Paul Holmes 15 Jun 2011 // 8:50AM GMT
Longtime readers will be aware that bogus surveys are a pet peeve of mine, too often symptomatic of lazy PR and even lazier journalism. I must admit, however, that I could never have anticipated selecting a piece of McKinsey research as my Bogus Survey of the Week—but this study, which generated a ton of uncritical media coverage, is pretty egregious, and completely out of keeping with the consultancy’s usually rigorous approach. While the survey—purporting to show that employers planned to discontinue health insurance when healthcare reform becomes law—was swallowed whole by the mainstream media, it was up to online publications and the blogosphere to ask some questions that were not covered in the initial press release. Questions like who funded the survey; who participated, and how many respondents were there; what did the questions look like? McKinsey is usually a paragon of transparency about such questions, but in this case they went unanswered. Moreover, the company admitted to “educating” respondents about what healthcare reform would mean—but refused to explain what form that “education” took. Under the circumstances, those capable of critical independent thought—a group that apparently excludes the majority of the mainstream media—could be forgiven for asking whether the survey was skewed or slanted. Indeed, since McKinsey is being so reticent, they could be forgiven for asking whether any survey was conducted, or whether the results were simply spun out of whole cloth. Those are questions that have the potential to damage the reputation of all of McKinsey’s surveys, and its reputation for integrity. There are now reports that some within McKinsey recognize that potential and are not particularly happy. Under the circumstances, the PR department at the management consultancy should be answering questions about this survey with some urgency.