How to survive a hurricane and still fulfil your quotas
Ci Research senior research executive Lynsey Cargill was recently in New York conducting fieldwork on behalf of one of our clients in the leisure sector. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene also decided to visit that very same weekend…. Having returned safely, albeit a day later, and having already survived Hurricane Isabel in New York in 2003 (oh the luck!), Lynsey shares her tongue in cheek top ten tips for market researchers on surviving hurricanes and generating insight in the process.
1. Fill your sink / bath with water. This handy piece of advice was given to me by my sister on the morning that the eye of the storm was supposed to hit Manhattan. This may have been for drinking water, washing myself or flushing the toilet should the water be shut down, I’m still not sure, but in my panicking state, I did it without question.
2. In case of a power cut, ensure all gadgets, mobile phones, laptops, ipods, kindles etc., are fully charged. Again, a top tip courtesy of my sister (spending too much time watching the news about the Hurricane and adding to my increasing anxiety!). And of course, my fully charged laptop allowed me to get on with some work while I was stuck in the hotel.
3. Use the hurricane as a talking point to break the ice during the fieldwork. Respondents will have a nervous chuckle when you apologise that there’s no option for ‘Hurricane fast approaching’ when asking them which response best describes the weather for the day.
4. Have a backup plan. Luckily, my colleague Gareth was on the same fieldwork trip in Los Angeles. He was able to capture additional respondents for the US market while I sat back and relaxed…. I mean, was stuck in my hotel room due to the dangerous weather outside….
5. Focus on the job in hand and the wider objectives. Don’t let the weather get in the way and “cloud” the insight; To what extent is the major event affecting strike rates, perceptions, motivations, behaviours?
6. Always have a support team on hand. From experience, it’s great to have team mates back in the office dealing with my phone calls (sometimes tearful and panic-stricken) about a hurricane approaching… “what am I going to do, I can’t get the fieldwork done, I’m on my own, I’m going to be stranded for days, I want to come home” etc. Thanks.
7. Always plan / consider the time difference. Colleagues and family members do not appreciate phone calls in the middle of the night, even if you are sure that your building has just shuddered in the wind, or that your lights flickered on and off.
8. Think when planning accommodation. Ensure your hotel is in easy walking distance of the where the research is happening. This makes it far easier to run back to the hotel in the torrential winds and rain. Transport may be shut down, as it did in New York (for the first time EVER). Being so near to our clients premises allowed me to get a few more interviews on the last day of my trip, once the wind and rain had begun to ease.
9. Listen to your mother (or other providers of sage advice). On hearing about the earlier earthquake, my mum rang me at the airport asking if I was still going to New York. “Of course”, I said, eager to get there and do a good job. “What about the hurricane that’s on the way” she asked, to which I replied, “Don’t be silly, New York doesn’t get hurricanes…”
10. Talk to your client and manage expectations. Be nimble, and consider alternative flexible solutions to add extra value if your fieldwork has been compromised. Explore options for top-ups through online panels, social media monitoring, telephone research, etc.
In summary, I guess no-one could have foreseen the disruption a bit of weather could have on one of the biggest and most resilient cities in the world. As a well travelled Scot, however, I can verify that it was ‘fairly blowy out’ – and this experience just goes to show that international research is not always as glamorous as it’s cracked it up to be.
Feel free to share your stories on conducting research in ‘challenging conditions’.
+44 (0)1625 628039