Throughout my research career, I have been part of amazingly successful and not so successful thought leadership research. Learning from this success and failure is something I have tried to apply throughout my career. Through these experiences I have learnt that success in PR and thought leadership research delivers two key things:
- Business growth opportunities and pipeline:Research must be a commercial tool and assist the sales and marketing teams with driving revenue. Research is expensive, requiring financial investment and internal resource so you must demonstrate a return on investment.
- Enhanced brand perception and chatter about the brand:Shares, likes, comments and posts are the bread and butter of thought leadership research. Ensuring communications are reaching your audience is essential to get the maximum benefit from your research.
To achieve success I have devised the following six rules:
- Pursue an innovative, well founded insight.Must be thought provoking and different, aligning with the brand and the conversations you want to own. This is the foray of the PR agency and client working together to find that watershed insight.
- Develop a simplistic and actionable research model. Moving from the theory to a research model and eventually research questions is when most research falls down. Always check with the research agency to ensure the theory can be proven by research.
- Conduct a pilot test before going live. Build in a pilot survey to test that the model is delivering what is expected. The pilot test builds confidence, provides a heads up on likely stories and informs tweaks required in the questionnaire design.
- Invest in reliable research and sample sizes. Customised surveys using a reputable online panel company or telephone field agency is key. Sample sizes should be built from understanding the target audience to provide robust and statistically valid numbers.
- Link results to the product portfolio or business activity. You have developed a theory, produced a questionnaire and now have the data which is exciting. Now how do you use it beyond the PR release? Link the results to the brand offer, discussions you want to have or your product portfolio. This will excite the sales team and drive revenue for the business.
- Make the results look engaging: Packaging up the data and report in an impactful way is really important. Here is an example from Microsoft which has really taken data storytelling to the next levelhttps://www.joinedupinnovation.com.au/start/
Above all, plan before diving in and always design thought leadership research with the end in mind: What conversations do you want to own? How will this drive revenue?