FEATURE23 April 2024

Q&A with new MRS chair James Endersby: ‘We need to boost the perceived value of insights’

Features Inclusion People UK

After taking up the role of chair of the Market Research Society (MRS) this month, James Endersby talks to Liam Kay-McClean about his plans for the next two years.

James Endersby

How does it feel to be chair of MRS?
Exciting. Big shoes to fill! But I’m energised, have a fantastic board and a clear plan of what I would like to achieve. MRS celebrates its 80th year in 2026, and there is so much to celebrate about our MRS that champions and regulates our profession and that helps so many sectors, organisations, brands, products and governments make strategic decisions that impact us all.

What do you see as your main priorities for your term in office?
Well, first off, as chair it’s a huge privilege to get to work with such an incredibly talented and diverse group of board members and the brilliant team at MRS. Our sector is a ‘broad church’, and our current cohort of board members really does represent those from the hypothetical four corners of the market research and insights world.

As chair, my job is to run the board. I translate that into running a vibrant, engaged and effective board, and I’m keen to ensure we are all working to our strengths and passions, feel supported and with a strong voice. We all put ourselves forward to make a difference. We’re all volunteers with busy professional careers. So, it’s quite key to ensure we’re all able to dial up to our passions and lean in to where we can best make the biggest difference possible.

In terms of direction, and my key objectives for our board for the next 12 months at least, Jane Frost, Debrah Harding and the MRS staff are already doing incredibly well, but I’m keen for us to focus on three key elements: profile, champion, grow:

  1. PROFILE: We should help drive awareness of the hard work being done to raise the profile of the research, insights, data and analytics sector. We need to continue to boost the perceived value of insights and help procurement teams and budget holders understand just how priceless it really is
  2. CHAMPION: We should all join in to champion MRS, our people and continue to drive recognition: from underrepresented groups, to opening up the sector as a destination career, to championing the employees of MRS, and mobilising our fine Fellows
  3. GROW: We should help communicate the value of membership to client-side teams and agencies and just how their organisation’s membership of MRS will help develop their employees and team members. Having access to everything the Society offers members certainly has the potential of boosting retention levels in insight teams too, I’m convinced of that.

What is MRS’s role in the industry, in your opinion?
It’s a role that aligns quite closely with the three key objectives I just mentioned. More than 73,000 professionals now work in research and insight, with the UK sector worth £9bn. And so, the work MRS does has never been more important. As the regulator, we promote the highest professional standards. This of course enhances all of our work and therefore our reputation and boosts our profile.

The work MRS does raising our profile among all stakeholders enhances the actual and perceived value of our products and services; championing and developing our people, supporting and encouraging our diversity, driving recognition and making our sector a destination career. And of course, growing our membership so that more businesses – enterprise and agency-side – join MRS, so that their people can benefit and thrive, and so that MRS can continue to do more and more important work. It’s a virtuous cycle. If your organisation or team is not yet a member, I seriously hope you consider it. It’s a real no-brainer.

How will you look to build on the work of your predecessor as chair?
Sinead Jefferies did an absolutely fantastic job and the strides her board and the MRS made championing our people will have positive effects well into our future. I see my role as very much standing on the shoulders, building on the work, continuing to support the MRS team and positively influencing our sector.

That’s why I’m so excited about PCG (profile, champion, grow). As a board, we are going to use this to ensure we are all able to lean into the parts that match our skills, interests and passions. MRS is already on extremely steady footing. It’s our job to profile, champion and grow the society and sector as much as we can during our term.

What do you see as the most pressing issues facing the market research industry at the moment?
Diversity. Yes, we’ve made huge strides, but it’s clear we still have much to do to ensure we see this improved diversity at senior levels. But I’m hopeful that the hard work opening up our sector to those from all backgrounds today will see those colleagues rise through the ranks and take their seats at the top tables as they progress their careers.

How do you think the industry can tackle the issue?
It requires a full team effort from every organisation, recruiter, chief executive and insight director. End clients should also request that agencies have signed up and actively participate in the MRS inclusion pledge. I’m part of a small group led by the brilliant Mark Thorpe ensuring that the inclusion pledge really does help accelerate change in our sector.