In the world of market research, knowledge management and communication skills go hand in hand. It’s not enough for insights professionals to know all the details and meaningful insights of their research: they must also know their different audiences and share the context and insights that matter to each stakeholder group. (If they can do that while injecting some style and humor to make the insights more memorable, that’s even better.)
In this entry of our Future of Knowledge at Work series, we caught up with insights leader Danielle Todd to learn how she balances knowledge management and communication skills, how she sees technology impacting agency and client collaboration, and much more.
Danielle is an Insight Director at Relish, a London-based market research agency that has worked with leading brands such as Sky, McCormick, and Unilever. She recently joined the advisory board of Women in Research (WIRe) and was named an IIeX GRIT Future Leader in 2020. She has also contributed articles to insights industry publications including GreenBook, ESOMAR, and MRS and presented at IIeX, MRS, and ESOMAR events.
Check out our interview below.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a country lass in the big city of London, with two degrees in social sciences, and eight years of experience built in insight consultancy. I wear a few hats including my Insight Director role at Relish: I have recently joined the WIRe advisory board as well as being the London event lead, and I sit on the MRS Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Council. Outside of that I spend a lot of time studying topics that fascinate me like feminist theory, dystopian futures, and natural history. I am also an avid CrossFitter, I started competing last year, and am currently training for The Open.
What led you to start your career in market research?
Curiosity and failure. I failed to secure PhD funding after my Masters, and after a brief stint in charity-based research, moved to London for opportunities. I fell in love with insight because it meant leveraging your curiosity to find out and generate things that others didn’t know, balanced with an astute perspective and presenter’s ability to tell a story fairly and accurately. That’s still my favorite part of what I do—presenting to clients, or on stage, and providing a moment of clarity, reframing, or humor for an audience!
What knowledge do you rely on most in your role as Insight Director at Relish?
Understanding people. Technology, platforms, and expectations constantly evolve, but what remains at the heart of what we do well is a deep understanding of people. The importance of this was brought sharply into the light when COVID-19 hit and people were facing brand new situations and challenges. Whether it’s clients, colleagues or consumers, demonstrating empathy and understanding the ‘why’ sitting behind attitudes and behaviors is an integral skill.
Based on your experience as an Insight Director at a market research consultancy, what do you think are some of the biggest knowledge management challenges in your industry?
I think the main challenge we face is clarity: clarity in what it is that we’re generating, and what it is we’re sharing. Is it data? Information? Insight? Or direction? These are all different things, and establishing expectations from the get go is vital. There are some fantastic data sharing platforms, and some good information sharing platforms, but the way insight is both delivered and received is crucial to its utility and ability to drive direction in a business.
Thoughts on how new technologies are changing the way agencies collaborate and share insights with their clients?
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the necessity of technology to keep us connected. And for years, technology platforms have made it easier to share data and information. The value of these platforms is knowing what they deliver, and when it’s important. Insight and knowledge management itself is a patchwork, and appreciating when to build on these platforms with insight will help us move forward what we do and how to use insight well. Especially in the last year, we’ve seen new technologies allowing greater and quicker collaboration across agencies and clients—that 15-minute chat, or consistently checking in as conversations and needs evolve feels easier over a quick Zoom. (Although I am looking forward to a good coffee and chat in person when we can!)
What best practices would you recommend for capturing and sharing knowledge both internally and with clients?
Firstly, understand your audience. Knowing what they need, and what’s driving that need, is critical to them being receptive to the insight and knowledge you’re sharing. Spend time getting to the heart of what is really important and why—then you know all you need to know about what knowledge and insight really matters to them. Secondly, make it fun! We are constantly at risk of information saturation and can only take on so much. Don’t turn up to an important meeting or presentation and tell clients everything you know, tell them what they want to know. And if you can inject some style, some humor, or some fun into this, it’ll make it that much more memorable for the audience.
You recently joined the Women in Research (WIRe) advisory board—can you tell us a little about that organization and your role there?
WIRe is a global non-profit aimed at addressing gender inequality and barriers to progression for women. I’ve been involved with WIRe since the beginning of my career and recently joined the Advisory Board as an Event Liaison. We host events in over 20 cities across the world, bringing together women and women allies in discussing how to overcome progression barriers, for mentoring and to network and learn how to create opportunities. One thing I’ve missed about not being able to host in-person events is those informal conversations that arise in safe and brave spaces where people are trying to learn, grow and connect with others. I can’t wait to host in-person events again!
With the rapid shifts in consumer behavior and mindsets we’ve seen in the past year, what do you think are the biggest takeaways for market researchers going forward?
Do the basics well. Have frequent conversations, demonstrate empathy in both generating and sharing insight, get to the heart of what really matters, and have fun. These are core skills that’ll serve us well during any time, but especially during a period of continued uncertainty and change.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expertise with us, Danielle!
If you enjoyed this interview, check out some of our other interviews with insights leaders:
Priscilla McKinney on Empathy, Knowledge Management, and Context in Marketing
Roben Allong on Cultural Insights and a Recalibration in Market Research
Michaela Mora on Connecting Research and Combating Hubris
Overstock’s Kamelia Aryafar on AI and an Experiment-Driven Culture