This is the text as it appeared in Marketing News, June 9, 1997

Note To Clients:
Hands Off Moderator Report

By Thomas L. Greenbaum

Almost every focus group project ends with a report from the moderator, who interprets what happened during the session and how the session related to the goals of the project.

Most organizations consider the report the most important part of the process because it provides relevant conclusions and recommendations. Others consider the report nothing more than a record of the proceedings for future reference.

A key issue is the nature of the report; Should it represent the moderators’ views or the views of the client?

It’s not unusual for a client rep to ask the moderator to change some information in the report because the client didn’t agree with the conclusions or recommendations. In some cases, moderators have been asked to change their findings because they will not be politically correct within the client’s company.

I feel very strongly that the client should not change the moderator’s report in any way, except to correct typos or misstatements of facts. My reasons:

The client contact person and moderator should agree at the start of a project that if there are differences in opinion, they will be handled by a cover note attached to the report. The differences should be brief and identify only those points where the contact person and moderator do not agree on the interpretation of the findings.

This approach will enable moderators to retain their objectivity, integrity, and legal and ethical responsibilities while permitting the client personnel to express their opinions to management and retain them for the record.

Marketing Lesson
  • The moderator report is a key part of focus group research and one of the main reasons that an independent consultant has been hired for the project.
  • Corporations should look carefully at how they use the report and at the restrictions they try to place on the moderator in preparing it.

Thomas L. Greenbaum is president of Groups Plus


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