Home Home | About Us | Sitemap | Contact  
  • Info For
  • Professionals
  • Students
  • Educators
  • Media
  • Search
    Powered By Google

Advertisement Strategies of Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Michael Gasser
Adam Butler
Kelly Anderson
David Whitsett
Rowena Tan
University of Northern Iowa

Gasser, Whitsett, Mosley, Sullivan, Rogers, and Tan (1998) investigated how well known the profession of Industrial/Organizational psychologist (using several related titles) was to a sample of the general public, a sample of business majors, and a sample of other psychologists. For both the general public and business majors, the simple conclusion was that the profession of I-O psychologist was not well known. In fact, the majority of respondents in these two samples had never heard of our profession, and those that had were not very confident that they could describe what an I-O psychologist does.

This lack of recognition is a problem for our profession because most of the individuals that should utilize our services do not know that we exist, and the minority that have heard of our profession are hard-pressed to describe our training or the services we offer. The higher-ups in a company with a human resource problem certainly will not be running to the phone to call us if they have never heard of us. For the few leaders that have heard of I-O psychology, it will be hard for them to differentiate between us and those who use the generic term "business consultant," which may reflect any level of training, if they are not aware of the training and services of I-O psychologists. In addition, if employees had some sense of who we are and the training we have, then they might be more willing to cooperate with the interventions we try to initiate. These concerns result in an underutilization of I-O psychology when there are many human resource problems (which can affect an entire economy) that I-O psychologists are uniquely qualified to address. This lack of recognition not only hurts us, it hurts everyone.

So, we are not well known and this lack of recognition is a problem for our profession and the business world in general. An obvious means of rectifying this problem is to advertise our profession and the services we offer to prospective clients and to try to increase our name recognition with the general public. Are we actually doing this? Are we trying to advertise ourselves? Although this seems like the obvious thing to do, we suspect that I-O psychologists, are not actively pursuing this avenue. Have you ever observed any advertisement describing the training or services of an I-O psychologist (no matter how tasteful) in any medium that the public might witness? We haven't. Further, we are not aware of any surveys that directly examined how often I-O psychologists use various advertisement strategies. The purpose of this survey was to examine how often different types of advertisement strategies are used by I-O psychologists.

Method

A sample of I-O psychologists was interviewed over the phone by an undergraduate research assistant during the Fall semester of 1999. For this survey, 700 I-O psychologists were randomly selected from the 1998 SIOP membership directory. Only individuals that were listed as having completed the PhD were included in this group. Of the 700 called, 114 were contacted and 101 agreed to complete the survey.

The average age of this sample of psychologists was 46.26 years with a standard deviation of 9.89. Members of this sample ranged in age from 29 to 74 years. For primary place of employment, 35.6% reported that they worked in a university or college, 31.7% in a corporate organization, 7.9% in a government organization, 1% in a nonprofit organization, 13.9% in a consulting firm, 8.9% as private consultants and 1% in a research facility. The mean number of years since receiving the PhD for this sample was 15.34 with a standard deviation of 9.47. The longest time period reported since receiving the PhD was 47 years and the shortest was 2 years. For this sample, 67.3% were male.

Survey and Results

Each member of the sample completed the survey by phone. Participants were asked to estimate how often they had engaged in various activities in which they advertised the skills and services of I-O psychologists. For each question, the respondents used the following scale: 0 = Never, 1 = Once in my career, 2 = Several times in my career, 3 = Once per year, 4 = Several times per year, 5 = Once per month, 6 = Several times per month.

Each question and the percent of responses for each question are presented in Table 1. 

Table 1 

Percent of Responses for Each Choice for Each Question

 

Percent for Each Response

Questions:  Have you . . .

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

1. given a guest lecture at a local chamber of commerce meeting where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

77.2

8.9

8.9

2.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

2. given a guest lecture for a business or management course at a high school where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

83.2

8.9

3.0

2.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

3. given a guest lecture for a business or management  course at a college or community college where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

33.7

17.8

21.8

10.9

6.9

0.0

8.9

4. given a guest lecture at a meeting of a professional group  (such as S.H.R.M. or A.S.T.D.) where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

50.5

5.9

25.7

8.9

4.0

3.0

2.0

5. given a guest lecture for a service club (such as Rotary or Kiwanis) where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

89.1

6.9

2.0

1.0

1.0

0.0

0.0

6. given a guest lecture at a corporate meeting or retreat in which you described the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

51.5

9.9

23.8

3.0

7.9

2.0

2.0

7. described the skills and services of I-O psychologists during an informal one-on-one discussion?

6.9

0.0

5.9

5.9

27.7

14.9

38.6

8. described the skills and services of I-O psychologists as an expert witness in a court of law?

72.3

11.9

9.9

3.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

9. discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists in a Career day for a High School or College?

77.2

6.9

8.9

5.9

1.0

0.0

0.0

10. appeared on a radio program where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

83.2

10.9

4.0

1.0

1.0

0.0

0.0

11. appeared on a television program where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

86.1

9.9

2.0

1.0

1.0

0.0

0.0

12. given an interview or written an article for a newspaper where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

69.3

12.9

15.8

0.0

1.0

1.0

0.0

13. given an interview or written an article for a magazine where you discussed the skills and services of I-O psychologists?

79.2

8.9

7.9

1.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

14. placed an informational advertisement describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists in a newspaper?

91.1

1.0

5.0

2.0

0.0

1.0

0.0

15. placed an informational advertisement describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists in a magazine?

92.1

1.0

1.0

3.0

3.0

0.0

0.0

16. placed an informational advertisement describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists on the internet?

81.2

7.9

4.0

4.0

0.0

1.0

2.0

17. placed an informational advertisement describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists on radio?

98.0

1.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

1.0

18. placed an informational advertisement describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists on television?

98.0

0.0

2.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

19. sent an informational brochure describing the skills and services of I-O psychologists to prospective clients?

64.4

0.0

12.9

2.0

5.9

3.0

11.9

 

Conclusions

1. For 17 of the 19 methods of advertisement we investigated in this survey, the majority of the sample responded that they had never used that method at any time in their career. In other words, the majority of respondents have never used the majority of advertisement activities we explored.

2. The two methods that have been used at least once by the majority of I-O psychologists responding to the survey were "a guest lecture for a business or management course at a college or junior college" and "informal one-on-one discussions." Using an informal, one-on-one discussion was the most commonly used means to convey information about the skills and services of I-O psychologists, with 93.1% of the sample using it at least once in their career. A one-on-one discussion is arguably one of the most inefficient means of conveying a message to large numbers of people.

3. The methods of mass advertisement typically used in our societyplacing an advertisement in a newspaper, magazine, on radio or on televisionwere the leastused by I-O psychologists.


James Farr (1997) questioned why there is "limited acceptance and understanding" of our profession in his presidential address for APA division 14. The results of this survey clearly suggest that one possible answer is a simple lack of promotion of ourselves and little effort to communicate our skills and services to the public. If we do not take the initiative to spread the word, then who will?

What To Do?

Simply put, perhaps we can engage in more of the methods of advertisement that seem to have been left alone. Although some of these strategies (such as TV or radio advertisement) may prove too expensive for the individual I-O psychologist, larger organizations of I-O psychologists may be able to afford these strategies to the mutual benefit of all. An empirical examination of the effectiveness of various advertisement strategies to determine their effectiveness would also be helpful. For example, despite their ease of use and relative low cost, informational brochures have never been used by 64.4% of the respondents in our survey. Are they effective? If so, then this is certainly a missed opportunity given the relatively small investment of resources required to use them. In future research, we are going to investigate the effectiveness of this strategy for conveying professional information to potential clients. Finally, it would be worthwhile to hear from I-O psychologists who have more actively pursued advertisement, particularly those that used mass advertisement such as radio and TV. Even if no empirical data were collected, a case study describing the advertisement, its effect, and any problems experienced in its use, would be helpful. If we had some sense of how effective an advertisement strategy was and how expensive it was to use, then we would have some guidance about deciding how to promote our profession and ourselves.

References

Farr, J. L. (1997). Organized I-O psychology: Past, present, future. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 35, 13_28.

Gasser, M., Whitsett, D., Mosley, N., Sullivan, K., Rogers, K., Tan, R. (1998). I-O psychology: What's your line? The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 35, 120_126.

 


April 2000 Table of Contents | TIP Home | SIOP Home