Most of our brains are seriously overloaded these days. This isn’t just an issue for individuals who spend too many hours scrolling through Twitter and Reddit. It’s a problem for companies too. The fact is that most organizations have too much data. We have corporate info-besity and, excuse the pun, right now most organizations are serving up the whole ‘beast’ – getting our colleagues to digest the entire animal – rather than ensuring we serve up the right cuts, packaged and presented in the best possible way to the most relevant audience.
But imagine the benefit to you and your organization if the insights and data you have were sought after and acted on, and if you were a team of trusted advisors within the business, with an increased budget and a strong influence on the strategic plan. Imagine you have created a customer-driven culture in your organization. This is the goal. This is what making insights famous looks like.
If you are struggling to work out where to start, here are my tips for turning that information beast into fine dining:
1. Invest in skills and knowledge
Although the Kardashians of the world may make you think otherwise, there is generally a correlation between fame and talent. Whether it’s singing, making people laugh, or providing valuable, actionable insights to facilitate business growth, fame requires a special skill or something to help you stand out. However, even the most talented individual has a trained team of communicators behind the scenes who are dedicated to building and maintaining their reputation.
So, start by thinking about how much your organization invests in conducting research, and compare this to your budget for communicating the data and insights you generate. Most clients we speak to have not even considered investing in communicating insights. However, to make the most out of your data, communications need to be given more attention, and communication skills need to be viewed as essential, not just a ‘nice to have’. This means not only storytelling, but also visual design, graphic, and copywriting skills that are often lacking in insights.
A lot of our clients lean hard on their research agencies to help them gain maximum impact from their data, but in my experience, agencies often don’t have the capacity, experience, or skills to deliver the kind of communication impact that client companies need. In addition, we suggest teams appoint an individual focused on internal communications as part of their role, and that insight teams more generally need to develop their communication skills as a core KPI.
2. Know your audience
Knowing your audience is of course rule number one of effective communication. To build fame, you need to know who you want to be known by. When we talk about communication in the insights industry, we’re often referring to influencing the C-Suite. And while establishing this direct line to senior management is important, it sometimes means that other stakeholders are overlooked. These neglected groups are often the people who need consumer insight the most, but they rarely know anything about it, or even if they do, they lose interest once their insight project is completed. In fact, our research shows that even in some of the world’s leading consumer brand organisations, many employees think consumer insights do not matter to them at all. If you are to put the consumer at the heart of your organization, you need to make the contribution of the insights team famous.
The inconvenient truth from our work across many leading brands is that internal audiences often work in silos and the messages from insights are not getting through. But this works both ways. To be able to communicate effectively with your internal teams, you need to get to know them. It’s essential that you understand who they are, what their work involves, how customer insight can impact that, their existing knowledge of the insights team and its role, and who they pay attention to. Then you can work out the best way to reach them. Once you have the information, you can set realistic SMART objectives and KPIs for your communications that you can review as you move forward.
3. Have a plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When creating your plan, think about the different ways you can deliver your message without relying on emailing a PowerPoint. Your plan should be based on the findings from your research into what interests your target groups within the business. We would recommend including a variety of content such as infographics, newsletters, videos, white papers (using different channels such as email), your social networks, internal publications, events, and TV. But remember, it is far better to do one thing well than 10 things badly, so be realistic and identify what will give the most value for your efforts. Remember: ‘Less is More’!
4. Don’t be boring
For the plan to be effective, the content you communicate has got to be of interest to your audience. This involves choosing the right channels for communication, selecting subject lines to grab attention, and using short, punchy copy to maintain engagement.
So, when creating content, it’s a good idea to start by defining your tone of voice. This should characterize the way your team communicates – the methods you choose, and the words and images you use to influence how your audience views you. Are you innovative and dynamic, or reliable and trustworthy? Once your voice is established, all your content should utilize this tone to build a consistent, recognizable persona.
For every campaign or project, you must also define the key overriding message that you want to get across. To pin this messaging down, at Keen as Mustard we always use a creative brief – a short document, at maximum 800 words – to succinctly capture the information for a project. What is the one thing you want people to know about your team or about your work? This brief should be shared and agreed upon within the team, signed off, and used to judge and assess ongoing work. It’s essential that you do not ask people to judge creative work unless they have reviewed and agreed with the creative brief. If they are not included in the brief, they are then consumers of the communication – not creators or influencers – and their comments are likely to be distracting.
5. Commit and inspire
My final tip for overcoming insight communication nightmares is simply to try. Commit, experiment, try different things, test, measure, pilot, and use your learnings to build the most dynamic and impactful communications you can. Many clients simply do not give fame-building the time it needs, or make the right strategic decisions at the outset to be able to deliver the impact.
Sometimes one simple exercise might be all you need to do to create the buzz, the ‘water-cooler’ moments you are seeking. Other times it will be a hard slog of ongoing trial and error before you start to build the influence you seek.