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Future-proofing your research findings

As a research agency, when our work on the research project ends, it is often only the beginning of work for those who are using it. Research projects come and go, lasting anywhere between a few days to a few months.

However, for those of our clients in the communication, marketing and PR space, research is often a small part of what could be a year-long campaign or planned content calendar.

Therefore, it is important we understand how our research is going to be used, so that this can be carefully considered in the design of each project.

When designing research for content purposes, it is easy to get swept up in trying to create questions that will lead to headline-hitting stats or a compelling narrative, but another important dimension to consider is longevity.

How to design a newsworthy piece of research that is future-proof?

To explain this, here are a handful of use cases and also a gist of what our clients’ common questions and assumptions are.

Client challenge: “I need X number of responses for this research to attract media attention”

Our advice: Maximise sample size

While it is true, sample size does impact how robust and reliable our data is and whether it is representative enough for the media to trust its validity, it can also be a way of squeezing more out of your research.

A larger sample size gives you more scope to break down the data by different angles, such as company size, sector, department or seniority for B2B studies. In B2C studies, you could look at nuances in the data by generation, region or gender, to give a few examples.

Therefore, a larger sample size also gives our clients several more avenues to explore within the data, leading to multiple story angles rather than being limited to just the overall picture.  


Client challenge: “We don’t have enough budget for a global study, let’s focus on ‘X’ market”

Our advice: Weigh out the benefits of going global

Including another country in your research does require translation and potentially additional sample, both of which come at a cost. However, the added value this brings to your study is much greater than the cost.

To bring this to life, 2-3 extra questions in a survey might give you 2-3 additional talking points or an additional hook or two for your narrative, however, an additional market might highlight an entirely new narrative.  

Therefore, if budgets are tight, one way to balance your costs and get the most bang for your buck might be to reduce the length of your survey slightly in favour for a few more responses in another market.


Client challenge: “Our client operates in X space, therefore, this is who we want to speak to”

Our advice: Include diverse perspectives

While you may have a clearly defined audience for who you sell your product or service to, ultimately, your products and services will impact a much wider audience and their perspective might be an interesting one to capture.

In the world of B2B, businesses often sell to one audience: those who make purchase or implementation decisions for their organisation — we call these the ‘choosers’.

However, your product or service will impact a number of other people throughout every business. It is not always the case that those who buy your product or service are the ones who use it, and those who do, well, we call those the ‘users’.  

Adding another audience to your survey gives you an extra dimension to compare and contrast your findings to. Not only are you able to look at the overall picture (all audiences combined), and the narrative of each audience in turn, you can also directly compare and contrast the responses of both audiences against one another.

For example, in a recent study we ran for an HR technology provider, we surveyed both HR decision makers (the ‘choosers’) as well as the employees (the ‘users’, or those who will be impacted by the technology) and looked at where responses mirrored one another and where they differed.


Assumption: “In order to get into key media, we need to be coming up with original material”

Our advice: Design for the future

Alongside considering which of your questions could be headline material, when thinking about the longevity of your research, you may also want to consider how to craft questions that stand the test of time.

Think: “If I asked this question again in a years time, would it still be relevant?”

You should also be thinking about creating questions that you can track year-on-year. This brings another element for comparison as well as a point of differentiation or ‘newness’, which can appeal to media.

While it can be difficult to know what trends will still be relevant in a year, rather than try to predict the future, consider asking your audience questions about their sentiment towards certain life or business aspects, e.g., “How do you feel about your current financial situation?


Assumption: “I am looking for X headline from this question”

Our solution: Optimise question types

A single question doesn’t need to lead to a single headline. In fact, unless a specific headline requires us to use a direct ‘yes’ or ‘no’ single select option question, we tend to avoid using these as you just don’t get enough context out of the findings. Headlines are more impactful if you can create a point of reference.

1. Think about how you word your questions

We believe that you should always be able to gain at least two pieces of information from every question. Take the example below:

Question: [ASK ALL THOSE WHO WORK IN LONDON] Do you cycle in to work? Select one

  • Yes
  • No

=> Headline: 32% of people in London currently cycle to work

Question: [ASK ALL THOSE WHO WORK IN LONDON] How confident do you feel cycling in to work? Select one

  • I cycle to work and have no concerns (feel fully confident)
  • I cycle to work, and I am fairly confident
  • I cycle to work but don’t feel entirely confident
  • I cycle to work but don’t feel very confident at all
  • I don’t cycle to work because I don’t feel fully confident and would not be open to cycling
  • I don’t cycle to work but would be open to doing so in the future if I felt more confident
  • I don’t cycle to work and would not be interested but have no concerns

=> Headline: While 32% of people currently cycle to work in London, less than 5% of those feel fully confident doing so. Furthermore, over a quarter would consider cycling in to work if they felt more confident doing so.

With the above example, by tweaking the question design slightly, you have tripled the amount of information you gain from a single question.

And, by asking about sentiment (in this case, confidence/concern when cycling) you have created a question which can stand the test of time and easily be tracked over time because regardless of the changing worldly trends or environment, sentiment is something you can always ask about.

2. Include grid questions

In addition to the above, we would also recommend including a grid question or two within your survey.

Question: How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? Select one per row

Scale: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree

Statements:

  1. Climate change will significantly impact our business in a number of ways
  2. Businesses in my sector that aren’t making a significant investment in AI now will start to lose clients/customers to this competitive edge
  3. It is harder now than it ever was to hire the right candidate for the role
  4. With the role AI will play in our organisations, soft employee skills are becoming increasingly important
  5. Overall, our business makes a positive contribution to people and the planet

Grid questions include a range of statements your audience can agree or disagree to, such as in the example on the left.

While grid questions are more time-consuming for our survey audiences to consider and respond to, for the space of two questions within your survey, your return is up to 5+ information points, depending on how many statements you include.

With the above in mind, a ten question survey now at the very least doubles in value in terms of information points.


So how many questions do you really need to create an impact?

By implementing strategies like maximising sample size, going global, including diverse perspectives, designing for the future, and optimising question types, you can significantly enhance the longevity and impact of your research findings, with only a few targeted questions.

Additionally, these strategies will also help make your budget go further!

Approaching and designing your research with the above in mind will provide you with a deeper data set with the ability to generate multiple angles to explore over time, transforming your research into a versatile, long-term asset.

The goal with this type of research isn’t simply to generate immediate headlines, but to create a robust foundation of data, contributing to your marketing, content and communications strategies for months or years to come.

Remember, the true power of research findings lies in their sustained value over time. Embrace these principles to transform your research from a one-time endeavour into an enduring resource that continues to yield insights and drive success.


Want to know more about breathing life into market research for longevity?

Listen to our CEO Andrew White and Lee Simpson, Head of Technology Practice at Skout PR discuss how your can use insights to build year-long content programs.

How to leverage market research for content and thought leadership?
Breathing life into market research for longevity

And if it feels too overwhelming, get in touch with us here for a free consultation.

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