There seems to be a rush of surveys and research being done by individuals in our industry (Virtual Assistants) via various forums and groups recently. Perhaps it’s happening in other industries too but because I’m not in them, I don’t see it happening.
Most of the time it appears to be from those who haven’t been in the industry for many years and in their excitement about whatever their project is, they forget to tell those they are asking to participate, what the survey or research is about.
I believe, in fairness to those being asked to give freely of their knowledge and time, that they should be informed what is going to happen to the results of those surveys or research. That information should be provided upfront, when asking others to fill out the survey or respond to questions for research. Those individuals should also ask permission of the list owners before using the list for their own purposes. That way they can have the backing and support of the list in the research or surveys they are doing. Building rapport with list members and getting to know them will invariably help with the results these individuals are seeking, especially if they don’t have any ‘history’ in the industry and/or are relatively unknown.
For example, I have a blog where I’ve had a survey running for the past year. I’ve already done a lot of reading on the subject and now I want to find out about the experiences of others. I clearly explain to those who come across it, that I am researching new material for a book, which will be a sequel to a book I’ve already published. They are given details of the first book so they can check it out if they wish, before participating. The participants have been asked to leave their name and contact details if they’d like to be interviewed for further information with the possibility of being listed in the new book, when it is completed. Many have opted to do just that. The book is about women mentoring women. It has had almost 300 responses so far. I’m not rushing to write the book and it will happen when I’m ready.
It really does concern me, and I know it does other VA leaders that I’ve spoken to, about the number of people sweeping through VA forums currently asking people to fill out this survey or that one, but never disclosing what will happen to the results of that survey or research. Are they writing a book? In which case people might like to be asked if they mind being quoted and they might also like to read the book afterwards. Are they writing a course? In which case the information they’ve freely been given they are now turning into a profitable venture but not with their own knowledge, but the knowledge given to them by others. Not that people would mind if this was disclosed upfront. It gives them a choice as to whether they wish to participate or not. However, people do want to know that before participating.
The results of most surveys and research are usually used for something and let’s face it, that’s how many books and programs are developed these days, by those doing the writing. And many people don’t mind participating. There was once a time when writers used to collect a bundle of books from the library to do their research but these days it seems to be about quizzing others. And I think those others really do deserve to be told upfront what is going to happen to the information they give before they give it. It may well change the way they give the information or how much or how little they give. I know when I’ve been asked to contribute to a book I give the best possible information I can and want to make sure it can’t be misconstrued. That it presents my knowledge in the best possible light.