‘What about if we make it £300?’

It pays to help someone do their research, apparently, but I’d welcome readers’ thoughts

13 December, 2021 / editorial
 Will Peakin  

Invitations for me to connect with people on LinkedIn are not a regular occurrence, I must admit; more what you would describe as occasional. In most instances there is a valid reason; a PR who’s been in touch separately about a client, perhaps, or a source I have spoken to for a story. Every now and then, though, it seems to be completely random, with no obvious reason why we should be connected.

Recently, however, in the space of a fortnight, I have been asked to connect by two people, apparently unconnected themselves but in eerily similar lines of work. One describes himself as a ‘Healthcare Marketing Consultant & Business Analyst’ and the other as a ‘Healthcare Researcher’.

The former is based in Europe, the latter in the UK. I didn’t accept either invitation and, in hindsight, perhaps should have clicked the ‘Ignore’ button at the time. Because, there then followed emails from both.

The Europe-based researcher said he was conducting a study on “filling materials”. Would I be willing to take part in a “web-assisted telephone interview” that would take about an hour? He added: “We would like to offer you a 200 GBP compensation for your time (PayPal or bank transfer), paid immediately after completing the interview.”

I wrote back: “Thanks for the invitation, but it’s not something I am able to do.” Twenty minutes later, he responded: “Thank you and absolutely understand your answer. Nevertheless, allow me to insist because this discussion is rather ‘open’ on the subject of dental medicine, and to talk about…”, and he went on to list a series of topics for discussion.

“We are not looking for any info about you or your news organisation and you are always free to decline any given question,” he said. “I would be extremely grateful if you could consider participating, your background and expertise will be very useful to us and participation is absolutely anonymous (first name use only). Would you be kind to consider participating? I would be extremely grateful!”

I thought silence would be the best option. Three days later the same email arrived in my inbox, except for one change: “We have increased compensation to 300 GBP as to reflect the high value of your involvement.”

He gave me some time to think; a full 11 days, to be precise. Then another email: “Allow me getting back to me whether you could still consider participation.” Despite the fractured English, I understood he was keen that we should have that discussion.

In the meantime, however, I had received the second invitation – from the UK-based researcher – to connect on LinkedIn. Then, on the same day that £300 was being waved in my face, an email from the second researcher arrived: “Hello,” he wrote. “Hello,” I thought to myself. “I have a client,” he said, “who would like to interview (for 1 hour) someone who could be described as a ‘Dental Journalist’.”

“Ok,” I said out loud to myself, brow furrowing slightly. “I think I can accept that description. I’ve been called worse.” He continued: “They would be happy to pay £300 to someone who could do it this week.”

Hm, was this a separate offer or were the two connected? The second brief was certainly different; it didn’t mention anything about “filling materials” and would range across a different set of topics, such as – and these are his words: “Biggest innovations in dentistry in recent years and on the horizon today … Biggest changes observed in last two years in the areas of interest at conferences, seminars … COVID related … Non COVID – within Dentistry and adjacent areas connecting with dentistry, eg sustainability … What see coming in the future as new focus areas … At home oral care – where does it feature in this world“.

I’ve never been good at maths, but if it was the former then, by my calculation, I now had the opportunity to earn £600 for two hours ‘work’.  Don’t snigger; I am a ‘Dental Journalist’,
after all.

I thought long and hard about the offer(s). Well, that’s not true. I just thought, this is weird. Or is this ‘a thing’ in the healthcare sector; paying journalists for their insights? You tell me. I could have gone all Woodward & Bernstein and hit the ‘phones, or thrown on the jacket of my corduroy suit as I headed out to a meeting with whoever is the Deep Throat of the healthcare market research world.

But I wrote this instead; thought I’d crowdsource it.

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