleagues and other individuals not working directly for the company.
The marketing researcher facilitates the flow of information from the market or customer to the producer of the good or service. Such a situation, with three major players—the producer, the customer and the market researcher—often sets the stage for conflicts of interest which, as Plato noted, can give rise to ethical problems.
Given the inevitability of ethical dilemmas in marketing research, well-established ethical guidelines are critical for their resolution. In this article, we identify resources for ethical decision making in marketing research in three key areas where problems often arise: In the relationship between the researcher and the client Between the researcher and the research subject Between the researcher business writing communicates information the marketing research industry Situation 1: After you make a brilliant final presentation on a business-to-business market research study, your client thanks you and then asks for the list of companies that responded to the business writing communicates information, along with their survey responses, which could indicate whether they were currently in the market for the client's services.
What is your response? In my 20 years as a marketing researcher, this is the most common ethical dilemma I have encountered and a classic example of conflicting interests leading to ethical problems. When collecting data, I pledge that individual confidentiality will be maintained, personal information won't be used for other purposes, and responses will be combined with those of other respondents so that individuals can't be identified.
My clients, however, sometimes have an "Aha!
They suddenly realize that in addition to a market profile the research process has generated a list of "warm" or qualified leads for further marketing or sales efforts.
From their perspective, they paid for the study and so "own" both the results and the subject-specific information. In fact, respondent confidentiality is the first topic covered.
The standard is straightforward: Internationally, the guidelines are even stricter. Any deviation from anonymity requires written permission from the respondent. The Code of Professional Ethics and Practices of the American Association for Public Opinion Research requires that researchers "shall hold as privileged and confidential all information that might identify a respondent with his or her responses.
So, returning to our client hungry for warm leads, how do you respond? Despite your best efforts, you are unable to shorten a personal interview questionnaire to less than 30 minutes in order to ask all the questions needed to address your client's research objectives. You know that most of your subjects won't participate if you are honest with them about the time commitment.
Your boss suggests that you simply state the survey will "only take a few minutes. CASRO places the responsibility on the researcher for "weighing the research need against the length of the interview" and specifically states that potential research subjects "must not be enticed into an interview by a misrepresentation of the length of the interview.
Returning to the situation with your boss, how do you respond to the "suggestion" that you tell potential respondents that your survey will take "a few minutes" rather than saying the interview will last approximately 30 minutes?
You are in a kick-off meeting with a new client for your marketing research services. During your discussion, she shows you a previously commissioned research study from another marketing research provider. You note that the research design—a qualitative study—was completely inappropriate for the research purpose—a quantitative estimate of market potential.
Your potential client states that she "really liked" the previous study and asks if you can replicate it in another product category. It is clear that if you say no, she will go back to the original provider.
How do you respond? Professionalism and fairness are a hallmark of all of the ethical codes and standards we have discussed.
The American Marketing Association AMA Code of Ethics warns against taking advantage of situations in such a way that "unfairly deprives or damages the organization of others.
Although these situations have been described in terms of marketing research practice, the essential ethical questions are really very simple: Would you go back on your word and betray the trust that others have placed in you?
Would you lie to get others to cooperate with you? So far, I have avoided giving answers to the proposed situations other than to cite marketing research industry codes and standards. That is because ethical decision making is personal. Each of us must make tough ethical decisions alone, but it can help greatly when there are established guidelines.
Here are three general observations that might suggest how I would address the ethical challenges presented: If Plato was right that ethical problems spring from a conflict of interests, you should clearly lay out your personal perspective sooner rather than later.
My generalized response to the first situation is to initially provide the client with a hardcopy of the Code of Ethics under which I operate, emphasizing those issues important to the particular project.
I make certain that clients know what to expect from me and what the final deliverables will include.Q: Why do I have to write an artist statement? It's stupid. If I wanted to write to express myself I would have been a writer.
The whole idea of my art is to say things visually. Why can't people just look at my art and take away whatever experiences they will?
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The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Josh Bernoff is the author of the new book Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean and the coauthor of three business strategy books, including the bestseller Groundswell.