Questions to Ask Before You Curate and Share Your Research

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    We’re excited to share this guest post from Diana Powell. Powell is a marketing and customer insights professional with experience in both large CPG and small non-profit organizations. She understands the knowledge storage/saving pains of both worlds and is passionate about reducing churn and disorganization in the workplace.

    Within insights and marketing teams, there is a lot of focus on mining “big data” collected from multiple sources over the years and trying to draw correlations. This will continue to be a topic of interest as companies uncover new ways of collecting mass amounts of data to identify patterns and trends. However, I’ve noticed that while many insights organizations do a great job tagging and analyzing their raw data, they don’t do such a good job communicating and distributing the findings, which is still a responsibility of the human insights professional and not a robot.

    Working as an insights manager in a large organization, the last thing I ever wanted was to complete a large research project and have it rot in a pile of “nice to have” research. After all, the reason we spend so much time hypothesizing, gathering, collecting, testing, analyzing, and communicating in the first place is to uncover unique insights which our business can use to better serve our customers, not to make pretty paperweights (unless you’re in the paperweight business, in which case you’re in a win-win situation).  

    On the flip side, researchers know that sometimes an insight taken out of the context of the full report can be even more dangerous to your business. This reality has caused many insights professionals over the years to guard their research, especially their raw data and survey results,to ensure a VP in some random department doesn’t grab the responses to the question about “describing your perfect wedding gown” and apply it to a new line of free weights.

    The risk in holding your research too tightly, though, is that it doesn’t get used.

    Research sharing is a critical component of your job as an insights professional. Here are four simple questions to ask yourself that can help you better distribute and share your research.

    Who Is Your Audience?

    One of the big reasons I like using a knowledge sharing platform to store my final research is the ability to control who has access to my report with features like groups and communities. Controlling who can see the content not only protects you from sources who may take it out of context, but also gives you the ability, as the author, to create content with the end user in mind. How can you best craft your story for these particular readers? What format or context will be easiest for them to work off?

    How Could This Help Others? (What Are the Key Takeaways?)

    Whatever tool you use for research sharing, make sure you have space to describe what content the reader is looking for and spell out your takeaways clearly and concisely. Yes, maybe it takes one more minute when you’re uploading your file, but what’s one minute spent providing context in comparison to the weeks or sometimes years that you’ve been working on this project? Take the time and make sure the key details of the document or report are apparent to someone who hasn’t been as intimately involved with the project as you have.

    How Could This Be Taken Out of Context?

    As an organization, decide on a protocol for publishing research. Do you always include the “behind-the-scenes” research such as relevant articles, questionnaire(s), data files, or older drafts, or do you simply publish your final report?

    In my experience, saving the “behind-the-scenes” content is very helpful for other members of your insights organization, but the general public probably just needs the final. You may have a colleague ask you about how you classified lifestyles in your questionnaire so they can repeat that language in a different study, so having that information readily accessible can save time.

    For general readers, think of their limited exposure to the steps leading to the final report, and deliver easily-digestible content with action-oriented insights called out explicitly. They asked you to look into the hypotheses after all, so just tell them the key takeaways in context.

    How Long Will This Be Relevant?

    An easy way to lose credibility with your internal and external stakeholders is to let time-sensitive research live past its “sell-by” date.  If someone is looking for the latest innovation in media and a whitepaper about the introduction of satellite dishes comes up, you’re doing it all wrong.  Make sure that whatever tool you are using to store and distribute your content can include an “expiration” or “reminder” date. By allowing technology to self-edit and remove irrelevant content at the time you deem appropriate, you won’t have to regularly dig through all your files manually to remove the irrelevant or replaced documents. Consider the lifetime of your research before sharing it.

    Asking these questions of your research sharing strategy might seem like you’re creating extra work, but trust me, a little effort now will pay off nicely in the days and months ahead when it only takes you a matter of minutes to distribute your research and you can move on to your next project without any manual upkeep. Remember, knowledge is power, but only if you and your team can find it!

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