Monday, November 12, 2012

TMRE 2012: Hey! Look at the Communications Majors!

Hey!  Look at the
Communications Majors!
Some years ago I heard a radio piece written by David Sedaris.  It revealed the details of a trip he took to Disney World with writer, Sarah Vowell.  This description alone sounds like a dream or a nightmare depending on how you think about it.  For them, it was a  nightmare.  Midway through the Disney Character Parade, David shouted, "Hey! Look at the Communications Majors!"  I always thought of this as a derogatory remark but in fact if he'd been looking across the spectrum of market researchers at the IIR's The Market Research Event 2012, he'd be pointing to the most successful at gaining a seat at the table.

Communications - of research methods, of strategic findings, of really everything we do is eclipsing the actual doing of research at least on the client side.  Let's face it, clients can and do outsource the heavy lifting on data collection and analysis.  What client side researchers do well is identify opportunities for research, for business growth, then become a catalyst for change.  BUT this can only be accomplished with strong communications skills.

Today's presentations began on a high note with Dipanjan Chatterjee, Senior Specialist, Trends for Target Corporation.  His illuminating presentation was communicated with memorable clarity as a combination of Carpe Diem and Kumbaya.  I giggled a little because I knew I was falling in love with this idea.  Seize the day and help everybody get along, hold hands, and grow together. His team took facilitation training to help them build consensus.  In the end, he suggests, this approach leads to an evolution from Intellectual Capital to a combination of Social, Political AND Intellectual Capital.  Could not have said it better myself.  Seriously.  I've tried many different ways to say this and plan to steal this profound concept (giving credit of course).  It's how you earn a seat at the table and that's a beautiful thing.

Later in the day, this same thread was revealed in a presentation by Theresa Farrell, Marketing Research and Analytics Technical Leader for Kimberly Clark Corporation.  She suggested that the hard won lesson of failed global research projects was a lack of planning and lack of alignment.  As a result, she's developed tools in-house to help build learning plans that tie to business strategy, strong hypotheses, and benefits to the company.  Then she assigns leadership roles to team members so they are accountable, she offers frequent project updates, and when the results are available she's developed an alignment process that results in co-ownership.  This intense effort to communicate objectives, progress and results was developed internally as a response to a painful process that was unsuccessful.  She demonstrated with numerous case studies that a good experiment is repeatable and the same holds true for an effective process for global market research.  It was outstanding.

The overarching lesson from both of these presentations is that we ALL should be Communications Majors.  Or we'll never have a parade to call our own.

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Today's guest post is from Kelley Styring. Styring is principal of InsightFarm Inc. a market research and consumer strategy consulting firm. She has led insights for Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, Black & Decker and NASA prior to founding her own firm in 2003. Kelley is a published author and has been featured in USA Today, ABC News, Good Morning America, Brandweek, Fortune, Quirk's Marketing Research and The Market Research Daily Report from RFL Online.

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