Stakeholder engagement lies at the heart of what we do as researchers. It’s vital to getting insights into an organisation and informing business critical decisions. We have seen great advancements in insight teams’ ability to better engage stakeholders in consumer research, with many teams able to get buy-in from their stakeholders to build and run qual communities and bring consumers to the heart of their business. But given the volume of qualitative data that a community yields, along with the naturally longer-term nature of this approach, many still face the challenge of how to engage stakeholders in the feedback consumers are giving.
So how do you engage your stakeholders in qual community feedback? Let’s take a look at some ideas.
All too often, we rely on summarising consumer feedback in a standard, data-driven research report. We think it is the obvious go-to, because whilst of course it is more focussed, our value is added through summaries, key quotes and drawing out our interpretations. And there is an assumption often made that when the report is sent, it is 95% complete. But the reality is much lower. And a report from an agency is likely only 60% complete — at least to what stakeholders require.
Why, we wonder? Because stakeholders don’t have the time or desire to sift through even the summarised deck of data. They need to make quick business decisions, and to do that, they need the key points of evidence outlined against recommended actions. So, when thinking about how we report community qual findings, we need to start looking at more creative reporting techniques to grab the attention of the decision makers and tell them what they need to know quickly and concisely and what they can do with this information.
Let’s look at some of the creative ways you could choose to report your community qual findings.
- What is it? — Some may know it as an action report and others may know it as a ‘So what?’ report. Often using PowerPoint (although it can also be presented in a word document), this report type takes the key results and links them to the implications and next steps for the decision-maker. It is more insight-driven than a traditional research report and provides key recommendations following discussions between the researcher producing it and the in-house insight team who knows the business.
- When it is useful? — This report type is perfect for sharing directly with your stakeholders for quicker decision making. It is a much shorter deck than a typical report, including only the pertinent data and it gives your stakeholders everything they need to make those quick decisions.
- Using with caution — This report does require some additional time commitment from the insight team to unpick the findings, understand the business context better and draw out recommendations that are actionable for the organisation. This is best done by creating the standard research report as part of the process and using it as a key document to inform such discussions. It is also worth bearing in mind just how stringent the time constraints are for your stakeholders. Even an action report may be too much detail, so it’s important to discuss with your stakeholders exactly what they need for their decision-making.
- What is it? — This type of report is most commonly presented in a word document or PDF and is more detailed about the research, formal in its approach and business-focused. It would cover details about the business challenge, method of analysis, findings, conclusions and recommendations — all in roughly 3–4 pages.
- When it is useful? — If your stakeholders are high-level business executives, this report may be exactly what they need to inform their key decisions. The report distils data into a short, business focused written format that leads with recommendations, supported by relevant insight, but gives everything needed to answer those difficult internal questions.
- Using with caution — This report type is not suited to every stakeholder. This level of detail is not always required, so again, conversations over what is needed to make business decisions are critical to the report choice.
- What is it? — We’re all pretty familiar with what an infographic is, so I won’t go into too much explanation here. Simply put, we know infographics as a visual story-telling report which draws out key data points via easily digestible chunks. These are ideal for raising awareness of key issues or opportunities across the business. Usually presented as an image or PDF, an infographic is short and should take no more than 5 minutes to read and digest.
- When it is useful? — When time is of the essence, an infographic is a perfect fit. Visual reports are much quicker and easier to read and can be shared with a wider audience, gaining buy-in from the wider business.
- Using with caution — It is easy for infographics to become over-used when they are chosen as a default option. I’m sure many of us have had that moment of ‘not another infographic!’ Such reactions can have the opposite effect that we’re looking for. Infographics also become very tricky to produce when your data is qual-heavy. For qualitative communities, this might not be your best solution.
- What is it? — I guess it does what it says on the tin… this reporting format uses video. Although there’s a little more to it than that. Similar to the use of an infographic, video reports are best used to tell a story to a wider audience. The advantage I feel a video report has over something like an infographic is the ability to offer narration, ensuring clarity of information and control over order.
- When it is useful? — Video reports grab the attention of stakeholders quickly, giving them a new way to digest data. The length of video reports should be kept to 2–3 minutes so you can tell your stakeholder everything they need to know with minimal time investment — what a massive plus given the volume of data you’d have from a qual community. This type of report can also be shared with the wider business to gain additional buy-in for your qual community.
- Using with caution — As researchers, I’m sure we can all admit we’re not film producers! This report type requires key involvement from an assortment of professionals to ensure it really hits the mark with your stakeholders. It can also be tricky to choose the right findings to present. Qual communities are often longer-term, so it can become costly and time consuming to produce video reports too frequently.
Immersion Workshop Session
What is it? — Setting aside a full morning or afternoon and inviting your stakeholders to a group workshop session will help to immerse them into your findings. Here, you have the opportunity to share research findings in whichever report format you’ve chosen, break down the data and generate group discussion to help decision makers translate insight into business questions and recommendations.
When it is useful? — Although time constraints are one of the biggest barriers to stakeholder engagement, running one session for a few hours where everyone can input is not only time-saving compared to reviewing reports, but also ensures everyone leaves the room on the same page.
Using with caution — Getting all stakeholders in one room at the same time for a few hours can be a challenge in itself. But the benefits of what your stakeholders take away from this session are well worth the time.
Leave a Lasting Impression
Even with this arsenal of options, it can be all too easy for stakeholders to be pulled in different directions when business priorities change. How many of us are faced with further questions about findings many weeks or even months down the line when stakeholders finally come up for air again? So, what can you do to achieve that longer-term engagement?
Well, last year we trialled a new format — Insight as Art. For 30+ consumer brands, we turned qualitative attitudes, opinions and beliefs (gathered from a short-term community) into unique works of art. This wowed decision makers and left them with something greater than words — a feeling.
Our artworks ranged from sketches, paintings, digital illustrations, physical installations and more. What we have learnt from these experiments and projects is the significant value in the abstract, and in developing creative reporting. These are still stimulating conversations and engaging stakeholders more than six months later. If you’d like to find out more, or get involved, drop me an email!
This article was originally published on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.