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Popular opinion: Learn what the public wants from the experts

Scott MacKay.

With Manitoba in the middle of a provincial  election campaign and the public clamouring for polls predicting who will be the next premier, Scott MacKay isn’t sweating the small stuff. You know, like polls.

The president of Probe Research knows that his Winnipeg-based firm is best known for taking the temperature of the electorate but the reality is polls are just a small fraction of the work that he and his team do throughout the year.

“We do political polls because we want to get involved in important public events and because we want to showcase our technology. That includes how we ask questions, how we collect information to make sure it’s accurate, how we interpret it and how we present it to the public,” he says.

“We’re hoping the lightbulb might go off in a CEO’s head and they’ll say, ‘we could use this kind of thing in our company.’”

Probe’s services include quantitative work, such as surveys, and qualitative work, like focus groups. Because there isn’t an abundance of corporate head offices in Winnipeg, MacKay says his team has broad exposure to wide-ranging themes and topics, and has conducted research across a variety of industries.

“We don’t have one area of expertise. We do things all over the place for all kinds of clients—big and small and in every sector. Our work is a metaphor for the province itself,” he says.

Probe has worked with more than 500 clients over the years—virtually all of whom are repeat customers—ranging from Crown corporations to nonprofits. MacKay says Probe’s Omnibus survey is the “perfect” research tool for Manitoba companies because it allows them to participate with as little as one question. (It’s often “have you heard of our company?”)

The Omnibus also enables smaller players to survey the market because the cost of the quarterly questionnaire is shared by a number of companies, each of which is provided its own results.

The more than decade-old survey has helped hundreds of private, public and non-profit organizations understand Manitobans and get a leg up on their competition.

“It’s information that their competition doesn’t have and it allows them to spend their resources more efficiently,” he says.

As technology continues to evolve, so does Probe’s approach. In the mid-90s, everything was done through phone books and phone lists. Today, the work is virtually all web-based.

“We think there will always be a demand for what we do as long as we continue to provide strategic information.”

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