What does communicating results mean?

Over the last 20 years the understanding of what communicating market research results means has changed. It used to be something that described what the researcher delivered. Today, the focus is on what is understood and what actions result from it.

The old view of communicating results
Communicating market research results used to mean producing something that:

  • Was clearly written
  • Had all the relevant information
  • Had clear recommendations

Communicating was viewed as an output. Indeed market researchers often used the term ‘deliverables’ to describe this output. When the communication was delivered, the job was done.

However, that has changed.

Communication is about what is heard, not what is said!
Consider the cartoon below.

Lottery Cartoon

The researcher in the cartoon might feel she had communicated the findings quite clearly. However, the reaction to the report was not the outcome the researcher hoped for – which means the communication failed.

Evaluating communication
Communication must be evaluated in terms of the message that has been received by the recipient, and ideally by the actions the recipient then takes.

In the lottery example above, the minimum goal for the researcher is for the client to understand that the research says playing the lottery is foolish. The ideal outcome is that the client understands that playing the lottery is foolish and so decides to stop playing it.

It still has to be based on research!
An engaging story from a market researcher, that communicates an idea, and that leads to action has to be based on evidence. The researcher’s evidence will typically have to be made available, so that the story could be checked and so that other narratives might be derived from it.

Focusing on the impact of the communication does not remove any of the rules of good research, or good presenting, or good report writing. Focusing on the impact is an additional and essential step in how to communicate research results.

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