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Why Public Relations Are Not Marketing

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 07/12/2017

What the PR person does

The public relations activity is made up of the work performed by the PR person/ team in order to:

  • get documented regarding facts and check the source of information by means of one’s own research work;

  • research and segment the audiences, profoundly knowing their way of thinking, speaking, expressing themselves;

  • prepare the communication agenda considering the following: the message that is intended to be sent, the available channels, the environment, the resource funds required for performing the communication and the most efficient impact which can be generated by enforcing the agenda on the image capital of the organization/client;

  • plan the means, ideas and content to be sent to the target-audiences, and achieve a support-platform meant to sustain the set agenda;

  • adapt using the means and content of the environment, so that the ideas communicating the identity of the organization would remain stable in the long run;

  • monitor the impact that the performed actions have on the target-audience in the long run;

  • carefully analyze the steps taken by the competition, by tracking and comparatively reviewing their external public relations speech as compared to their own impact further to the public relations communication;

  • develop actions which would continue/capitalize further to the already obtained results;

  • prevent the crisis situations or promptly respond as soon as they occur, and prepare plans for the situations initially believed to be unpredictable, based on the principle “hope for the best, plan for the worst”, etc.

The speeches characteristic to the public relations structure are considering the following categories of target-audience: internal audience of the organization (employees, volunteers, collaborators), management and external audiences (clients, providers, NGOs, local authorities, opinion leaders, etc.). The public relations speech must be shaped, first of all, according to the interests of the organization, and second of all, according to each public that it addresses to, after being segmented according to the criteria required in order to make the speech relevant. The speech of the PR representative implies influencing, subtle persuasion, inspiration, putting ideas where nobody would have thought that they could occur, with the purpose of being assimilated without noticing the “packaging”.


The credibility of the sent message, between reply and feedback

The public relations person has a certain type of speech regarding the managerial activity component, influencing the leader to make the best decisions for the organization by means of the advice that he gives. The same PR specialist has another type of speech towards the internal audience, regarding the quality management. For instance, with Raiffeisen Bank in Romania, the construction of the quality management speech was based, in 2007, on a research of the joint values of the members in Romania, from all values, which was run through the filter of the managerial decisions in order to promote those values which are in agreement with the organizational policy, of those which were most frequently to be found with the employees.

Structuring the speech in terms of the importance for each audience, the public relations person comes, by means of the messages he sends, to play an influence and inspiration role in the public relations structure of the organization. There are certain aspects which are at stake in the speech delivered to the management, knowing that these will “weigh more”, and others when the speech is addressed to another audience. At the same time, the internal communication must be congruous with the external communication, because, as Philip Kotler stated in Marketing Management, there is also that interactive marketing, the one between the company’s employees and the potential clients – in other words, what it is found out about the company from those working within it, a feedback to the employer branding.

Kotler’s Triangle

Graphics by Irina Chiriță, 2017

For instance, by means of branding as an organizational identity attribute, a company wants to communicate the “openness” value. At the same time, the chief financial officer is a fiend who has to receive all the expense accounts to be signed, which are exceeding 10 $. Of course, it will be a challenge to send a certain piece of information via the official channel when something completely different comes out of the “back door”. The reply to be received by the company’s potential clients, who come in direct contact with its representatives, will be standard. However, the feedback will be a different one. The feedback is an implicit, indirect, spontaneous, unconscious and difficult to control reply, which seems obvious nonverbally and paraverbally and can emphasize or disproportion the reply, which is direct, conscious and previously thought about.

Let us think of an example. The reply that I, as a client of X bank, receive to the questions I ask at the counter is satisfactory from the viewpoint of the requested information. However, the feedback I receive non-verbally is one of dispatch, coming from a frustrated young lady who has reached her limit at the end of the day, confronted with who knows how many cases which have put her last ounces of patience to the test, and which she has decided to put up with for the salary she cashes.

The public relations policy at this level concerns the management of the reply delivered to the client, but the importance of feedback is often no longer taken into account. As a counterexample, in the USA, one of the most highly appreciated banks by the clients beats the drum about offering the highest interest rates and the most disadvantageous financial conditions, but the clients continue to resort to it because they are always welcomed by constantly sincere and happy bank clerks.


What marketing does differently

Planning the marketing activity refers to markets (not audiences), and it is oriented towards satisfying a certain sales target on a certain market. The marketing activity is an economic activity placing the product at the disposal of the markets at a price/cost ratio as advantageous as possible for the trader.

The public relations speech is addressed to the audiences, which can especially interfere with the markets: several audiences can be found in the same market or several markets in the same audience. For instance, BookFest and BookLand are addressed to different markets, but to the same public: the one interested in training, development, improvement. Thus, in these markets, the following markets are intertwined: specialty books market, fiction market, electronic books market, audiobook market. All the consumers of these markets can be found within the audiences interested in what reading means. The fact that the offer comes from specialized providers is a component which must be taken into account by the PR specialist in segmenting the audiences, and constructing the message so that the event brand identity would be communicated to all the niches as clearly as possible. The brand is addressed both to the audience, and the niches, as it is a blend of marketing and public relations (although it tends towards marketing more, because it can be measured quite precisely, unlike the public relations which in general have results difficult to quantify).

The two activities are interdependent, but marketing focusses on tasks, activities, tangible things, and it is closer to sales in a mathematical spirit, while PR focusses on people, relations, intangible things, and it is closer to HR, in a human spirit. The public relations communication finds its place in the marketing mix by means of the contribution it brings by customizing the relation between product/service and its buyer.

Thank you!

Happy branding!

Ştefan Alexandrescu

Communication strategy and human resources consultant

Translation of the article ”De ce relaţiile publice nu sunt marketing originally published in Romanian by Ștefan Alexandrescu at the 24th of November 2012 on Discerne. Translated by Cristiana Boicu, 2017. Initially written in April 2008. Updated by Ștefan Alexandrescu Romanian in November 2014 and in English at 25.10.2017. Romanian text copyright (C) Ștefan Alexandrescu, 2008. Photo copyright (C) Irina Chiriță. English translation copyright (C) Cristiana Boicu. 


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What is Schema Dynamics Programming

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 06/07/2017


The terminology

“Schema” comes from schema therapy and refers to the maladaptive schemas taxonomy developed by Jeffrey Young, Ph.D. and his collaborators since the ’80s. It is the problem-oriented component of the field, using psychometric questionnaires developed and tested by scientists to evaluate which are the schemas and modes which pathologically influence the emotions, the thoughts, the behavior and the language of the people. Schemas are triggered by traumas, most likely from childhood and, through complications, when activated, may generate discomfort, stress, challenge, failure and ultimately, psychiatric illness.

Dynamics” comes from “Spiral Dynamics”, a field founded in the ’70s by Clare Graves, Ph.D., and it refers to the multiple values levels layered in the personality, which may be changing in time. It is the results-driven component of the field, using advanced psychometric testing developed by professional researchers in order to discover which type of potential and perspective is enabled in order to support the transformational development of the individuals and societies.

Programming” comes from “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (NLP), the field developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, Ph.D. starting in the ’70s, centered on using complex practical processes in order to provide with models of excellence. Although sometimes presented as a pseudoscience, some fields of NLP, such as metaprograms and values have been psychometrically tested as scientifically valid models of correctly structuring the language, behavior and personality.

ST (schema therapy) and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) have both common roots in Gestalt therapy.

In some NLP Master Practitioner training, the Spiral Dynamics model is studied.



What are the characteristics of Schema Dynamics Programming? How is SDP different from:

  • Psychotherapy?

  • NLP (neuro-linguistic programming)?

  • Spiral Dynamics?

  • ST (schema therapy)?

  • Coaching?

SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) provides the client with a flexible set of processes for personal transformation. This enables the functions of both psychotherapy and coaching: it works both for the traumas in the past and the goals in the future.

SDP provides a directed structure. The schema dynamic programmer knows how to recognize and measure the results of the changes when dealing with personal issues, professional goals, past, present and future. The structure is directed in the sense that the schema dynamic programmer uses both descriptive complex maps and tools to knows where the client is, knows where (s)he wants to go and, after considering the available options (tools, processes, techniques), chooses one or several procedures to follow and monitor.

To merely give an example, as a difference to coaching, the schema dynamic programmer may offer his/her opinion, contradict the client and give advice if necessary. The schema dynamic programmer is focused on practical exercises and homework which require a solid amount of effort (emotional, and even physical and logistic) from the client. This work is both oriented to the past and the future and it does not accept the personality of the client as a given, but as a starting point in the work done, which is a mere effect of life experiences and environment and may be subject to change.

Using this strategic approach, with the appropriate approach, issues such as introversion, panic attacks, PTSD, psychosomatization, phobias, alixitimy, allergies, emotional stress response, abandonment, mistrust, emotional deprivation, entitlement, abandonment and others (to name just a few) can be completely and ultimately removed and replaced with functional systems within the subconscious and the conscious.

As a set of tools oriented towards professional growth, SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) can provide clients with life-changing experiences which enable them to advance in the Spiral Dynamics model within months (in stead of years) and achieve professional and personal benefits such as:

  • job and career change and performance;

  • happy marriages;

  • increased revenues;

  • status change.

SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) focuses, as ST (schema therapy) does as well, on both emotional and cognitive-rational aspects of the change, but where ST (schema therapy) insists on working with modes (especially considering the psychiatric interventions), SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) insists on working with metaprograms. Where ST (schema therapy) insists on working with imagery, SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) has its own, much more effective and advanced process, designed by its founder. Such processes are similar to several NLP techniques but different from all of them, and it does not necessarily involve trance/hypnosis. NLP is also more focused on fast solving of the surface issues, which may work in alleviating effects but not always causes. For example, a metaprogram change can be successful for a healthy adult, but may be undone if at the root of the metaprogram change there is a maladaptive schema caused by an abusive trauma from the past.

Where ST (schema therapy) insists on analysis, SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) insists on homework and delegating as much of the change work to the client, once (s)he earns the skills and learns the processes a model for personal change. While psychotherapy generally insists on the necessity of the process being administered by a state-approved specialist, the SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) processes can be easy, independently learned and applied by each client, provided (s)he has the appropriate personality and skills inclinations. In this sense, SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) is nearer to coaching. While the client is encouraged to use for the self some of the processes, (s)he is not encouraged to become a schema dynamic programmer with other people without proper supervision.

Spiral Dynamics offers a deep conceptual framework which many of the psychologists and psychiatrists are not aware of and not even most of the coaches. On this foundation, an important SDP premise is that almost any NLP-type process can be run, focusing on developing skills and attitudes, once the maladaptive schemas have started to change in intensity. Thus, Spiral Dynamics offers not only a strategic measuring tool, but also a chart, a map of transformations, a clear direction of development once the client is freed from many of the startling issues and also some tools, for most advanced knowledge.


A unified theory of personality psychology

For several decades, clinical psychology and organizational or positive psychology have insisted on different aspects of the human psyche:

  • interpreting the past (retrospection) vs predicting the future (prospection);

  • problems vs. goals;

  • why vs. how;

  • reflective analysis vs. active experience (exercise);

  • addictions vs virtues;

  • learning vs. growing;

  • abstract vs. concrete;

  • personal vs. professional;

  • body vs. mind;

  • solving vs. developing;

  • issues vs. potential;

  • negative vs. positive;

  • mistakes vs. performance;

  • comprehension vs. action;

  • reparation vs. fine-tuning performance;

  • emotions vs. reason;

  • awareness for insight vs. awareness for decision/action;

  • static vs. dynamic; 

  • treating vs training;

  • obstacles vs resources’

  • linear thinking (Aristotelian) vs. systemic thinking (non-Aristotelian);

  • diffusiveness vs. focus;

  • deliberate slowness vs. witty quickness;

  • cautious desurgency vs. exuberant surgency;

  • relationship vs. task;

  • pain vs. excitement;

  • long term vs. medium/short term;

  • acceptance vs. change;

  • diagnosis vs. enhancement;

  • tense strictness vs. moderate willingness;

  • guiding vs. directing;

  • assessment vs. evaluation;

  • teaching vs. knowing;

  • floating vs. flying

and so on.


Differentiating for the future

SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) is not the only mixed approach available. It may even not be the best. But it works, and it will be tested of how well it works in comparison to any of the separate components to which it is compared.

SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) is being developed by Ștefan Alexandrescu as a groundbreaking new field with its own applications and is NOT in direct competition with ST (schema therapy), Spiral Dynamics and NLP. It is important that this field would support the development and most especially, the research of these 3 original fields, on which it is grounded. It is not intended as a substitute, but as an alternative, as an enhancer, as a continuation, as it is different from all of the above mentioned.

However, SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) does clearly enter in competition with:

  • regular psychotherapy

  • coaching

Regular psychotherapists and coaches which lack skills and knowledge in all of these three fields are not accredited, nor advised, nor recommended to clients. As SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) is a practical field, the researchers are challenged to devise experimental tests and projects to compare the effectiveness of SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) with either regular psychotherapy and coaching. SDP (Schema Dynamics Programming) is simply different and superior, through techniques, skills and results to regular psychotherapy and coaching. This is not a marketing statement, it is simply a reflection of the reality, based on the obtained. And it’s getting better and better, steady and slowly.

People who are interested in learning these skills are advised to contact Ștefan Alexandrescu directly.

The theoretical component of Schema Dynamics Programming also integrates models from transactional analysis, positive psychology, multiple intelligences, motivational psychology and from landmark specialists such as Jeffrey Young, Clare Graves, Abraham Maslow, Robert Dilts, Anthony Robbins, David McClelland, W. Gerrod Parrot, Robert Plutchick, Brian Tracy (correlating research to be determined) and could be correlated in the future with several other theories. You may download here a synthesis pdf.

Copyright © Ștefan Alexandrescu, 2017. None of the contents of this page can be reproduced without the written express consent of Ștefan Alexandrescu. No exceptions allowed.

If you liked this article, please also read this:

Schema Dynamics Programming with Stefan Alexandrescu (25.12.2016)

How to Live a Perfect Life. Part I. (31.10.2017)

How to Live a Perfect Life, part II. The First 4 Out of 12 Steps, In the Right Order (13.11.2016)

How to Live a Perfect Life, part III. Steps 5-8 Out of 12, In the Right Order (17.11.2016)

How to Live a Perfect Life, Last Part. Steps 9-12 Out of 12, In the Right Order (21.11.2016)

PS: Thanks to Diana Andreea Bădrăgan.

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The Same Kind of Different As Me

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 30/04/2017

Working as a marketer for freelancers and entrepreneurs can sometimes be very interesting because you have different  opportunities. Such an opportunity is to find out that many of those who are offering services, especially personal services, are looking for clients who are just like them. That means that, for example, that the coach might be interested in having the kind of customers who are interested in personal development and aiming goals, the same as him. The coach’s clients would be very similar to the coach and less preoccupied with solving problems, traumas and other kind of issues. That is, not the kind who are going to a  therapist for solving problems, as coaching is in the goal business.

So, for example, what if a marketer has a preference for a kind of public or kind of audience that has some kind of value for the resemblance it falls to him or to her. What does that mean? It means that the marketer might hold or see a value, an interest, in marketing to the same kind of different as themselves. That implies that not only do these people might think or choose in the same ways, but they might hang around in the same kind of networks, in the same kind of contexts, social systems and they will be much more easily found there.

One of the problems that such entrepreneurs and freelancers have is the fact that they do not consider themselves as ready or as prepared to deal with that audience. Why? Because maybe they think “Oh, I do not have enough time to spend at the kind of networking events that the people like me would go to”. So, there is a tendency for some freelancers to have this kind of idea, this kind of optimal idea about how or where or when it would be appropriate to find the right clients. But the truth is that (1) usually people are looking for solutions for their necessities and (2) these necessities are not always the same as everybody else’s (they might be so personal that only a limited number of people would have the same interest in the same moment). So it is often difficult finding an audience because you have to find a niche: that niche presents the  challenge of personalizing, of customizing a certain lifestyle.

So, for example, if you would be a dentist searching only to find the kind of customers who are interested in replacing their old works with quality, with top quality material, what should you do? You would have to find those clients in the right place, at the right time, and having the availability of joining such a promotion. Why? Because, for one thing, the longer people live, the longer they have all kinds of interventions, such as correcting decaying teeth. But in order to find the person who decides “yes, I would like to replace all the works from the course of my life with top quality material, very healthy and very resistant”, that means that you will have to have the kind of advertising, that directs those people to you as a supplier, within that window of opportunity. Where do you find them? How do you find them?

Of course, one of the top results, any supplier’s answer is: “Well, you find them advertising on the internet”. Yes, that’s something we can all agree upon, but beyond that, where do you go to find these customers? How do you approach them in a way that is consistent with your values and their values? Moreover, how do you overcome the resistance, the barriers of some people who might need, want or might even be likely to use your service? In order to buy that service from you, and not from your competitor, what should you do?

No matter how fine, how great, how wonderful you think what you’re offering is, if there is a request that means that there are suppliers, that means that you are in competition. No matter how special you think you are by offering a certain service or a product, you are actually in a big, big competition, because you are not only in competition with the potential suppliers who are offering for the right kind of product or service that you are also offering.

There are also the consumers who might accept something lower in price/quality, something different. There might be some potential customers who do not know that you or your services exist, who might not know that you have something of value to offer, so those people will buy different things. Maybe by the time you come along and treat them right it will be too late, or they will be broke, or they will not have that necessity any more. So, it’s not only a question of finding the right people, it’s also a question of being aware that you are in competition with many other suppliers who you might  not know of, and you might never know of, but who will take some of the clients’ money instead of you as a supplier.

Therefore, in this search for “the same kind of different as me”, when you are looking for the kind of audience that is similar to you, you also have to take in consideration that you are not the only one. Most likely, there are many other people just like you, entering the competition for the attention and for the availability of the same audience that you are hunting for. Therefore, in order to have and apply this kind of promotional strategy, this kind of marketing strategy, you need to first have a functional system of identifying the right people at the right time, and it might seem that this is the marketer’s job.

For instance, once you have a marketing manager / consultant, then it is his or her job to do just that. They should think about how that ideal customer thinks. It’s very easy to think “whoa, that kind of person just thinks like me, too”. Well, that kind of person that just thinks like you is not your client, that person is your competition and that person is looking for clients as well.

In such a market, you need the kind of potential customers who would be interested in giving you a chance to support them and help them with whatever they want or need, correct? So, in your search for the ideal audience that you are constantly looking to connect with, keep in mind an important aspect. You have to convince the potential consumers that they might need to be a little bit more aspiring to be like you. Some consumers who are buying services or products directly from other people are doing this because they are interested in having something better than they can create for themselves, so they would have a model that they would stand up to, that is an inspiration to them. In consequence, it doesn’t matter how much you think that it’s worth what you are offering. It matters what does the real person who is paying you can be satisfied with. Can (s)he have your products or services and be happy with what you are offering, when you are providing that service?

Of course, some people might say “where there’s a will, there’s a way” but you also have to have some kind of motivation or strategy and not just a vision. This kind of vision that I’ve been writing about needs to be real and provide results. You may also take into consideration the impact of motivation. For example, how does motivation relate to fulfilling those needs or desires, how much motivation do you need your consumer to have in order to push that button, to place that order, to have those results that you want them to have? How much motivation do you need in order to connect to those people?

If you think that the kind of people that you are looking for to buy your services or products might be very motivated, you must also think of the fact that it is very likely they will find very fast a supplier who would provide their services for them, or they would even solve their own problems on their own. Such determined customers might thank you for going to them, so, for example, you should think that you are the kind of person who would more likely offer something. Therefore, you are mostly a seller and not a buyer, this is a kind of vision that influences your motivation into finding the right customers to buy from you.

But if the customer has the vision that “whoa, I am first someone who wants their needs to be satisfied“ that means that person is a consumer in the first place, and not a seller, right? So, that person would be interested in having some offer that would connect to your vision + motivation and when that happens, you become aware of what customizing lifestyle means. Why? Because in each person’s vision, there is a certain lifestyle that someone can have or dismiss, and when you choose to include something in your lifestyle as a buyer or as consumer it means you already have a certain degree of motivation. It means you already chose a path and if you are not on that path, right then, that means you as a consumer have already gone beyond that. So what do these people who you were so keen on serving do? They move on, they evolve, they develop, they change their needs, once a person has their needs fulfilled or definitely lost the chance to have them fulfilled, they will move on, OK?

In conclusion, you either decide to fulfill a buyer’s need in a way that a customer will come to you, supplier, and say “whoa, that is great, that deeply and completely fulfilled my need” or you become the kind of supplier who supplies for one need, for one moment, for a few moments and then is gone. The world is full of this kind of suppliers that don’t need too much differentiation from one to the other.

One of the most difficult things to accept is the fact that once a need has been  deeply fulfilled, somebody may not need it anymore, OK? So, for example, if we are to consider that dentist I was giving as an example, once a patient had all the dentistry works replaced, that person does not need that anymore, it is a once in a lifetime offer to do that service for someone. Of course, we are not referring to the services for the products that keep on fulfilling the same and the same and the same need that gets refilled. Of course, people will always need something to eat or to drink. So, if you are not in that kind of situation where you fulfill a need which is renewable, you might find yourself in a very special niche, in a very challenging niche, in the niche of making the difference in someone’s life. But, I think this is the most special, and most rewarding kind of niche that you can be into. At the same time, it’s one of the most challenging, because as I was mentioning, you can never be sure that you find, at the right moment, the same kind of different as you. So, you have to be prepared to serve whoever is the potential client who might need your services, to actually need them, OK? Keep this in mind while you hunt for the perfect customer or for the perfect strategy in your marketing.

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NLP Modal Operators From A Marketing Perspective.

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 31/03/2017


There are three big categories of modal operators:

  • possibility

  • necessity

  • desire

The pattern of potential customers taking decisions is dependent on the sequence in which they use these modal operators. Depending on the level of familiarity and trust they have with a certain product or service, they might be more or less interested to invest interest in it.

The first thing that some clienst must think in order to consider a product/service is whether if there is a desire for it or if it is possible. Some people first decide they want something and then they look for how to get that done. But this is a small amount of population. They are usually people who want to get things done and they have the means and determination to make it happen. They think somewhere in the world there must be someone who thought of their desire and all they have to do is to find it. These are the people who know what they want. Their sequence of acquisition is:

  1. Do I want it?” If no, then they don’t care if it exists or not. If yes, then there must be someone offering it. They want it, therefore they will get it or make it happen.

  2. Is it possible to find it?” If not, then they might have the idea for a business if there are more people who have this wish. If they want it, it is possible and they find that possibility, then…

  3. Does it serve my needs?” If no, then they keep on searching. If yes, then they buy it. They don’t waste too much time on comparison. They want it, they search for it, they buy it, they own it and that’s the end of the story.


Most people must first be aware that something is possible. For example, if you try to sale vision training to a person that wore glasses for 20 years, it might be impossible if you find that person doesn’t believe the services really offer what they claim. For these people, they must first become aware that something is possible and understand how that helps them. The sequence of acquisition is:

  1. Is it possible?” If it is, then wow, what does that mean? It means that I have to readjust my sense of reality. Some people are not able to do that. They don’t understand how some new technologies work and they don’t care to know because it might make their beliefs and life experiences look silly. If they decide it is not possible, then they deserve to be left alone in their own ignorance. But, if you prove to someone that your product/service can really do what it does, that does not automatically imply they will want to buy it.

  2. Do I want it?”. Does the potential customer consider any value in what’s offered? If not, then it doesn’t matter that it’s possible. For them, it isn’t, because they don’t want it. So the mere demonstration of possibility does not impact the life of the potential client, unless…

  3. Why do I need this?”. What need(s) does this product or service satisfy? When presenting something proactive to a client that needs to be convinced upon the value and the utility, one must consider the suffering that will happen unless the client decides to act on that possibility.


The traditional buyer does not buy something unless there is a need. This client must be in pain in order to decide to need something so much in order to buy it. Each marketer must understand that if a consumer really needs something, it doesn’t matter there isn’t enough money for it. They get it. The borrow. The work like crazy. They need it. For them, the sequence of thinking is:

  1. Do I need it?”. If not, then they don’t buy it, because they can’t afford it. If yes, then they wonder:

  2. Is it possible?”. They start searching for mechanisms that would enable them to fulfill their needs. If they don’t find it, they stop searching and get frustrated. Subconsciously, they try to fulfill that need in other ways, compensating or patching. If it is possible, they they ask the question:

  3. Do I want it?”. In this step, the potential consumer that knows their need can be fulfilled, evaluates if there are enough resources and it is worth, in the present, to acquire the solution to this. If they want it, then they might do a study in the market and take into consideration what suits their desires best. The nightmare of a salesman is a potential client that thinks it is possible for his needs to be fulfilled, but doesn’t know what he wants. This is where clients’ education from the marketers steps into place.


A particular confusing thinking sequence for both potential customers and suppliers is the person who uses this sequence:

  1. Do I want it?”. Well, actually, the client might want it, but what that is, is so unclear that they might expect the supplier to untangle all of their thoughts and offer them exactly what they want, without even answering some questions. These people might have problems with reality, especially if the next question they ask is:

  2. Do I need it?”. Here comes the inner conflict: if they want it and don’t think they need it, they will suppress that wish until it will unexpectedly burst, becoming an impulse acquisition or a frustration. When and if the client eventually decides it is both desirable and necessary, they ask the question that verifies the reality in the end:

  3. Is it possible?”. If it isn’t, then all the thinking, and wanting, and the needing and all the inner conflicts about it have been in vane. Some people decide very early in their life to self-sabotage their buying strategies with this sequence, especially if their definition of “possible” is downgraded to money and common experience.


Another conditioning perspective is the one that starts with recognizing a need and deciding to allocate certain resources for that. This goes like this:

  1. What do I need?”. This can start with an honest investigation of one’s psychological and physiological needs. Do you know how much of the population actually knows what their needs are? Very, very little. So, more likely, these needs will be expressed or confounded with…

  2. What do I want?”. Once this determined to a certain extent, comes the question:

  3. Where can I get it?”. Now you see that his is a step which actually indirectly checks the reality, that is, the actual possibility. The more unclear are the first two formulated, the most likely it is for the consumer to actually buy something they don’t need an/or want. The cycle gets repeated, until either the client comes to the conclusion what he wants/needs isn’t possible or that he doesn’t want it/need it. Time goes by, frustration accumulates, until they start to wonder how it is possible for other people to get the correspondence between want and need. I consider these buyer deserve to be either educated, or left alone, but they require a lot of resources from the salesmen and they themselves don’t have a lot of resources.


The marketer, businessman or salesman perspective can be represented by the following sequence, which can be kind of challenging, but very rewarding for the supplier.

  1. Is it possible?”. Really? The didn’t know that! How cool can that be!

  2. Why would somebody need that?”. If the decision makes sense, then it means others see value in it, therefore it’s a good product. If the decision doesn’t seem to make sense, the concur it’s just some fluff some eccentric people might get fooled into buying, but not them.

  3. Why would I want this?”. Once a need established, then it means the client can compare all the options of fulfilling the established needs and, if the presented product is what satisfies their criteria, then they buy tons of it and they can recommend you to others, too. But, in order to do that, you must be a good salesman. If they find out something is possible that satisfies certain needs, they will choose what they want according to their criteria and they will eat salesmen on breakfast until they find exactly what they want. And if they don’t find it, they might be able to create it.


Ștefan Alexandrescu

marketer, NLP practitioner

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The Testimonial, Set in Stone as the Referent Gave It?

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 12/12/2012

You have found out what a testimonial is and what benefits it brings to the personal brand. After that, we have discovered together from whom to request it and how. But, just as you should not count your chickens before they are hatched, you do not always get what you wish the way you requested it! What do you do then?

When to modify a testimonial

The moment a referent offers a testimonial, the ideas and words used belong to him/her. The marketer has the obligation to assume these just as they are offered by the referent, but in certain situations, can change:

  • orthographic, writing or punctuation mistakes

  • words that are repeated can be substituted

  • phrases that are too long can be divided into sentences

  • 2-3 words that could be replaced with better synonyms can be replaced

  • if it is needed, he/she can delete certain portions/ideas, if they do not affect the contextual meaning

Look below for an example of a modified testimonial. This testimonial, was originally received in the Romanian language (here translated to English) after that it was translated so that it would be usable at an international level. As you will observe, some meanings were lost in the translation and some corrections were needed. The first is the original. The second is the modifyed one.

Informaţiile obţinute prin aplicarea chestionarului Identity Compass® sunt deosebit de relevante şi pot fi folosite atât la nivel personal, cât şi în organizaţie la partea de evaluare la angajare/promovare şi la stabilirea unui plan pentru dezvoltarea individuală. Poate furniza managerilor date despre profilul motivaţional al subordonaţilor şi poate ajuta în contruirea echipelor performante.

Este un instrument uşor de folosit şi sunt convinsă că va avea o mare dezvoltare în domeniul organizaţional.

Mara Manea,

Training Specialist

Coca-Cola HBC Romania


« The information obtained by the Identity Compass®  questionnaire application are especially relevant and can be used at the personal level but in the organization, too (at the evaluation part of employment/promotion and for establishing an individual development plan). It can provide to managers data about the motivational profile of subordonates and can help to build performant teams.

It is an instrument easy to use and I am sure that it will have a great development in the organizational field. »

Mara Manea
Training specialist
Coca-Cola HBC Romania

 The information obtained by the Identity Compass®  IS especially relevant and can be used at the personal level AND in the organization too (TO EVALUATE FOR employment/promotion and for establishing an individual development plan). It can provide to managers data about the motivational profile of EMPLOYEES and can help to build HIGH PERFORMANCE teams. It is an instrument THAT IS easy to use and I am sure that it will have a great IMPACT in the FIELD OF ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT. »

Mara Manea
Training specialist
Coca-Cola HBC Romania

This testimonial, after it was received, was contained just as it was offered, in a list with other, similar references and the referent received access to the document, having the right to oppose if it did not agree with the context it appeared. The testimonial refers to the product of a company which activates in over 40 countries and was translated, so that it would be able to be used for promotion at an international level. 2 persons with ability of decision in the respective company requested the modifications pinpointed above and it was needed to inquire the referent’s permission in order for the testimonial to be able to be published in its new form, even though you can observe it is not a big difference.

I have used this example, because in this case, the referent, inasmuch as the one who operated the testimonial are top experts in the domain they are active and have experience regarding the promotion of services. As a proof, you have observed how, sensitive to the loss of some meanings by translation, the recommended company’s representative insisted to adjust the testimonial, and did so with respect for each word the person had written. I know an example of one person that was to be sued because it sent, neglectfully, to some people, a version of a promotional document in which there was a version with 1-2 words that had not been modified in time at the referent’s request. Testimonials represent a thin line and matter for litigation. Example given, this article contains certain…examples. But these examples are used from testimonials for which the referents have given their acceptance for being used in public and the copyright law stipulates that any examples may be used for educational/demonstration purposes as is the case with this article, without requesting the referent’s permission deliberately, however these situations are pretty restricted. My recommendation is you request permission for everything and always to offer transparency to your referents.

<<Never mind, write there whatever you want and I will sign!>>

This is one of the phrases which many potential referents will tackle you with, alleging lack of time, inability, etc…

First, it is a deontological criteria, that obligates every initiator to use only real references, leading all the way to publishing the referent’s contact information even in the promotional material, in order to be able to verify (most frequently, in the online surroundings, link on the name to the e-mail address is practiced).

Second, another criteria exists, even more practical: if you write about what you would like others to read and you do it in a constant manner (in case you falsify the testimonials), you will notice at one moment that all the testimonies that you have signed by referents have almost the same style. I will give you an example about how much different the attitude, personality and style can be reflected of three persons who offer testimonials for the same service, of graphological analysis.

My personality was “read”, pretty much, by means of the graphological analysis and a part of the aspects found clarified some doubts regarding the choice of my future profession. In other words, the made description confirmed what I knew about be, on one hand, and on the other hand, made me discover other aspects which I did not know about and that are useful for creating a solid road.

In order to realize the best choices in life, first you must know yourself very well. I think the graphological analysis is a useful method regarding this and you do not have anything to lose by trying out this option. You might be surprised in a pleasant sense, just as I was, rediscovering myself in a large part of this graphological analysis and not only that, but even discovering things that I did not know about my personality”.

Madalena Tenchiu

Copy editor, Iasi

There are pseudo-psychological tests online. Anyone can take them and think they are correct. The truth is that nothing compares with the prepared individual who explains face-to-face how the things are. I liked the analysis. Besides the fact it was amusing, it was also useful for me. Useful and pleasant, the most beautiful of all combinations”.

Ioana Stefania Ciureanu,

Graduated Medicine and Pharmacy, Iasi

Even though I tried to dissimulate certain things on my page, Ştefan Alexandrescu, in the position of graphological analyst, made an exact analysis of my personality”.

Luana Stanciu,

Commercial law counsellor, Bucharest

It is obvious these three testimonials were written by different persons. And they represent, additionally, a warranty of the fact that persons from different domains (in this case, editorial, academic, economic-law) will have a positive view concerning the offered service, despite the difference of perspectives, style and field of activity. Likewise, we remember easier what we wrote/said than what anyone else wrote/said. The moment it will be contacted, a referent will know what he/she wrote you, as a reference, comparing to the situation where you composed a nice text and he/she only signed it.

Sometimes, it happens that you discover, with this occasion, that a person is not fully satisfied with your service and this will give you some suggestions of improvement. At one moment, together with a group of students from the department of psychology I tried a method of team-building. Even though it was not done until the end, due to limits of time and space, I had the impression it had gone well and thought it would be a good idea to request some references for the respective method, but with this occasion I discovered that things did not necessarily go bad, but they did not go as good as I would have liked to think. Two participants made some observations that helped me understand where I had done wrong. If I would not have requested these references, I would not have gotten a feed-back, even though I had requested feed-back immediately after the session of team-building. Which proves that…

A feed-back is not a reference,

and a reference is not a feed-back

The moment you receive a positive reference, warm, from the heart, from someone who you know was really helped by your product/service, it is the case to congratulate yourself. These are the most precious testimonials, even though it might happen for them not be observed by others, but they are the ones you will remember. Example given, in my work of profiling in the field of human resources, it happens sometimes for certain clients to have insights or revelations about themselves, a thing that can help them develop; even though the purpose of profiling is for example choosing a job or evaluation for a certain post, a side benefit might be that of the person being able to identify more clearly certain problems or directions for action by means of which to make a decision. Just as the case of Andreea was:

I have to admit that I have always needed help in identifying firstly my problems, or better said, their essence. I have always known I am also my biggest enemy. I have never understood why. The profile enlightened me from this perspective. After the profile, I had a sort of a revelation. And this opened my eyes upon the strategies that I should adopt regarding me in the future. I began today…

Stefan found the problem and its explanation in only an hour…for me it took years to understand the decisions I made. If I were to say in per cent the results of the profile in relation to reality, I would say 99%”.

Andreea Serban


Now think well…even though I know what I would like the clients to express about the offered services, do you really think such a testimonial could be counterfeited? And to be of a different style compared to the other 7 testimonials of the same service on a certain type of profile? Small probability. Additionally, if you are good enough to make an effort in forging some references (a thing I consider absolutely embarrassing and irresponsible for someone who works in marketing) and to use styles that are sufficiently different so that you do it successfully, believe me that you have the abilities to offer your services at a level of quality that you will obtain testimonials <<for real>> with much less effort.

Those who will know best how to appreciate your work are others.

Leave the words to them, and these will come to you.

If you will run after wonderful descriptions in the (auto)promotion of your services, these will not come.

I thank you!

Happy Self Branding


Useful references for the content of this article

Shelle Rose Charvet – Words that change minds/Cuvinte care schimbă minţi, Editura Amaltea, 2006

Dan Kennedy – Magnetic Marketing Collection

Andy Szekely – Ghidul credibilităţii, 2007

Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin – Puterea simplităţii

For a full list of articles on personal branding, in Romanian and English, press here.

 Previously published in Romanian [ro, blog] Translated by Răzvan Nidelea

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Jack’s Brand

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 09/10/2012

Do you know Jack, the blacksmith from the village? Well, he is also a brand.

What, don’t you know Jack? Jack…well, OK then…

The Americans, as a civilization, are proud because they have “invented” some fields that use complicated terminologies, but in fact they refer to common trivialities well known to everybody. I am going to suggest you think about the following situation: in a village there were two blacksmiths. Each of them had a certain number of customers, depending on the needs and the preferences of the villagers.

At one moment, one of them began receiving more clients than the other. He was called Jack. Well, Jack was a hard working blacksmith. Really. Haven’t you heard? Even the priest knows; when the pitchforks he was working with broke, he went to Jack and fixed them in a record time. Another villager broke his satellite antenna dish and brought it to good ol’ Jack to repair it and, for a bottle of brandy, Jack helped him and it has been working for over a year without a problem. And many more speak about Jack, it seems he is handier than the other blacksmith, who is better.

Actually… Jack is a brand! Didn’t you notice?

And the brand, as you see, is built by those who use his services. If Jack was to write a blog and the villagers would read it, Jack would be one of the noticeable examples of building an image that doesn’t necessarily begin from a branding strategy, but from othersperception. Although branding, as a process, is these days defined as implying directly a directed communication plan, the personal brand is not a wish list for Santa Claus! The brand is, after all, is the sum of perceptions that others effectively have about you, not considering your promotion efforts.

There are companies which have invested billions of dollars promoting themselves in a certain direction as a brand and the public didn’t “buy” the idea as it did not fit with its current perception about the company/product.

One classic example is when The Coca-Cola Company introduced on the international market “The New Coke”, which was a rather new product than a traditional one, aimed relatively to those consuming “Pepsi”, even more than to the usual consumers of “Coca-Cola”. The result?

The sales dropped drastically. So they took the same product and renamed it “Coca Cola Classic” and so they resolved the situation. Similarly, Marlboro created some 6 different flavors of Marlboro. The public was confused and asked: “What is this?” ,decreasing the sales. The company returned to a single flavor, the classic one, and only then did the situation started bit by bit to get right.

It is time to understand that, for your target audience, you are not who you want to be. You are who they perceive you to be.

It does not matter how you perceive what you offer.

It matters how others perceive you through what you offer!

Thank you!

Happy personal branding!

PS. For a list of articles treating personal branding, you can access this list [ro, blog].  Previously published in Romanian [ro, blog] Translated by Răzvan Nidelea


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Happy Birthday, Ticu Constantin!

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 28/09/2012

Today I would like to write about a very special person who inspired me a lot. His name is Ticu Constantin . He is an academic teacher (conf. dr.) at the Psychology and Education Sciences in Iaşi and, as I mentioned in my CV, I have learned from some of his experience and sharing, a lot of things I consider my professional basis as an HR Consultant.

I guess I couln’t call him a mentor, I consider other students have been truly honored to get that benefit just by staying next to him.

Although I wasn’t a student at the Psychology section (I graduated in Communication and PR), since I have discovered him, in 2005, I went to almost each of his classes. Or trainings. Or seminars. Wherever he teached, I just had to be there.

What I and not only, have deeply admired about him, are the passion with which he involves himself in his work, his LOVE for research, his brilliant skills in training students from scrap how to scientifically build evaluation tests through hard work, team-building and perseverence, the generosity of sharing (time, books, documentation, knowledge). His door was always open for a student with a project. He never got bored or send somebody away. He is always heartworming and also witty; down to earth, but faithful. If you want to contact him, you may write to him at tconst [at] uaic [dot] com, either if you have a company and you need evaluation or training (you might be surprised how many of today’s generations of Bucharest’s HR specialists have graduated in the last 10 years learning from him) or if you’re a student and you just want to ask a question or get a feed-back.

How I got to meet him is yet another interesting story. In a Friday afternoon, I just had a fight with a friend of mine, and on my way to get some water to drink, I just wanted to check some information at the news panel for students, from the D building (where Communication and PR have some classes, as do the Psychology students). I noticed there was a room with a poster on it, and it said “Autobiographical and Social Memory” – project financed through a European Project… it was happening… then. I said to myself: “Hmmm, that’s interesting. What else do I have scheduled for today? Nevermind!”. And I got in. The rest is history. The truth is I never got out, until I left Iaşi, last year.

The following weeks, I went to him with my first research projects, which have turned into complete disasters, but from which I have learned so much! He really encourages the students to learn from their mistakes, not be afraid of them.  He was unlike the great majority of teachers. He was modest, available, as a teacher who really wants to transmit something.

He is also a brilliant marketer. From him, I have learned how the psychology  of the consumer works. His courses have been more practicle and useful than most of the trainings I have seen are being held for astronomic figures in Bucharest. It was actually unbelieveble for me how much I could learn for such a bargain!

He showed me the deep correlations between psychology and marketing and confirmed that one cannot truly work in one field, witheout working also in the other.

I learned from him some of the steps of building an advanced research tool to be used in organizational purposes. He insisted on the standards of using personality profiling as a valid tool and he imposed a development programme for all students that wanted to participate in creating such tools, called E-Team, which I think was the best initiative I have witnissed in all the years I have studied at the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” faculty. It started with just about 20 students (I think), a small room and a xerox machine. And is now one of the best Human Resources Schools and Research Centers in Romania. Right in the center of Iaşi.

He is the living proof you can transform the environment with creativity leading others’ enthusiasm.

Today is his birthday. Happy birthday, mr. Constantin!

FotoTicu 3

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To Manipulate Or Not to Manipulate, That Is the Question

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 06/04/2012

I’m telling you this with hope in my heart and trust that by offering patience to the initiative I’m going to tell you about will create an important and a long-waited change. Before telling you what I’m going to tell you about, thank you for listening me, as I am sure you will consider my message important. As you think of it, with each word, my message becomes clearer to you and you can easily understand what I am saying. Let us find new ways of expressing ourselves… For, example, I…


Overcoming public speaking fright

It is said that the second greatest possible fright, except for the one of dying, is the fright of public speaking. Fortunately for me, I have not met many people which were afraid to speak in public. Maybe during grade school. Public speaking is familiar environment for me.

The best exercise I recommend, out of my own experience, is getting in front of all while saying to yourself: “In 30 seconds, my mouth will start speaking. It would better say something useful.”. So I did. So will you. Another exercise: if someone would have a gun to your head and would tell you: “speak well in public now or I kill you”, how do you think you’d perform? You’d certainly do a better job if you knew your life depends on the quality of your delivery. For some, that IS the case. May they be presenters, trainers, lobbyists, attorneys, diplomats, press releasers, politicians, the quality of their public speaking will determine how much money they will make. But this is not a study of what best public speakers do.

My intention is to familiarize you with the truth that everybody speaks in public. Better, worse. But if you think at it, all of us had to make a public presentation, or to address a public in a one-to-many communication instance. But what are the things to consider before doing public speaking in the HR world in an ethical fashion?

Public speaking is definitely a part of HR persons. Conferences. Board meetings. Employee meetings. Focus-groups. Evaluations. Fairs. Exhibitions. Workshops. Trainings. All these cannot be avoided.


How much of well planning makes for an ethical delivery?

First thing to consider is: “be themselves”. If you address a public, you must know that public. Who’s in it, what degree of information do they have on the topic you’re speaking, what is their interest in the topic, what kind of questions they will put, etc. It’s a sign of respect towards your message, to each of the participants in the public and to the organizers. And also consider these days anyone can video / audio record you with a simple phone or mp 3 player, not to mention the photos. Then, they can be placed on the internet, tagged with your name and accessed by anyone, for the rest of eternity. If you don’t have respect for all of these, you will be remembered. It’s not only the skills that you put to practice, but also your values.

Of course the better job you do on planning your speech, of taking care of the surroundings (light, height, noise, distance, temperature, technology settings, etc.), the better you will show respect for your public. These might seem as the organizers’ responsibility. But if you really care about your personal brand, your message and the public, make it your responsibility to triple-check.

Let’s assume you address a public well educated, well informed and interested in the subject matter you present. The audience has been pre-selected and you’ve put certain questions at the beginning to make sure you’re on the same page. Now you’ve got their attention. You have the formal authority in the room. From this moment, if you skillfully use your persuasiveness, you can imprint any ideas into their minds. You may masterfully conceive your speech so that they would understand and maybe agree to it, at least until a certain point. You may even manipulate them.

Beyond that, it lies the question: what is the line between influencing, persuasion and manipulation? When does it serve well and when does it not?

First of all, none of these have negative meaning by themselves. A mother may manipulate her children by saying: “Do you prefer to drink the [bad tasting] medicine from the white cup or from the blue cup?”, using a double bind to determinate an action. Some would not consider this as manipulation, because, some say, manipulation is always negative. In stead of ranting on the concepts: responsibility; accountability; life lessons; we’ll do some practice.


Let’s come back to the fine distinction between influencing, persuading and manipulating someone. Although there are uncountable ways of doing any of these, let’s just say we want to send the message that using seat belts during driving for all the passengers saves lives. Noble idea, don’t you think? We’ll see.



When you’ll start to think about this, you will naturally find what I’m saying to you as more and more interesting. “Looking at the accidents statistics in USA, in 2004, more persons which did not use a seat belt died in accidents than those who who were wearing / although, according to the federal statistics, more than 80% of the drivers use belts. […] Apparently not wearing the seat belt during driving the car is about the same thing as having a dagger installed on the driving wheel.”. Before thinking further on the way this affects our lives, let us consider all the small differences seeming minor details like putting the seat belt on before driving to actually truly understand the real effect of those seemingly minor details. The difference between using and not using your seat belt might be the difference between life and death.


Close your eyes. [the light gets dimmer] Imagine yourself riding in a top notch car on a freeway. [appropriate music] You feel the wind and all the things around you. You get to an intersection. You slow down, but not in due time and a truck gets into your face from nowhere. You have no time to react. [the lights close] It all went dark. [silence for a few moments]. You just died because you didn’t wear a seat belt [lights open up brightly] Welcome back!


The light gets dimmer. You present a video of a guy named David, with his wife, Molly and their son, Tommy. The are joyful, playing in the garden. Then you show some pictures with them getting in the family car. Then you put on the morgue pictures of David, Molly and Tommy. They didn’t use the seat belt. You rapidly shoot some statistics to the people, in big colorful graphic display. In the end, you take a moment in silence, honoring David, Molly, Tommy and the other thousands of people who lost their lives during X period in the Y zone and say a prayer. 

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Rich Item Conceptualization.

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 26/03/2012

Here I gave you some examples of items. I have proven how they don’t work here. This article is part IV from the series of articles in English about survey-type research with focus on quantitative measures. Please also consider this list of articles in Romanian about research.

In order to attain the same goal in the second context, let’s say we would have these items in stead of the first:

    1. Do you experience any kind of distress at work, due to other people? [measures weather there is a problem or not]

  1. Yes

  2. No

If the answer is “no”, skip right to question nr. 6.

    1. How often do you experience this distress? [measures frequency]

a) 2-3 times a day

b) daily

c) 2-3 times a week

d) weekly

e) 2-3 times a month

f) once a month or even more rare

3. How does the intensity of this distress affects you and your work? [measures intensity]

a) I feel suffocated by it

b) My work is suffocated by it

c) My work is affected by it

d) My work is just slightly delayed by it

e) I can handle it most of the times

f) It doesn’t have a great, if any effect on my work or on myself.

4. Who, from your office, do you think contributes to / influences the distress? (You can pick one or more choices) [measures cause]

a) the boss

b) my superviser

c) colleagues I work with

d) colleagues in the office I do not work with

e) collaborators / people I delegate tasks to

f) Janitors, cleaning personnel, and other similar

5. When does the distress produces? [measures period and space specific to distress related to the office work]

a) in the working time, in the morning

b) in the working time, in the afternoon

c) in the working time, in the evening

d) during coffee breaks

e) during the lunch break

f) after the working time finishes / outside the working space

Author’s experience in questionnaire design. The Author has worked within a research group developing organizational evaluation tools. Since November 2006 to June 2007, he contributed to five questionnaire designs in students’ groups. Also, he has designed the first psychological questionnaire for application in political branding using NLP (Iaşi, 2004), for which project he was awarded the first prize at the students’ contest EconomMix in 2005, the management-marketing section.

Besides that, he has designed psychological questionnaires for own researches on parental education (2005), self-esteem (2007, 2009, 2011), insurance (2009), memory (2009), he enhanced an evaluation questionnaire for career consulting (2008).

The author can be contacted for questionnaire design consulting services at [at] yahoo [dot] com

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The Questionnaire Design for Surveys, part III

Posted by Ştefan Alexandrescu on 21/03/2012

This article is a follow-up to this one and it refers to the questions presented as an example here:

 Let’s take it step by step. First of all, methodologically. The first question uses a scale with an even number, which requires the responder to mark only one answer. The second item presents an odd number of choices out of which one, several or all can be picked by the responder. This creates confusion, because it requires the responder to use a different rule for answering question 2 from the rule use to answer question 1. No matter how well you explain, it is subject to mistake. You must eliminate these mistakes, out of respect for your work, for your personal branding as a compenetent, non-time waster professional, for the responsibility which you have towards providing actionable intelligence and for the responders’ intellectual effort.

The second question uses an unclear scale for choices, which combined with the words used in the item may create confusion.

If it’s a scale, it must be from white to black, from dark to light, from alpha to omega. You cannot play around with the responders’ perception. If the first choice is “daily”, the other choices may be “2-3 times a week”, “weekly”, “2-3 times a month”, “about once a month”, “3-4 times a year” “Yearly”.

“Pretty often “is a poor choice because what is “pretty often” for someone can be very different than what is “pretty often” for someone else. It could range in the individual perception from once a month to twice a day to all the time. Don’t use relative language. Use precise words when you measure frequency or intensity. And if you want both frequency and intensity for example, measure them with different items. Yes, that means putting the same questions again, with similar scales.

“Sometimes” is a different item for measuring frequency than “pretty often”, but it may be similar. You may use these terms together in rather a six points scale like “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes”, “pretty often” “very often”, “always”. You can also cut the extremes and have it a four points scale, conditioned that the rest of the items besides “pretty often” and “sometimes” are “rarely” and “very often”. I myself I wouldn’t use this kind of vague terms, but they are not wrong.

Let’s take a look at the first words of the item: “How often do you usually”, continued with option d), “rarely”. So the question the responder has to ask himself in order to understand what the item means in this case is: “How often do I usually rarely… ? Do I rarely often usually… ?”. It’s a non-sense. Use logic. If you aren’t used to logical thinking, learn it or drop human resources, NOW.

Another issue with the first question is the word “feel”. It’s a tricky word to use in a subjective description. In general, people are already very subjective when completing a questionnaire. Especially when you measure subjective experience of frequency, it is rather preferable to use moderate, neutral words. Besides, some people could relate more to seeing or hearing than to feeling. In formulating an item, you must respect the reality that people have different perception styles which you have to respect in order to speak on their own language. For these two reasons, it is recommendable to use the word “find” in stead of “feel”. It appears to describe a more objective experience, but in reality the subjectivity comes from the term “tension”. When using subjective nouns in items, don’t enhance it by adding subjective verbs to them. “Find” is more objective than “feel”. Pay attention to the choice of words. “If you ask wrong questions, you will get wrong answers” (3).

“When starting work” describes an unclear event. It could mean the minute entering the building, it could mean the moment actually starting doing work (after coffee, talking to the boss or a morning conference), or it could mean coming back to work after the meal. To which moment does the researcher refer?

Another thing to pay attention is that the first question refers to “working with colleagues”, when the second questions also refers to other departments or family. When you want to evaluate the organizational environment in a specific office, you focus your questions in such a manner to discover which are the elements inside the system not working. If the researcher wants to find out also the external elements, than item 1 must be restated, in order to integrate the external causes. Not to mention there is a high difference in perception weather the responder has a internal locus of control or an external locus of control in context of working in that specific environment.

The first question uses the term “tension”, the second question uses the term “pressure”. Although they may be synonyms, if you used one term for the first item, then you must also use it in the second item, too. Some people might relate differently to “tension” than to “pressure”, not to mention that “tension” is often perceived as internal, and “pressure” external. It’s not a rule, but there are subtilties to which you have to pay attention.

The second question is wrong for the beginning. If the purpose is to find the cause of a distress, you must first consider all the reasons of the distress. Let’s say, for example, that an employee has a good chair at his own office, but when joining others to work on a common project, the table around which they sit has wrong chairs for his back. The person feels psysical tension, but none of the variants are responsible for that. It’s the chair. It’s not someone’s fault, it’s something. So define well what you want to measure and what words you use for it.

Please also consider this list of articles in Romanian about research.

Author’s experience in questionnaire design. The Author has worked within a research group developing organizational evaluation tools. Since November 2006 to June 2007, he contributed to five questionnaire designs in students’ groups. Also, he has designed the first psychological questionnaire for application in political branding using NLP (Iaşi, 2004), for which project he was awarded the first prize at the students’ contest EconomMix in 2005, the management-marketing section.

Besides that, he has designed psychological questionnaires for own researches on parental education (2005), self-esteem (2007, 2009, 2011), insurance (2009), memory (2009), he enhanced an evaluation questionnaire for career consulting (2008).

The author can be contacted for questionnaire design consulting services at [at] yahoo [dot] com

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