Research Knowledge

Debating fresh vs re-contacted participants in concept development research

Posted on Thursday 6 May 2021

A recent discussion on the egroup looked at the pros and cons of recontacting participants vs recruiting new people for online research.

The scenario was interviewing teenagers about a new proposition. Some had already taken part in friendship pairs on Zoom -and had proven quite difficult to ‘warm up’ – but the sample needed to be diverse and include those from more and less privileged backgrounds.

We have summarised the advice given by the egroup below…

  • There is a slight risk element at play here.  The risk is whether replacing the participants will mean you just have the same problem with different participants, or will working with the young people longer term result in better rapport.  I think you need to think about this as a ‘journey’.  Really help the young people get familiar with the brand, the topic and really reiterate how valuable their input is.  Try and do some little tasks and WhatsApp or Snapchat chats with them and photo tasks, etc.  Can you put in a quick call to ask them how they felt, and what would make it better for them?  I think addressing what might making them hold back and not engaging is the most important thing here. Key advantage of recruiting new people will be having participants who see the brand ‘fresh’, and haven’t been on the journey.  Sometimes that is important to the project
  • In terms of pluses and minuses of using recontacted participants, pluses are usually around engagement  / involvement, whereas minuses are around participants starting to identify too much with the brand / activity being researched and reacting like a member of the marketing team, rather than a real person – cf Stockholm syndrome. They also can’t erase things they were shown before, so their level of awareness  / sensitivity is heightened. To counteract this, re-use is usually limited and fresh participants are also used
  • Recontacting works well with respondents who take some time to warm up, as they now know what to expect and won’t be as nervous therefore you’d hope more forthcoming. I also think that in development work like this it is nice for the respondents to feel like they’re on the journey with you and they are generally more enthusiastic and willing participants because of this.  I guess I’d probably be looking to exclude (or limit) any who rejected the idea at an earlier stage as they are less likely to be interested and / or have much constructive to say.  Having said that if you think things have changed to reflect any negative earlier comments the maybe you would want to include them.. sorry that’s probably not that helpful!
  • Be aware of any consent/ GDPR issues when re-contacting respondents – they need to have been warned about, and agreed to, this possibility prior to the initial friendship pairs
  • Warming people up is clearly crucial in this case
    • If time allows, introduce a pre-task
    • At the beginning of the session ask participants to ‘bring an item’ and talk about it – a good ice breaker
  • Find a way to introduce yourself and share a bit of yourself with the participants beforehand so they are at ease with you. I did a blog with Irish teenagers, a long while ago, for a week and then we flew to Ireland and met them for mini workshops. They were all inviting me out to clubs and bars and to play playstation with them by the end of it and they were so open in the sessions
  • Get a great recruiter for the under represented cohorts. I’ve spoken to lots of people from less privileged backgrounds – white, British Asian, British African etc and have come across great respondents. (Riaz (on ICG) is good for finding excellent participants from diverse backgrounds)
  • The diversity issue – You have to include everyone and not just focus on the those who are more articulate. Maybe it’s worth trying to think of some ways to make the sessions easier to participate in along the lines of what you mention below (eg put some answers in the chat box, get them to do some pre task stuff)? You could even ask them what they liked / disliked about the previous sessions and try and incorporate some of that in the next round?

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