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To market, to market: job opportunities in marketing.

We've all seen and heard them: Salespersons knocking on our doors, samples stuffed in the mailbox, and advertisements in everything we look at. On a typical day, we are bombarded with information in newspapers and magazines and on radio, television, billboards, subways, and buses about new products and services. Also, we regularly find coupons, catalogs, and circulars in our mail and receive telephone calls encouraging us to try new products or services. These are just the most obvious signs of a lengthy process known as marketing, which includes all the steps involved in bringing products to market and influencing consumers to buy them.

Marketing is a huge field, employing 9,498,000 workers in 1986, as shown in table 1. Marketing opportunities exist throughout the country with advertising agencies, consulting firms, manufacturers, product testing laboratories, retailers, and securities and financial services firms. Although many of the large advertising and public relations firms are headquartered in New York, opportunities in advertising and public relations can be found throughout the country, both with large manufacturers located in rural areas and with small agencies, which are found in nearly every city In fact, agencies located in smaller cities are expected to offer some of the best job opportunities in the coming years.

Large as it is, the field of marketing is growing. Fueled by an expanding economy and increasing competition, demand for marketing, advertising, and public relations services is expected to increase. In addition, supplying goods and services to a growing population should generate numerous opportunities in both wholesale and retail trade. However, jobseekers should keep in mind that competition may be keen, especially for many of the entry level positions.

Marketing usually begins even before a product exists. Because of the tremendous cost of introducing a new product, producers conduct market research to learn if consumers will buy a product before spending time and money to develop it. After deciding to produce something, the producer establishes distribution channels, selects and trains a sales force, and promotes the item or service. Naturally, this requires workers in wholesale or retail sales, but it also calls for people who buy goods for immediate resale and others who sell goods directly from the manufacturer to the consumer either by mail or in some other way Marketing continues after the sale has been made as the company responds to consumers' inquiries and resolves problems.

Researching, advertising, and selling a product require workers in a wide variety of occupations-from a field representative who interviews consumers about their tastes and preferences to an executive vice president for marketing who directs overall marketing, advertising, promotion, sales, and public relations activities. Not all companies are large enough to employ workers in each occupation. Frequently, companies rely on firms that specialize in marketing, advertising, and public relations. Even large companies often rely on the expertise of these firms. But no matter where these workers are employed, marketing provides opportunities for people with a variety of skills and interests.

Marketing Research: What To Produce and Where To Sell It

When a company decides to expand, it must choose between trying to increase the sales of its current products and introducing a new one. Both strategies cost money, but introducing a new product is an especially expensive and risky venture. Therefore, firms conduct research on how sales of their current products can be improved or on what types of products consumers want to buy.

Using its own staff, an advertising agency, or a market research firm, a company will research its product and the market. Market research analysts find the answers to questions such as who is buying the product, what type of store sells it, and how much is sold each month. These workers design consumer research surveys, develop mathematical models, analyze sales data, and conduct field surveys. However, data are usually collected by field representatives, sometimes referred to as interviewers, who interview consumers over the telephone and in shopping malls or observe focus groups-people who try a product or service. A field coordinator oversees the work of the field representatives. Once the data have been gathered, market research analysts interpret them and prepare a report of their findings.

The company may use the results of the research to create a marketing strategy, for the new or current product. The marketing strategy describes the potential market, sales, share of the market relative to competing merchandise or services, price, and profit. In addition, it includes information on distribution channels, advertising and sales promotions, and long-term goals. This information will be used along with other factors, such as the overall financial status of the company, to determine if the product will be made.

Once the company has decided to develop a new product, the firm's research and development team creates the actual product. If one does not already exist, a prototype is developed, tested with consumers, and eventually distributed.

The market research department usually oversees market testing. One of the more common testing methods is to introduce a product into several markets and gauge consumer reaction. For example, when a soft drink manufacturer creates a new soda, it tests the drink in several regions. It solicits comments from consumers and monitors sales. Depending on the results, the company may choose one of three options: Discontinue development, change the new formula, or plan a national promotion.

Advertising, Sales Promotion, and Public Relations

Before initiating national distribution, a company must select a strategy to promote its product, most often using a combination of paid advertising, sales promotion, and free publicity. The company may employ a marketing manager, who is responsible for all advertising, sales, and public relations activities. However, the development of a promotional strategy is usually the work of an advertising agency.

In an advertising agency, advertising managers oversee the account management, creative, research, and media departments. Traffic managers, working in conjunction with these departments, follow the progress of the advertisement throughout the various phases of creation and production.

The account management department employs account executives-sometimes referred to as account representatives or assistant account executives. Account executives must be familiar with all the client's marketing efforts and how advertising can be used. They assess their client's needs, create the advertising plan, relay the client's preference to the creative and media departments, and coordinate all activities related to the account. Assistant account executives aid the account executive, as their title implies. This is usually an entry level slot.

Account executives often work closely with marketing communications specialists, who are employed by all types of firms that sell goods and services. Marketing communications specialists, who are supervised by marketing managers, act as the liaison between the marketing, advertising, or public relations firm and their company They may work on special marketing projects or internal communications.

In the advertising agency, the creative department-which develops both the words and art for advertisements-is supervised by a creative director, who oversees the copy chief and art director and their staffs. The copy chief oversees a staff of copy writers who are responsible for creating advertising copy, the words in an ad. Graphic artists, also referred to as layout workers or commercial designers, determine how the words will look, as well as choosing photographs, illustrations, colors, and all the other visual aspects of the advertisement. Under the direction of an art director, these workers also prepare magazine and television layouts; design packages; and create corporate logos, trademarks, and symbols.

Once the words, layout, and design of the ad are approved by the client, it is ready for production. Most advertising agencies do not have their own production facilities. Therefore, the agency's production manager contracts with a production house to make the version of the ad that will serve as a master copy, whether the ad is to be printed, shown on TV, or heard on the radio.

Advertising appears in many different media. The media director of the agency's media department oversees the selection of the communication media in which the advertising is placed and the purchase of space or time as appropriate. Most common are television, radio, newspapers, and magazines, but media also include billboards, transit advertising, and direct mail. Media planners evaluate the characteristics and costs of the various media, using statistical methods and models, to determine the optimal choice for the client.

Advertising income provides a large portion of the revenue for television networks, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. Costs are usually based on the number of potential customers reached. As a result, advertising during popular television shows or in magazines with large circulations is very expensive. In order to spend their client's advertising dollars most effectively, advertising agencies usually employ media buyers, also called media coordinators, to negotiate with media representatives-the sales force for television and radio stations, magazines, and newspapers. Negotiations cover such matters as the cost of the ad or commercial, where or when an ad will appear, and other matters, such as a ratings guarantee. Media buyers also recommend how the time and space bought should be allocated among the agency's clients.

Sales of many products are increased through promotional efforts. Sales promotion programs-created by sales promotion specialists--combine advertising with financial or other incentives for customers. Sales promotion programs may involve samples, coupons, trading stamps, point-of-purchase displays or demonstrations, catalogs, brochures, exhibits, and contests. Under the guidance of the sales promotion manager, sales promotion specialists deter,-nine which incentive to use, where to make it available, and how long to offer it.

Depending on the type of promotion, graphic designers may be needed to design promotional packaging, a coupon, or a catalog. Demonstrators and models are often employed to show practical ways to use the product; they generally work in shopping malls and grocery stores or at trade shows.

In addition to promoting their company through paid advertisements and sales promotion programs, most firms rely on public relations (PR) services to obtain favorable publicity Some firms specialize in providing such services for other companies, just as advertising agencies specialize. Many advertising agencies also have PR departments, as do many companies.

The public relations director or manager oversees the operation of the PR department. Larger companies may have more than one PR department-typically one to handle companywide issues and one to promote the products. In addition, they may have a community relations or public affairs department to promote good relations with the community

Under the direction of the public relations manager, public relations specialists act as the liaison between the company and the media. They keep people informed of their organization's policies, activities, and accomplishments and keep management aware of public attitudes. For example, they may contact magazines and newspapers or television and radio stations to obtain coverage about the company's products or programs. In addition, they may prepare the company's annual report and employee newsletter or assist company executives in drafting speeches. These workers also represent their employers at community events, make presentations, plan conventions, and manage fundraising campaigns.

Through the use of advertising, sales promotion, and public relations, a firm makes consumers aware of its products. However, the product must still be moved from the warehouse shelf to the consumer's hands. The producer has several options. The product can be sold to a wholesaler, to a retailer, or directly to the consumer.

Distribution: Wholesale

Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers employ sales managers and sales representatives to keep products moving.

Sales managers supervise the sales force and direct the firm's sales program. They assign territories and goals and establish training programs for sales representatives. In large, multiproduct firms, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs. Some sales managers, also called brand managers, oversee all activities related to the sales and marketing of a particular product line and usually supervise several product managers. Each product manager directs the sales and marketing of a particular product in that line. For example, the marketing of a particular brand of shampoo would be handied by the product manager, whereas the brand manager would be responsible for all hair care products-shampoo, mousse, conditioner, and so forth. Sales managers maintain contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics to determine the preferences of customers and decide which products to promote and which to discontinue. They must also be able to project future sales so that inventories will be adequate but not excessive.

Most manufacturers' and wholesalers' sales representatives perform very similar work, although their titles vary depending on the company for which they work and the type of product they sell. Very often, both manufacturers and wholesalers employ two types of sales workers-inside sales workers who stay in an office and field sales workers who work on the road. Inside sales workers take and solicit orders by phone, monitor inventories, and process orders. Field sales workers act as intermediaries between the manufacturer or wholesaler and customers. Typically, they promote products, solicit new business, provide technical information and assistance, and resolve problems.

Sales representatives may also perform many services for retailers, such as checking the store's stock and ordering items that will be needed before the next visit. Some sales representatives help retailers improve their ordering and inventory systems and advise them about advertising, pricing, and displays. Sales workers who handle industrial machinery, often called sales engineers, may give technical assistance with the installation or maintenance of equipment or the training of the machinery operators.

When selling to other firms or government agencies, sales representatives often meet with purchasing agents or industrial buyers, contract specialists, merchandise managers, buyers, and junior or assistant buyers.

Purchasing agents buy the goods, materials, supplies, and services required by their organization. Usually specializing in a commodity or group of related commodities, they insure that products are of suitable quality, bought at the lowest price, and available when needed. Purchasing agents in the Federal Government use simplified purchasing methods, whereas Federal contract specialists use sealed bidding and negotiated agreements for more expensive contracts. The work of merchandise managers and buyers is described in the section on retail trade.

One specialty in marketing which is expected to generate numerous job opportunities is trade-show planning and management. Trade shows, which are usually sponsored by an industry trade association or professional trade-show management organization, bring together producers or wholesalers and retailers or other customers. For example, twice a year, shoe manufacturers from all over the world bring their products to "Shoe Fair," where they promote new styles, recruit new clients, distribute information on their products, and take orders.

Trade shows vary considerably in size, scope, and function. Their number has been steadily increasing throughout the last decade. This, in turn, has created numerous job opportunities for those interested in this specialty marketing.

Trade shows usually take months or years to plan and organize. The overall responsibility for the planning and organization belongs to the exposition manager, often referred to as the show manager or organizer. This individual oversees promotion and operational planning. Depending on the size of the show, the manager may also oversee the organization of seminars, conferences. and administrative services-which includes arranging for lodging and transportation, preparing exhibit directories and information kiosks, and attracting new exhibitors.

The success of any trade show depends in part on attendance. If attendance is poor, exhibitors are unlikely to participate the following year. As a result, promotion is very important. Market research must be conducted on who would benefit from exhibiting at the show and who should attend it, what would be of interest, and how potential exhibitors and attendees should be informed about the show. Advertising, direct mail, and telemarketing campaigns must be created to make the target audience aware of the show In addition, a public relations center must be established to answer questions and resolve problems. Exhibiting organizations may employ exhibit specialists, who decide which shows the organization should participate in, plan the exhibit, and, along with sales personnel, staff the booth.

As the show date approaches, activity picks up. Exhibitors often hire exhibit designers, sometimes referred to as exhibit producers, to create their exhibit; some large firms have their own exhibit department. The appearance of the exhibit is very important because it must project an attractive image of the company and must encourage participants to stop and find out more about the organization and its products or services.

Before participants can walk onto the floor, the exhibit hall must be prepared. General service contractors are responsible for erecting railings around the booths; laying carpeting; organizing security, food service, and first aid; and establishing registration and information systems. The exhibitors themselves set up their booths or hire laborers and construction workers to do so.

When the show opens, registration and information desks must be staffed with trained, courteous receptionists and information clerks. They register participants, distribute show information, handle problems, and answer questions,

Distribution: Retail

Retail trade is the most obvious marketing activity. It involves both buying goods from a manufacturer or wholesaler and selling them to the final consumer. Consequently, retail trade establishments employ merchandise managers, buyers, and assistant buyers who specialize in the purchase of goods; and department managers and salespeople who specialize in selling the goods.

Merchandise managers in a retail store set the direction of styles, product lines, and image for their area and oversee its budget. But their major duty is usually to supervise buyers and allocate resources among them.

Buyers are found in both wholesale and retail trade. Wholesale buyers purchase goods directly from manufacturers or from other wholesale firms for resale to retail firms or other establishments. Retail buyers purchase goods from wholesale firms or directly from manufacturers for resale to the public.

All buyers seek the best available merchandise at the lowest possible price, but day-to-day duties vary by industry and range from the mundane to the glamorous. They usually specialize in acquiring one or two lines of merchandise.

Buyers must be able to assess the resale value of goods after a brief inspection and make purchase decisions quickly Before ordering merchandise, they study market research reports and monitor sales. They keep informed about changes in existing products and the development of new ones. And they also analyze economic conditions and read industry and trade publications.

Buyers may direct junior or assistant buyers, who handle routine functions such as verifying shipment orders and monitoring inventories--often by computer. The position of assistant buyer is often a stepping stone to a buyer position.

Department managers prepare weekly schedules for their salespeople, handle customer service requests, inform buyers of how well merchandise is selling, and prepare merchandise displays. They also are responsible for the profitability of their department.

The purchase of high-priced items, such as cars or electronic equipment, is usually facilitated by trained salespersons, who assist the consumer. For these jobs, special knowledge or skills are often required. Whether selling furniture, electrical appliances, or clothing, however, a sales worker's primary job is to interest customers in the merchandise. This is often done by describing the product's construction and value, demonstrating its use, and showing various models.

Sales workers also accept returns, make exchanges, and keep their work areas neat. In addition, they may help stock shelves or racks, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays. However, workers selling articles such as food, hardware, linens, and housewares, often do little more than take payments and wrap purchases.

At long last, the customer has the product. What if there is something wrong with it? Depending on the type of product and where it was purchased, the sales worker can replace the defective goods. Other times, the department manager must respond to the customer's complaints. In addition, many organizations have a customer service department and employ customer service representatives who answer consumers' inquiries and letters and try to resolve problems. These individuals must be diplomatic because they often deal with angry and frustrated people.

Distribution: Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is not new. For years, consumers have purchased products from door-to-door salespeople, shopped at manufacturers' outlet stores, and attended home sales parties. However, consumers have increasingly demanded more convenient ways to purchase goods and services, Producers have responded by the increased use of direct marketing techniques, such as direct mail and television solicitation through both advertisements and call-in shows.

Direct mail has been one of the fastest growing areas of direct marketing in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. Direct mail includes catalogs, promotional letters, and other materials that encourage the consumer to purchase an item or service. It is especially appealing to advertisers because the benefit of the campaign is easily measured. Because producers know who has received the material, they can determine who is buying the product.

Direct mail services are offered by advertising agencies and specialized firms. In either case, account, creative, research, and media departments must work together to create an effective direct mail campaign. Workers in these departments must have specialized knowledge about the workings of direct mail. For example, a direct mail promotional letter may have three or four different pieces of paper, each of which needs different copy although some of the same points must be made on every one.

A special challenge for direct mail is deciding who to send the material to. Companies maintain mailing lists of their customers, but they also may want to expand their lists. In other cases, a company may wish to target only some of its potential customers because of the nature of the product. As a result, companies rely on list brokers who sell mailing lists and may suggest which lists to purchase in order to reach a particular target group.

Mailing lists may be created by other companies or by specialized list compilers who use sources such as birth and wedding announcements, magazine and catalog subscription lists, and professional membership directories to create mailing lists. Mailing list service bureaus process and update the lists.

After the material has been created, the list selected, and the item labeled, it must be mailed. Many firms use the services of letter shops to insure the timely and least costly mailing of their materials.

In addition to marketing jobs, direct mail offers many opportunities for computer and clerical personnel. Creating programs to maintain and update the lists requires workers skilled in systems analysis, computer programming, and data entry

Like direct mail, the telephone has been a marketing tool for quite a while, --especially in financial services and insurance. But today, more and more firms are realizing the benefits of telemarketing. Cold calling, the process of calling potential consumers who have been picked at random, is quickly being replaced by target marketing. Target marketing-aiming a sales presentation at a particular audience-is more appealing because of its success.

Although some firms have an inhouse telemarketing department, most use the services of telemarketing agencies. The organization of a telemarketing agency is very similar to that of an advertising agency or a direct mail firm. The marketing division of the firm solicits new clients and bids for contracts. Once the client has signed on with the agency, an account executive coordinates the campaign.

Each phone campaign requires a script that will maintain the consumer's interest and encourage the consumer to buy the product. scriptwriters may have to create formal dialogs that allow for responses or anticipate questions and comments and prepare answers and rebuttals.

Once the final script is written, the telephone work begins. Under the supervision of the telemarketing center manager, telemarketing communicators place outgoing or receive incoming calls about the product. Some firms use computerized phone systems that automatically dial a phone number and play a prerecorded message when the phone is answered.

Telemarketing may be used in conjunction with direct mail or other advertising techniques. For example, many fliers include a toll-free number which consumers can call for more information or to place orders.

Earnings and Educational Requirements

Because of the variety of jobs in marketing, earnings and benefits vary considerably. As is true for any occupation, eamings for beginners are considerably lower than for those who have experience. Many salesworkers earn a combination of salary and a commission based on a percentage of their total sales. See table 2 for earnings in particular marketing occupations.

Working conditions also vary widely Many of those employed in these occupations work a standard 40-hour week, but unpaid overtime is common. The constant pressure to meet deadlines and sales projections can be extremely stressful.

Most professional positions in marketing require a college degree. However, employers of marketing research analysts and marketing, advertising, and public relations managers may prefer candidates with a master's degree in business administration. Because of the intense competition for creative positions, such as visual artist, an extensive portfolio is strongly recommended. Student internships can provide valuable experience and insight into the field.

Many opportunities are available for high school or community college graduates with proven sales ability, especially as retail sales workers. High school graduates with a pleasant speaking voice and courteous manner are also qualified for many clerical, customer service, order filling, and interviewer positions.

For More Information...

If this field appeals to you, you may want to find more information about careers in marketing. Many books are available on marketing, advertising, sales, and public relations in your local library. In addition, information about the industry and job vacancies can be found in trade magazines. Some are listed here, but check your library's periodicals section for others.

Advertising Age

Ad Week

Broadcast Week

DM News

Exhibitor Magazine

Inside Print

Marketing and Media Decisions

Marketing News

Meetings and Conventions

Public Relations News

PR Reporter

Sales and Marketing Management

Target Marketing

Tradeshow Week

Information is also available in the 1988-89 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, found in career resource centers and libraries. Articles on the following marketing-related occupations can be found in the Handbook:


Insurance sales workers

Manufacturers' sales workers

Marketing, advertising, and public relations managers

Public relations specialists

Real estate agents and brokers

Retail sales workers

Securities and financial services sales representatives

Visual artists

Wholesale and retail buyers

Wholesale trade sales workers

Writers and editors

Trade associations-organizations that represent firms within an industry and promote and provide information about their industry-are another useful source of information. Here is a partial listing of those that are allied with the marketing industry In addition, thousands are listed by subject area in the Encyclopedia of Associations, which can be found in the reference section of many libraries. American Marketing Association 250 South Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60606.

American Association of Advertising Agencies 666 Third Avenue, 13th Floor New York, NY 10017.

Direct Marketing Association 6 East 43rd Street New York, NY 10017. Marketing Reasearch Association 111 East Wacker Drive, Suite 600 Chicago, IL 60601.

Public Relations Society of America 33 Irving Place New York, NY 10003.

Trade Show Bureau PO. Box 797, 8 Beach Road East Orleans, MA 02643.

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Pick up the morning paper or turn on the evening news and you'll likely find the results of the latest poll taking the Nation's pulse on one issue or another-How does America's future look? Sixty, percent of Americans see sunny days ahead; 35 percent say a hard rain's gonna fall; 5 percent don't know, but they're carrying umbrellas just in case.

"Says who?" you ask. A cross-section of America, that's who.

Does it ever make you wonder how polls are taken or who tells us what the public's opinions are?

Polling and Survey Research

Public opinion polling is one segment of a broad field called survey research, which combines statistical methods and experienced judgment to examine our behavior, beliefs, and motivations on a wide range of subjects. Every year, thousands of surveys sample our opinions on everything from acid rain to acid stomach. We're polled over the phone, through the mail, and sometimes in person. The questions posed and the answers received influence political debate, public policy, TV shows, toothpaste, even dogfood. And if you doubt the worth of your opinions, thinkagain. In July 1988, U.S. News and World Report said that the 2,000 survey research fin-ns in this country earned nearly $2 billion in 1987 by sampling what was on your mind.

You can generally divide survey research into several broad categories according to the objectives of the organizations seeking the information. "Market research focuses on consumer attitudes and opinions," says Irving Crespi, an author, teacher, and noted surveyor of public opinion. These studies help businesses determine what products the public wants and the best way to present them in the marketplace. "Public opinion research is usually conducted for the media, political parties, and candidates. A certain amount of academic research falls into this category, too," says Crespi. He adds that a third category might be public policy research, which is conducted largely for govemment agencies and nonprofit groups.

Market research generally brings in the most business. "If there were a way of counting all the surveys and interviews done each day around the country, probably 10 times as many deal with consumer behavior, motivations, and attitudes as deal with public policy," says Mark DiCamillo, vice president of the Field Research Corporation in San Francisco, California.

But, while much of survey research focuses on the marketplace, many of us identify opinion polling with the world of politics and public policy "The public opinion poll provides a link between citizens and their govemment," says Mark Schulman, president of Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas, a New York research firm, And, he continues, "It is used to inform the media about important aspects of the public debate."

Charles Roll and Albert Cantril, in their book Polls: Their Use and Misuse in Politics, identify three segments of the polling community that regularly survey the country on public issues: Syndicated polls, media polls, and polls connected with academic institutions. The firms that syndicate polls conduct nationwide surveys on issues and candidates and distribute their results to subscribing newspapers. For decades, several syndicated polls, such as those by the Gallup, Harris, and Roper organizations, dominated this arena. While still prominent, these organizations have been joined by others. Today, no fewer than nine national polls syndicate their results around the country. In the last decade or so, all the major television networks and many newspapers have formed their own research units to plumb public opinion. A number of academic institutions regularly conduct public opinion polls, too. The Eagleton Poll, conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, is one example.

Political parties and candidates also hire pollsters to survey public opinion. But this private polling resembles market research more than issue polling. "The political pollster tries to find out the competitive advantages and disadvantages of the candidate and how his particular strengths and weaknesses compare to the opposition," according to Mark DiCamillo. Since the Presidential election of 1960, pollsters have played increasingly important roles in political campaigns. As members of the candidates' inner circles, polisters use their research on voter opinions to help devise both the strategy and tactics in many national, State, and local races.

Taking a Picture of Public Opinion In a sense, a poll is a snapshot of public opinion. The photographer captures a moment in time. The pollster does the same. Both combine art and science to produce their pictures.

The photographer selects the film and shutter speed, composes the picture, and assures that the light is right to capture the image he wishes. Then he snaps the shot and heads for the darkroom, where he mixes chemicals, develops the film, and processes it. A mistake at any of these steps can flaw the final photo: The wrong film shot too fast or too slow; not enough light; a mistaken mix of developing fluids; too long an exposure. Or maybe he gets all these steps right only to discoverthat he left the lens cap on or took a perfect picture of his finger.

The images of public opinion that pollsters produce also require a mix of technical skills and intuitive judgments and careful attention at each step of the process to assure that the pictures they develop are accurate and objective.

Whatever the purpose of a survey, pollsters generally follow the same steps and use similar methods to obtain their information. Andrew Brown, president of Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey, describes the procedures his company follows: "We design each project to meet the specific needs of our clients," says Brown. "Nevertheless," he continues, "there are general steps we follow in each project: We (1) define the problem and determine exactly what information the client needs and how it will be used; (2) determine the particular demographics (characteristics of the population) that we want to study; (3) draw the sample; (4) design the survey instrument or questionnaire; (5) test the questionnaire; (6) interview people and collect the, data; (7) code and cate sponses; (8) key them into a computer; (9) tabulate, them; and (10) analyze the information report our findings to the client."

Some research firms, such as Opinion Research Corporation, employ hundreds of workers; other operations may have no more than a handful of staff and contract with other firms to perform certain steps in the research. "I think that you'll see a division of the staff into administration, survey, and research in many survey organizations," says Tom W Smith, who directs the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Every piece of research is a collaborative effort. The report presented to a client or the poll that appears in the moming papers "may belie the fact that armies of people have been involved," says Mark Schulman. "It is a complex operation that may involve hundreds, from the analysts to the interviewers to the coders to data processors," he says.

At the top of the research pyramid is the senior researcher or analyst who coordinates the project. The senior analyst defines the research topics, prepares the questionnaire, and analyzes the data collected. "Sometimes, a project may have dual leadership," says Andrew Brown. "One person may act as the account representative; another may be the senior analyst who directs the research team." Other researchers and research assistants usually assist in the analysis.

Interviewers constitute the pyramid's base. "Interviewing is the way many young people are introduced to the profession," says Harold Nieburg, a political science professor at the State University of New York in Binghamton. Most interviewers work part time; many are students and housewives, according to sources interviewed for this article. The larger polling companies generally maintain their own staff of interviewers, who are trained in the general techniques of interviewing and in the specifics of the particular project. Those organizations that don't employ their own interviewers will generally contract with another company to do the polling for them.

Coders group the data gathered by interviewers into categories for tabulation by the data processing staff. Coding is frequently an entry level position in polling firms. Robert Longman, president of Central Surveys, Inc., in Shenandoah, Iowa, says that "what we look for is a recent college graduate or at least someone with an analytical mind who can see patterns in the data."

An assortment of technical personnel support the project, according to Andrew Brown. The demands of some projects require special skills. "Sometimes you may have to bring in a sampling expert if the sample you want to survey is especially complex," says Brown. "Other times," he adds, "some data may require highly sophisticated statistical analysis beyond a firm's capabilities. Here, you may hire another outfit to aid in the interpretation."

Defining the Problem:

What Do You Want To Know?

SidneyHollander is president of Hollander, Cohen Associates, a Baltimore, Maryland, research firm. "Occasionally," chuckles Hollander, "the hardest part of research is figuring out what it is that you really want to find out." A veteran researcher with more than 40 years' experience in political polling, policy, and market research, he notes that clients sometimes seek answers for one question when they should actually be asking another. He offers this anecdote as an example.

"Early in my career, a prominent client of mine, a shopping center developer, once wanted me to survey a particular neighborhood to find out what make of cars the inhabitants drove. I asked him why, and he responded, 'I want to find out what their average incomes are.' 'Why don't we ask them that?' I said. That taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that you have to find out what the client really wants to know, not what they want asked."

Defining the subject of a poll or survey presupposes some knowledge on the part of the pollster "Some projects require extensive research before you can begin, particularly those that deal with public policy," says Irving Crespi. And sometimes a researcher needs to define certain aspects of an issue more clearly One way they may do that is through focus groups.

Focus groups enable researchers and pollsters to identify underlying issues and attitudes that need to be explored more thoroughly in the formal survey or poll. "In all public opinion polling, you have to acknowledge the problem of subjectivity," cautions Harold Nieburg. "But focus groups are much more subjective," he says. To gather the best information in focus groups, a "researcher must be a good conversationalist," he says. Asking a series of questions about the particular issue under study, the researcher guides the conversation to probe as deeply as possible into the group's attitudes. Usually, focus group meetings are videotaped, to enable the researcher to discover nuances that body language and other indicators can offer. Sometimes, these tapes appear as TV commercials, with participants offering their opinions on everything from personal hygiene to spaghetti sauce.

While more widely used in market research, focus groups do have applications in public opinion polling. "Occasionally, we use focus groups to define issues and questions that need in-depth study"' says George Carcagno, director of Survey and Information Services for Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., of Princeton, New Jersey "The results are much more qualitative, however," says Carcagno. "Focus groups are useful in defining issues and formulating hypotheses," agrees Irving Crespi, "but they are no substitute for quantitative research."

Drawing the Sample

A variety of methods exist to construct and draw the samples used in survey research. All of them rely upon statistical and mathematical formulas far more complex than the example offered in the accompanying box. "A lot of spadework goes into developing a good sample," says Mark Schulman.

The Gallup Poll, for example, begins its selection by choosing election precincts by chance from the 200,000 in the country; then it randomly selects a household; and finally, it picks an individual to be interviewed. Other pollsters follow different formulas to design their samples. While methods may vary, the objective remains the same-to select a sample representative of the group. "A sample must be relevant to the issue being studied. Many projects go awry because the wrong people have been interviewed," says Mark Schulman,

But even the most stringent controls cannot guarantee a perfectly representative sample. "The concept of the perfect sample is like the concept of the vacuum in physics," says Sidney Hollander. "You know what it is, but no one has seen it. All sampling frames are fallible to a degree."

Designing the Questionnaire

If constructing the sample represents the science in survey research, composing the questionnaire, or survey instrument, constitutes the art. "The importance of wording applies equally to every method of interviewing-face-toface, telephone, and mail," writes Harold L. Nieburg in Public Opinion:

Targeting and Tracking.

Writing questions provides some of the toughest challenges for the public opinion researcher. How people respond to an issue depends upon the question they're asked. The structure, wording, and sequence of questions all influence poll results. Studies have shown that simply rewording questions can result in differences as great as 35 percent in poll results.

The late George Gallup wrote in The Sophisticated Poll Watcher's Guide that "Nothing is so difficult, nor so important, as the selection and wording of questions. . . . The questions included in a national survey of public opinion should meet many tests: They must deal with the vital issues, they must get at the heart of these issues, they must be stated in language understandable to the least educated, and, finally, they must be strictly impartial in presenting the issue."

In a public opinion survey, Gallup noted, there are two main categories of questions with two different objectives--one to measure public opinion, the other to describe it. The first category Gallup called referendum questions, which generally call for a "yes" or a "no" response; these enable the pollster to take a head count on a particular question.

Devising questions that describe public opinion, the second category, is more difficult. There are many facets to opinions that do not yield to simple answers. For example, many times your response to a question might be "Yes, but. . . ." To capture this complexity, pollsters employ a kind of questionnaire designed by the Gallup Poll in the late 1940's. Called the "quintamensional approach," it examines the respondent's awareness and general knowledge of an issue; general opinions about it; the reasons for these views; specific views on particular aspects of the issue; and the intensity with which the respondent holds these opinions.

"The question must focus on the specific issue," says Harry O'Neill, a senior executive with the Roper Organization and the president of the National Council on Public Polls. Suppose that a pollster is preparing questions to discover the public's opinion on protectionism. Says O'Neill, "One question might be, 'Do you favor protectionism?' Another pollster might ask, 'Do you favor protectionism to save American jobs?' While similar, they ask two different things. One focuses on protectionism. The other focuses on jobs."

Writing the questionnaire calls for experience. "Usually, the project leader will write the questionnaire and have it reviewed by other members of the research team," says Robert Longman, president of Central Surveys, Inc. "As a training matter, we sometimes will have a research assistant draft the questions and then -we review them. But this element is very important and is usually done by someone with experience."

Harry O'Neill concurs. "It does take experience," he says," and you can't do it by committee." One person will usually draft the questions, others will review them. This internal review is important, says O'Neill, because "we all have biases."

Internal reviews constitute only one check on the questionnaire. Generally, polling organizations test the questionnaire with perhaps a few dozen people before the survey begins. Problems that may have escaped even an experienced pollster's eye can be revealed in the test. Not only will the responses of test audiences indicate possible problems, but the insights of the interviewer can help, too. "One of the most enlightening steps in testing is debriefing the interviewer," says Sidney Hollander Interviewers can provide personal views on how the person responded to the question. In face-to-face interviews, a respondent's body language might convey impressions about a question that words do not. From a telephone test, interviewers can tell whether a person had difficulty understanding the language or structure of the question.

Interviewing: The Pollster Meets the Public

Once the sample has been drawn and the questionnaire prepared and tested, interviews begin. The three methods used are face-to-face interviews, telephone polls, and mail surveys.

Face-to-face interviewing predominated until the early 1970's. Most pollsters believed that telephone surveys tended to produce unrepresentative results 'because many middle and lower income households did not have phones. This fact clearly influenced the results of a famous Presidential poll in 1936. In that year, the Literary Digest used phone listings to poll more than 2 million people on their choice for President. The magazine forecast a landslide victory for Alf Landon over Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt won in a walk, while Landon took only three States. The magazine died of embarrassment.

Now, pollsters prefer telephones. "Today, telephones penetrate about 95 percent of the country's households, and the use of computerized random digit dialing helps insure largely representative samples," says Cliff Zukin, director of the Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University The telephone has other advantages. "Face-toface polling takes more time, costs more money, and can be very difficult because there are too many barriers," says Zukin. Highrise apartments and condominiums are difficult to enter, some communities restrict entrance, and there are some communities where interviewers do not wish to go. The Field Research Corporation, for example, which conducts the highly respected Califomia Poll, surveys solely over the phone. Mark DiCamillo believes that "It is practically impossible to conduct a face-to-face public opinion poll in California."

Usually, interviewers work in what's known boiler room," with phones for dozens of interviewers. Many of these operations use a technology called CATI, or computer-assisted telephone interviewing. Computers select the numbers, while interviewers sit before consoles, read the questions, and key in responses that are then tabulated automatically

Just as actors must stick to the script, interviewers must read the questionnaire straightforwardly For some questions, interviewers must record the exact wording of a respondent's answer. In other instances, interviewers are asked to probe for more complete or revealing responses. It's a delicate job that can lead to errors. "Sometimes the respondent reacts to the way a question is read or to the reactions they receive from the interviewer and try to give the answer that they believe is expected," says Elda Vale, who directs the Office of Communications and Polling for McGraw-Hill Research. Additionally, says Vale, there is an etiquette to phone polling, and each polling organization employs its own. "Some companies prefer a casual style; others a more businesslike one. The objective is to get respondents to commit themselves. Once they have invested time at the beginning of the interview, they're more likely to finish it."

Coding: Grouping Similar Answers Pollsters "code" or categorize the answers they receive to make them easier to tabulate and analyze. "The vast majority of questions on a public opinion poll are closed," says Tom W. Smith. For these questions, the pollster can usually establish codes prior to the interview.

But often, the researcher uses open questions to determine such things as the intensity of opinions or the motivation for certain kinds of behavior. In these instances, "You can't code beforehand because you don't want to close off any possibilities," says Smith. At the completion of the interviews, the analyst reads 50 to 100 responses to open questions. "You should be able to decern certain categories from that number," according to Smith, "Then the coder takes these categories and groups the responses accordingly"

Again, every organization develops its own methods. At Central Surveys, Inc., "we usually use one coder on a questionnaire," says Robert Longman. "Coding is judgmental. R's better if one person continually codes the same questions," he says, ' that way, the coder applies that same judgment throughout.

When the coders finish their work, data processors key the information into computers.

Analysis: What the Numbers Say

The mountains of numbers and percentages that a study produces may yield only a few nuggets of valuable information. Statistics reveal what's important. "You don't have to be a professional statistician," says Irving Crespi. "But you do need to understand mathematical and statistical theories and be able to apply them."

The extent of analysis depends upon the project. Some clients maintain their own research staffs and rely upon survey companies to collect the data, tabulate them, and present them to the client for analysis. However, says Mark Schulman, "most clients want us to offer our analysis. That's what they're paying us to do."

The senior analyst or project leader prepares the report and presents it to the client. Perhaps hundreds of pages of data may be reduced to a few, which means the analyst must be a good writer. "You have to be able to distill complex findings into a succinct report," says Schulman. "Very often, a $100,000 study will boil down to only several pages," he says.

Occasionally, research will uncover information that does not conform with a client's preconceptions. "There's a tendency for, the lay person to say that the survey must be in error," says Elda Vale. "Usually, that's not the case; but you have to have the data to support your contention."

Other times, says Robert Longman, "we may encounter a client who has particular ideas and wants us to fit our analysis to meet these ideas. We try to convince them that this serves no purpose. It's in everybody's interest to be fair and objective."

Objectivity requires the analyst to recognize "that a research survey provides information on only part of a complex of factors," says Irving Crespi. Some clients may ask for recommendations in addition to analysis, but "this is risky," says Irving Crespi. "There are other elements of a decision that a client must consider that we may not be aware of."

So You Want To Be a Polister

Politicians use surveys to test the electoral waters; businesses use them to assess markets and products. But the principles and methods of polling or survey research have applications in many fields. Lawyers are using them to help develop courtroom strategies; banks and financial companies to devise new services. "Young people can make some real points with prospective employers if they know how to test public opinion," says H.L. Nieburg.

These broadening applications have led to changes in the business of research over the last several years, according to Mark DiCamillo. "Most corporate clients have sizable research staffs that perform many studies. This is where the entry level jobs are. You may be dealing with only one industry, but you learn the basic skills."

Statistical principles underlie all surveys, but an understanding of issues is equally important. "You don't need to be a statistician," says Irving Crespi. "Get a good base in statistics and social psychology in college, and then study what you want."

Many pollsters have studied the social sciences. In crafting questions that seek to discover motivations and opinions you can draw insights from literature, history, and politics, as the backgrounds of many people interviewed for this article demonstrate. Tom W Smith studied history. Harold Nieburg is a political scientist. Elda Vale earned a BA in sociology Harry O'Neill worked as a clinical psychologist before becoming a pollster. Mark DiCamillo was bitten early by the political bug, studied economics, and then went on to eam a Master's degree in Business Administration.

"You must be comfortable working with numbers, but a deeper understanding of the issues is crucial. We need people who can think logically and write clearly," says Leo Bogart, the executive director of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau and author of several books on public opinion research. "I'd look for someone who has the ability to look at the forest rather than the trees, yet still has a knowledge of, and appreciation for, the trees that make up the forest."

Sampling: The views of a few can tell what many think

Did you ever wonder how the results of a poll of 1,500 people can be interpreted as the opinions of the Nation?

That question cuts to the heart of public opinion polling to reveal a central concept-that the opinions of a randomly selected representative sample of a group will closely resemble the views of the group as a whole.

All of us make judgments, to one degree or another, by sampling. Look to the kitchen for a simple analogy You don't need to eat the whole pot to tell that the soup is too saity; a spoonful or two will do. In the laboratory, a sample is all the scientist needs to detennine the contents of a solution.

Sampling public opinion is much more complex than testing a pot of noodle soup. Opinions are as diverse as the people who hold them. But while opinions and preferences are individually held, they are also shared. The pollster seeks to measure these shared opinions. Scientific sampling, based upon statistical and mathematical principles, makes measuring possible.

Imagine a drum filled with 1,000 Ping-Pong balls, 600 white and 400 red. Mix them thoroughly so that each has an equal chance of selection. Pull out a random sample of 10, and you'll find your selection resembles the proportion of white to red balls that the whole drum contains. The more random samples you draw the more clearly that resemblance will be defined. Random selection assures that each ball has an equal chance of being chosen. "Chance decrees that random choices drawn from the drum will tend to adhere to a curve of probability"' writes H.L. Nieburg in Public Opinion: Tracking and Targeting. But, writes Nieburg, "the sample size must be large enough to create confidence that the drawn sample will be representative of the total population."
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Author:White, Martha C.
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1989
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