NEWS2 November 2021

Language of insight should focus more on impact, finds research

Asia Pacific News North America UK

UK, US & AUSTRALIA – The language used by the market research industry should evolve to elevate the status of insight to the most senior levels of organisations, according to research by the Market Research Society, the Insights Association and The Research Society.

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Through a series of international roundtables with clients and suppliers, the research explored the key issues facing the sector and profession.

One of the challenges identified in the roundtable discussions was that insight doesn’t always have the same status with C-level executives and boards as other professions.

Maslansky + Partners, a research business focused on messaging and language, led the roundtables with heads of insight at client organisations and leaders from supply-side research businesses to explore whether the industry is facing a language challenge.

Lee Carter, president and partner at Maslansky + Partners, said: “Insight doesn’t always have the same seat at the table as some other professions. For example, chief marketing officers have changed how they talk about themselves over time to be much more strategic – it wasn’t always that the CMO had a seat at the table.

“Insights helps decision-making, drives efficiency and helps investments go further and yet we’re often seen as very tactical. We don’t always use language to our advantage.”

The roundtable discussions first mapped out the barriers facing research, including:

  • Insight often isn’t seen as driving commercial results
  • Sometimes communication about research overemphasises methodology rather than impact
  • Research can be seen as a long process
  • Research is not always presented in a compelling way
  • The outcome or value of research is not always clear
  • Research is viewed as project-based rather than focusing on the whole business challenge or part of an ongoing conversation.

The roundtables also examined the language used by other professions, including marketing, management consulting and customer experience.

Carter said: “The key takeaway we identified is that we really need to focus more on our impact and less on our activity and really make sure that whenever we’re talking about what we do that we’re talking about how we measure and articulate our value to the business – what’s the ROI of what we’re offering?”

Additionally, there is an opportunity for the sector to position itself as driving business efficiency by helping organisations make smarter business decisions.

Storytelling was also found to be important for showcasing the business impact of research, looking towards management consulting as an example of an industry that carries out research and then frames it as part of a wider solution to a business problem.

The research recommended breaking the language of research down into three categories: what insight is; what insight does; and what insight means.

Maslansky added: “Insights are central to a well-run business, and so we could talk about ourselves as a decision engine for better business decisions, an investment into decision-making, intelligence capital for your business.

“We could maybe talk about turning information into intelligence, connecting customer value and shareholder value, driving business efficiency, working across and breaking down organisational siloes, and offering less hindsight and more foresight – because a lot of other business areas look backwards, even financial. Also, it could be about doing things right, with our eyes wide open and our customers and target audiences in mind. Those are just examples of frames that we would build on for further messaging.”

The three member organisations are now seeking wider engagement from the research and insight community on the initial findings.

Jane Frost, chief executive, Market Research Society noted: “This is work that shows how much we can do working globally with the US and Australia as well as across the client-agency boundary.

“We all know semantics lead behaviours. We in research need to frame the language of our debates if we are to move to more sustainable strategic partnerships with budget and stakeholders, away from tactical ad hoc positions. It is the fundamental basis of why we believe, here in the UK, in the concept of intelligence capital.

“I am deeply grateful to Maslansky for facilitating a very rich discussion across nations to date – a discussion that proves how much more we could do.”      

Melanie Courtright, chief executive, Insights Association, commented: “The language of our profession should reflect the importance of the strategic guidance we provide and the impact we make to the balance sheets of brands. 

“We need to own our contributions and success and talk about it in ways that are meaningful to the board and the executive suite. Other industries have taken the journey of elevating their professional brand language and perception, and it’s time for us to do the same.”

Peter Harris, board director, The Research Society, added: “Any discussion designed to elevate the role and status of insights with C-suites and boards is key to delivering long- term value to our membership. Working with research industry thought leaders in the UK and US is always beneficial as it expands our thinking.”