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BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour Power List: did it work? (social media research)

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A report looking at how well BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour 'Power List' programme started a conversation in social media about women and power. The project used social media research techniques and was conducted by Listen & Learn Research.

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BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour Power List: did it work? (social media research)

  1. 1. THE WOMAN’S HOUR POWER LIST DID IT WORK? ABOUT / We used social media research to explore the impact of the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List. This report summarises the results. Copyright © 2013
  2. 2. “Firstly, what a great piece of work, thank you so much. As well as the Marketing and Audiences team, the programme team will find this hugely interesting. The thing that strikes me is the level of detail you achieve, analysing just one big moment. Radio programme teams rarely get such rich analysis of individual moments.” Rose Van Orden Senior Planner, BBC
  3. 3. CONTENTS • SUMMARY • INTRODUCTION • WHAT IS POWER? • WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LIST? • CONCLUSION
  4. 4. SUMMARY BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour wanted to start a conversation about women and power in the UK. So it appointed an independent panel to create its inaugural Power List. This study looked at how this was perceived, discussed and debated online. Using social media research techniques we assessed the online debate to understand what impact the List had. The List worked. It started an online conversation involving over 700 people, over a few days and across numerous social media places. It enabled people to celebrate those who had made it on to List, find inspiration, share stories and raise awareness of other worthy individuals. It also enabled a robust discussion on the nature of power, what it is and who should wield it. Further editions of the List could be strengthened by helping people better understand the nature of power, clarifying the aims and objectives of the List and more tightly defining what power means.
  5. 5. THIS REPORT This study has been produced independently by Listen & Learn Research. Our aim was to explore the impact of the List and to examine the role of social media as an aid to encouraging debate. Listen & Learn Research is a global research agency based in London and we help people see their world in a new or different way. We can do this because of the unique way we combine machine search with human understanding, research expertise and business acumen. The results help you think and act differently by letting you see your world from a new, social perspective. Our clients include E.ON, Microsoft, Havas International, The Greater London Authority, The Money Advice Service and Strutt & Parker.
  6. 6. INTRODUCTION
  7. 7. INTRODUCTION With its inaugural Power List, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour sought to create more than “just a series of names*”. It aimed to start a conversation about women and power in the UK, analysing how women are making their mark and identifying where their voices are not being heard. Woman’s Hour led this project as it “has always been interested in the brilliant as well as the powerful and, of course, those who don’t have power”. It hoped to use this List to elevate the discussion on women’s contribution to society while questioning its lack of diversity. It looked to identify who the movers and shakers are who shape the way we live today. Which women have the greatest impact on British politics, society, culture and the economy. In short, it set out to identify the 100 most powerful women in the UK. The programme aired on the 12th of February 2013, this study looks at what happened next. *Alice Feinstein, editor of Woman’s Hour
  8. 8. THIS STUDY We set out to explore the impact that the programme, and the surrounding coverage, had on the debate about women and power. Based on the show’s aims, we focused our attention on answering the following questions, did the List: • Start a conversation about women and power? • Elevate the discussion on women’s role in society? • Find the movers and shakers? • Identify the most powerful 100 women in the UK? We chose the discussions taking place on social media as our source of information. This allowed us to go beyond traditional media coverage of the arguments to see how the List, the issues and debate it sought to air, were seen by the public.
  9. 9. THE DEBATE The data used in this report comes from comments made by individuals about the List using open social media. We found that: • The majority of the discussion (89% of all comments) took place between the programme airing on the 12th till the 14th of February. • We used a social media monitoring tool to search for relevant comments. After screening for relevance and uniqueness we found interesting comments from 758 different authors from 63 different sources. • The most common sources were: Twitter (31%), BBC Online (22%), The Mailonline (16%), The Guardian (11%), The Daily Telegraph (7%), Facebook (4%), The Independent (2%).
  10. 10. THE DEBATE: WHAT WAS DISCUSSED Having read and assessed each comment, we found that most of them had something to say about one or more of the following subjects: 50% 40% 37% 26% Opinion on List Who should be on it What power means Use of the list Sample size: 758 Frequency of mention In these comments people talk about the List itself. Comments tend to support, disagree or question its purpose. Here the discussion is about who made it on to the List and whether this is right or not. These comments showed how people interpret power to mean a range of different things. These comments mention the List in the context of promoting someone/thing else.
  11. 11. WHAT IS POWER?
  12. 12. WHAT’S IN A LIST When Woman’s Hour made a List of the most powerful women in the UK they made a point. Its panel decided who should be on it and who shouldn’t, and through this act of selection they created a definition of power. How this definition came alive then became a mix of: • Meaning: as expressed through the stated intention e.g. this is a List of the most powerful women in the UK • Inclusion: the people on the List that, for them, embodied the abstract concept (in this case the nature of power) • Interpretation: the degree to which others agreed and accepted this meaning and who was included. In compiling the List the panel recognised the challenge of finding the ‘right’ definition of power. First looking at traditional male-orientated definitions; power as: the ability to ‘hire and fire’, financial might, clout or the ability to make a difference. And then, when this didn’t seem quite right, broadening the term to include the concept of soft-power, that of influence and inspiration.
  13. 13. DO PEOPLE AGREE WHAT POWER IS? In publishing the List, Woman’s Hour put forward for discussion both a meaning of power and a set of practical examples. The ensuing public debate across social media reveals how this was then interpreted. Most disagreed. The chart below shows the level of agreement with the concept of power put forward by the List. The largest proportion of commenters (49%) disagreed with how the List defined power. This stemmed from a feeling that the creators of the List hadn’t understood the ‘proper’ definition of power (so, therefore, the whole thing was wrong) or that they disagreed who they had chosen to embody the List (e.g. the people on it not having ‘real’ power). The ‘Questioners’ (15%) expressed no opinion either way, but rather were interested in discussing the meaning of power. Sample size: 302 Frequency of mention Agreement with the definition of power 49% 36% 15% No Yes Questioners
  14. 14. THAT’S NOT WHAT IT MEANS Sharing meaning can be challenging, particularly when it comes to a complex concept such as power. The way the panel defined power (and therefore perceptions of the List) was challenged by two main arguments: 1. Influence isn’t power: dictionary definitions of power focus on the ‘ability to control people or events’. To some, this difference between control and influence is what sets apart those with power, from those without. 2. You need to be famous to be powerful: many equate power with celebrity. It’s a recognisable currency, something that can be easily compared. It works as a useful proxy when little else in known about how power works in society. This view supports ‘influence as power’, but only when linked to mass-awareness. Both of these arguments help us understand some of the challenges in talking about power. Influence is a route to control, but not the only one. The complexity of today’s world makes it hard to see how our life's are really controlled. Unpicking some of this complexity might help, and give people the tools to better understand power.
  15. 15. WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LIST?
  16. 16. WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LIST When looking at the online debate about the List, the Monarchy stole the show. The choice of the Queen as number one attracted most comment, with the Duchess of Cambridge providing an interesting focus for debate. The decision to put the Queen at the top raised a number of arguments: • Royalist vs. Republican: many questioned the nature and extent of the Queen’s power. How much power does she really have or should have? • Visibility: some point to examples such as her Charity and Commonwealth work as signs of her power, while others question it as they ‘can’t see what she does’. • Attainability: another common concern centred on whether this List should put the Queen at the top, further elevating a hereditary position above those that can be attained through hard work. To some, this didn’t feel like championing women. Interestingly, the exclusion of the Duchess of Cambridge did much to help people explore and discuss the nature of power. People reacted to the decision (and the attention given to it) by debating how power should be earned through work.
  17. 17. WHO SHOULD BE ON THE LIST (cont.) When it came to discussing who should be on List, the arguments tended to focus people’s opinions about the relative merits of the different individuals on it. In terms of the debate about the List, a number of common themes emerged: • Absentees: many comments focused on who should have been on the List but was not. These tended to be about a particular individual rather than a criticism of the List as a whole. • Legitimacy: an individual’s source of power was often questioned alongside their various perceived failings. Hereditary positions, a politician’s lack of progress or being seen as born into privilege become the focal point of the opposition – the proof that shows their lack power or the lack of fairness about their position of power. • Fairness: there was also a discussion about what’s ‘right’ when it comes to power. This covered a wide range of opinions united by a common thread of a sense of moral correctness. • A different type of power: some criticised the List for excluding a universal mother figure, something with a power all of its own.
  18. 18. WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS DID IT RAISE? The debate about the List also raised a number of other questions, beyond definitions or who should be on it. • What is the nature of power? We saw in the comments and discussions about the List that people struggle to properly understand what it means to be powerful. It’s hard for people to see or recognise power beyond their field of experience. • Is power worth having? The List celebrates the achievements of some, but doesn’t address the question of whether it’s something worth striving for. • Does the List help? Some questioned the value of the List overall. By excluding men and using a broad definition, they argue that the List fails to expose the true picture of inequalities and imbalances. • Should it include power from beyond our borders? Questions were raised about whether you have to be in the UK to have control over those who are?
  19. 19. CONCLUSION
  20. 20. STARTING A CONVERSATION The Woman’s Hour Power List aimed to start a conversation about women and power in the UK, analysing how women are making their mark and identifying where their voices are not being heard. In many ways it achieved this goal: • The online debate was widespread and varied. • It was picked up by traditional press who enabled different aspects and opinions to be aired. Some Guardian readers debated Foucault, some Mailonline readers talked about Kate, but in doing so they both explored the meaning of power and what it means to be powerful. • In creating this List Woman’s Hour was brave enough to put forward it’s own vision for people to agree with or rally against. Both sides forwarding the debate. • It allowed people to raise their concerns about the results and the lack of diversity, in all its forms. • It also allowed people to celebrate those who had made it on the List and applaud their achievements. For some, this is how we should be trying to inspire the young.
  21. 21. COMPLETING THE DEBATE This inaugural List was successful in starting a debate, but it could do more to address some legitimate concerns. Woman’s Hour could further strengthen the credibility of the List and its impact by taking into account the following concerns: • The definition (1): by including influence and inspiration in its definition of power Woman’s Hour made the definition of power part of the debate, rather than assessing who was on it and, more importantly, why. If it is to be a Power List, then it needs to follow a definition accepted by all who read it, if its something else (an influential List perhaps) then it should be called that. • The definition (2): power is a complex notion and the exercise of power in today’s world is hard for the layperson to properly comprehend. The List could help people better understand what it really means to be a CEO, or a Judge or the Queen. But without understanding what these positions are really about and the power they wield, there’s no way to really compare who is more powerful. And so any judgement on the rights or wrongs of who is on the List are made on shaky grounds.
  22. 22. COMPLETING THE DEBATE • Fairness: the concept of fairness is closely linked to the purpose of the List. This is tied into the challenges of defining power, but also speaks to a larger ambition for such a List. Some would prefer to see the List celebrate achievement and meritocracy which takes into account the journey and struggle that women have been through. Is it ‘right’ to celebrate inherited or privileged power; would it be ‘better’ to have a List that champions relative achievement? Should the List engage in affirmative action? • Method: many people weren’t aware or chose to ignore how the List was compiled. This led to claims of bias and unfairness. Also, compiling a List of 100 but only ranking the top 20 created confusion. Conclusion In terms of the online debate, Woman’s Hour achieved its aims with the Power List. It started a conversation about the nature of power, raised some important issues and celebrated the achievements of those on it. Further editions of the List could be strengthened by helping people better understand the nature of power, clarifying the aims and objectives of the List and more tightly defining what power means.
  23. 23. GET IN TOUCH Jeremy Hollow / Founder Somerset House, West Wing 3rd Floor T8, Strand, London WC2R 1LA t: 07799 415829 e: jeremy@listenandlearnresearch.com w: listenandlearnresearch.com #LALResearch Or connect on LinkedIn ABOUT US We’re here to help people see their world in a new or different way. We can do this because of the unique way we combine machine search with human understanding, research expertise and business acumen. The results help you think and act differently by letting you see your world from a new, social perspective.

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