Ask the market research experts: Theo Priestley, CMO at WFS Technologies

Paul Stallard - Tuesday May 14th 2019

Welcome to the first of our interview series called ask the experts. We have been busy interviewing people with insight into the world of market research. They might be practitioners, buyers of PR surveys or experts from other industries that use or benefit from research.

The idea of the series is to share knowledge and to better understand the many different ways that research can be used.

To kick off our series we have interviewed Theo Priestley.

Theo is the Chief Marketing Officer at WFS Technologies and well known technology evangelist and anti-futurist who focuses on emerging trends and their impact on business and wider society.  He has written over 100 articles and provided commentary for publications including WIRED, Forbes, Venturebeat, FT Raconteur, Huffington Post, The European, GigaOM, and for BBC Radio and UK national television. He is also a prolific keynote speaker and has chaired conferences across the World. In addition, in 2017 Theo presented a TEDx talk to an audience of 2,000 on AI.

In short. When Theo talks, people listen.

When we started brainstorming who to ask to be part of the series, Theo’s name was one of the first we wrote down. I’m delighted he said yes to the interview and he hasn’t disappointed.

Theo covers what he looks for when reading research, why some projects fail and meeting Mikhail Gorbachev. Enjoy.

Arlington Research: How do you use research in your working life?
Theo Priestley: I use research daily to inform myself on what’s happening in the technology industry, latest trends to keep an eye on which may affect our business strategy, who’s talking about what and why to understand who’s an authority on the subject. As a keynote speaker, technologist and also CMO its important to stay ahead with quantitative research and opinion.

AR: Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
TP: No, I know the difference between work life and personal life, I have a family and while work is important I know where my priorities lie.

AR: What do you look for when reading a new research story?
TP: I look for original opinion rather than regurgitated facts. There’s a lot of ways to present the same data points to support a foregone conclusion, and while quantitative research is important I respect an opinion more that draws on pragmatic experience and gut feeling on a topic or trend. Saying “X industry will reach $yyBn market value in 2020” is utterly meaningless these days but it makes for a nice powerpoint slide.

AR: Have you ever investigated a piece of research you have been sent by a PR company to find that it is utter rubbish and if so what did you do?
TP: I get this often because it’s commissioned by a client who wants to reach a conclusion to support their business model. I understand why, everyone does it, but it lowers my estimation of the research being provided. I generally ignore it, or if it piques an interest dig into researching for myself.

AR: Who is the most famous person you have met through work?
TP: I met Mikhail Gorbachev once when he was no longer the Russian Premiere. I’ve also met some of the cast of Star Trek but that’s another story.

AR: What advice do you have for someone buying research?
TP: Pay what you think the research is worth to you and your business, not what the asking price is. And before you buy, make sure you can’t get exactly the same results for free, the internet is a goldmine for opinion and research from independent sources who are happy to share their insight.

AR: What is your favourite venue for a work meeting?
TP: The lounge, in slippers, on a call or skype.

AR: Who do you think that people in the research world should follow/look out for/learn from?
TP: Research has become a stuffy world, look to the independents who have strong opinions and work with them.

AR: How do you unwind away from the office?
TP: I read science fiction.

AR: What book should everyone read and why?
TP: I have too many to list, just don’t waste your life reading business books and lose yourself in stories instead.

AR: What TED talk inspired you the most?
TP: The one I gave.

AR: Why in your opinion do some research projects fail?
TP: They have a goal or conclusion in mind already, so the research reflects only limited views or arguments rather than an impartial study.

AR: What annoys you when you hear people talking about research?
TP: They think it takes an hour to produce a report.

Next interview: Jake Pryszlak – the Research Geek, voted the #MRX number 1 influencer on social media

Research has become a stuffy world, look to the independents who have strong opinions and work with them

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