I remember my first job out of grad school working for a consumer packaged goods company in Chicagoland. I was so excited, my first job of my new career, so ready and eager to make a difference. I was a marketing research professional my job was to be a trusted advisor to the brand team, the consumer empathy link, surely a position that was revered in the company.
My manager quickly burst my bubble when she told me “ It can be a little rough at times because we as researches often have to fight for a place at the table.” It was my first time, but not my last, hearing about this mythical table at which I would have to earn a seat. A place where marketing researchers have the ear of the company’s senior executives. Why is it so darn hard to get a place at this table?
As it stands marketing research may always lament that it is hard to have a place at the table. Marketing research organizationally is not usually a front line function. There is often no profit and loss (P&L) responsibility for marketing researchers. We are there to help those that have that P&L responsibility make sound strategic decisions. If marketing researchers were in the band they would be the back-up singers that help the lead singer look good. Some may argue that's ok this is where researchers stand in the organization, so they should just get used to it.
I personally think that there are things that researchers can do to stand out in their organizations. I think that researchers have some opportunities to brand themselves and their departments. Researchers are often the front line to understanding consumers, which is important. They are often working on studies that give their organization insight into what makes consumers tick. The issues with visibility of the marketing researchers’ work and contribution can often come from that fact that researchers seem to conduct research in a vacuum; there is often not a chance for the research to have legs beyond the study that it is attached to. The findings are presented to the internal client, hopefully the recommendations made are taken and after that it’s on to the next study. There is a solution.
Let your organization know what you are working on!
At my last corporate research position one of the things that I did was to leverage the company intranet and work with the communications department to write articles about some of the primary research that was being conducted. I would write the article and talk to the person that the research was conducted for to make sure that it was okay to share with the organization at large. Usually, the internal client was happy to share the findings. I would turn the research into an article. I would ask the research requester or someone on the team to give a quote for the article to help bring the research to life a bit more.
There is also an opportunity to leverage secondary research and turn that into articles as well, using the information to link to insights that have specific implications for your company.
I also created a newsletter were I compiled the important highlights and occurrences in the research department. I would talk about things like key studies, conference attendance, and even pertinent marketing research team life events. Again, I utilized the intranet to convey this news to the organization at large. The results where met with success because people at all levels of the organization were interested in what we were doing. I used my skills in writing and communication to lift the veil and mystique on research so that it was clearer to people what value was being added.
Essentially what I was doing was doing marketing research public relations. Here are some simple ways to do your marketing research pr:
- Leverage existing research and look for ways to expand the audience giving key insights that relate to the organization at large. This can be done with primary and secondary research.
- Look for ways to turn research into articles and white papers bringing in your internal partners to add texture and context to the research through quotes.
- Utilize intranets and other company infrastructure to disseminate information to the organization. I was able to build a marketing research website on the company intranet. If this is not an option at your company you could always build a distribution list and send out communications that way.
- Take away some of the mystery that can surround research in your organization. Record your research presentations and create listening libraries for your company.
- Use a communications calendar to help organize and keep track of the communications that you are sending out. Also you may want to conduct an audit with key stakeholders to see preferred communications methods and/or frequency.
- Look for ways to add unexpected elements to the information that you are conveying. My unexpected methods were using humor in my writing and I found that worked for me. Again, I think the marketing research pr audit will help you understand the ways that you can infuse unexpected elements into your communications.
My list is not exhaustive just some methods that I have used in the past. I do think it is time for marketing researchers to get up off the wall and join the party. Show off their work and nudge their way to that table. What ways would you use to enhance the way your research is communicated in your organization?