The basic principles of Panel Recruitment

Article 1

This article is part of our blog series on panel management. In this blog series, we’ll present the work of our panel managers and share their daily challenges and considerations with you. Please have a look here to get an overview over all topics covered by this series.

Let's talk about panel recruitment. Who are these people who join our panel? How do they even get to know our website? These questions are important, as no panel can cover its demand for panellists without running dedicated recruitment campaigns. And even if they could, having an open registration page to generate new members organically would be a unsufficient solution with regards to quality (more about this in a second).

What quality criteria come into play when recruiting new panellists?

  • Fresh source: You’ll try to recruit from a source that no other panel provider is using. Panelists with memberships in other panels are not a problem per sé, but you have to be careful about getting duplicates when blending samples from different providers. In addition, you have more control over the topics and brands, that respondents are exposed to while participating in research, if you are the only one who is surveying them on a regular basis.
  • Random selection: You should randomly select your members from the general population to prevent any bias creeping into your panel. As we have seen in a previous article, representativeness is the most valuable thing a panel can achieve. Fortunately, 50% of our panelists are randomly recruited with our own call centers, so most of our panelists come from a source that no other provider can use - and, what’s even more important, a randomly sampled source.
  • Active recruitment: Finally, you’ll want to recruit actively. That means you don’t want to recruit members without knowing them upfront or even allowing them to join your panel uncontrolledly on an open registration page. Obviously you, as a panel provider, want to be in control over who is allowed to join the panel and who isn’t.

Bringing all these principles together isn’t always possible. First of all, there are inherent contradictions that are hard to puzzle out, e.g. how is it possible to randomly recruit people that fit into required demographics? But then, a much more profane reason is simply the cost associated with getting everything right. What’s the point of having a panel no one can afford to book? The trick is to make the best out of the budget restriction and still strive for the best quality.

Therefore, we’d like to present our approach to panel recruitment in the second part of this article.

  • As mentioned before, we are proud to have a powerful fresh source of panelists in-house. More than half of all our panelists are recruited via random telephone calls, which makes us quite unique in the market. No need to explain that the share of so-called CATI-recruited panellists is higher in those countries, where we run our own call centers. But even in other countries we have partnered with local providers to achieve the best possible quality. Last but not least, also our online recruitment activities aim to find exclusive partnerships with websites, mailing lists and other providers of traffic.
  • As it’s not possible to merely recruit randomly (we’ll discuss the adverse effects of churn on panel composition in one of the next articles), every panel provider has to apply some sort of targeting. But beware of correlation! Let’s say you would partner with a football club to recruit males in a certain age group, you would inevitably boost the amount of sports fans in your panel. You’d just swap a higher representativeness in age with a massive bias in other variables. Therefore, targeted recruitment always requires diversified sources and a meticulous control of all data points in the corresponding profiles.
  • This leads us directly to validating the profiles of new panel members. You want to make sure that they are who they claim they are. This starts with double-opt-in and duplicate checks and includes advanced algorithms and routines of verifying the profile information. In addition, we keep track of the recruitment channel to shut down sources of poor quality and improve our set of recruitment partners.
  • In this regard it’s important to mention that we have no public registration page. First of all it would be more difficult to keep fraudulent users from subscribing to the panel, but it would also introduce a self-selection bias to our community. It’s reasonable to assume that people who have a self-interest in a panel membership are somehow different from the rest and don’t represent the population as a whole.
  • Finally, we are proud of our ISO certificates and setting a best practice example within the research industry.

If you want to learn more about the specific recruitment policy in your country of interest, feel free to get in touch with one of our local project managers. They will be happy to provide you with more information.