Insight communication is as important as great research

There is no point doing any market research or analysis unless it persuades somebody in your organisation to do something.

If our colleagues don’t do anything as a result of our insight, then our customers will not behave differently either.

And if our customers do not behave differently, then our Insight teams won’t have made any impact on our company profitability or our strategic goals.

It’s the way you tell ’em...

But, as progressive Insight leaders have always recognised, whether insights drive change has as much to do with how we disseminate them as with how insightful they are.

A great insight badly communicated will sink without trace.

A reasonable insight brilliantly communicated can spread like wildfire.

And yes, as most Insight teams are probably aware, there is indeed a market for dubious facts and superficial platitudes, professionally packaged and extortionately priced. Insight professionals sometimes call it "management consultancy"...

Insight influence and communication

In a previous article, we suggested that one key aspect of insight dissemination is Insight Influence.

We should aspire to be treated like trusted advisers in our organisations, building our credibility with senior decision makers, and putting ourselves in our stakeholders’ shoes to figure out the best way to use our knowledge to solve their problems.

But many client-side Insight teams work within large and complex organisations. Most of the teams which the IMA supports in the Insight Management Forum and Insight Management Network operate in national or multinational companies with tens of thousands of employees.

Many of these organisations aspire to put the customer at the heart of their business, and would like more and more decisions to be influenced by customer and market knowledge.

In this sort of environment, a focus on Insight Influence is critical but not enough.

Most key pieces of insight will be directed towards a particular business decision made by identified stakeholders. But the insight which emerges from our work will achieve a sub-optimal impact if we don’t also think about how to communicate it to others. We need to build a far wider range of communication skills, and deploy them to share our accumulated understanding.

Ultimately, a successful Insight team should be judged not only on its record of influencing stakeholders it knows, but also on its ability to routinely affect decisions which it didn’t even know were being taken.

Where should we start?

Any Insight team can follow these 3 steps:

1. Develop an Insight Communication Plan alongside your Insight Generation Plan.

If you don’t attempt to plan your communication, don’t be surprised if you fail to deliver it.

Two critical aspects to consider are your audiences and your content – and you can lead with either:

  • sometimes your Insight Communication will naturally start with the content itself; you have developed some analysis or completed a research project for one stakeholder, so you then think about secondary audiences for whom the new insight is also relevant.
  • equally you can start by considering your audiences (there will almost always be more than one). Which departments in your company have the most impact on customers and their perceptions of its services? What do you know which could help those departments do their jobs more effectively?

2. Look at the range of communication methods and channels available to you.

Don’t stop at PowerPoint or Excel, but consider workshops, videos, intranet portals, newsletters, posters, workbooks, postcards...

If you’re short of ideas, the IMA’s report on Insight Communication lists over 30 ways you can communicate insight, and what best practice looks like in each.

3. Consider the standards to aim for.

The more professional the communication, the more likely it is to succeed.

But there is a trade off between time spent and impact, so success is about working more smartly, not spending all day painting pretty pictures.

Further information

If you think that your Insight team could improve its ability to communicate, the IMA offers training on this and has also published a best practice report on Insight Communication. Please contact us for more information.

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