As various industry groups position themselves in the campaign to “Keep America Meeting,” the Incentive Research Foundation is more like a wise observer, listening and learning rather than pontificating. But when IRF does speak, its observations are always full of insight.

“Our role is to provide the foundation on which people can get the word out about incentives,” said Frank Katusak, IRF president, during an interview at the foundation's annual Incentive Invitational, held in Palm Springs, Calif., May 14-17. “That way, when they make statements, they're based on solid research.”

The nonprofit IRF has seen a huge spike in downloads of its ROI research, available for free at Katusak views this as an indication that reporters and others are using it to educate themselves. “Our mission is research and education — not lobbying,” he explained.

Education — as well as lobbying — is what politicians and the media need when it comes to incentives, according to a just-released IRF Pulse Survey. (The foundation conducts four of these trends surveys each year, in addition to in-depth research studies.) When respondents were asked which specific actions could help to properly communicate the value of incentives, they said:

  • explain/educate on the value/ROI of incentive programs (37 percent),

  • lobby/educate government on program value/ROI (35 percent), and

  • lobby/educate press about benefits of incentive programs (30 percent).

The majority of respondents — 65 percent — said they consider the current political climate to be “unfavorable” for the incentive industry.

Katusak said the IRF is considering new ways of disseminating its research, including webinars. “Our strength is that we take scientific, objective research and make it usable,” he explained. “We do the analysis and draw the conclusions, then turn that into press releases.” In response to the new Pulse Survey and feedback during the Invitational, the IRF may launch a public relations campaign focused on mainstream media. A large majority of participants felt that media outlets are “branding” the incentive industry and that PR concerns are the main reason CEOs are canceling programs.