Living here in the UK as I do, I’m all too aware of the impact of not reaching out and giving the right people a voice. Brexit, and the surprise surrounding the country’s vote to leave illustrated this point, and we’re now in a bit of a mess because of it.
As actor Rizwan Ahmed put it so beautifully, 'Diversity sounds like an optional extra. Representation is fundamental to what to expect from our culture. When people don't feel represented, you get extremism, division, and lose out on our full potential.'
Brands and organisations need to be aware of these dangers also. Whether trying to come up with some new product ideas, learn from potential new target customers or testing concepts with existing customers, the fact remains that if you kick your research off by speaking to the wrong people, you’ll get the wrong results. The net effect can be disastrous. You can burn a lot of money developing something that the real audience don’t want or need, such as Coca-Cola’s notorious introduction of ‘New Coke’ in the 1980s. The difference being that unlike the Coca-Cola researchers, you yourself could end up losing your job.
The point here is that research isn’t just about asking the right questions in the right way, it’s as much about doing what you can to reach far and wide to engage the right people. Of course, who the right people are depends on your project requirements. The right people, those who need representation, might be marginalised communities or ethnic minorities, they could be from the bleeding edge. Or they could simply be a nationally representative sample, whatever that is!?
No matter who they are, online research enables you to go that extra mile, literally. It means you can go beyond the people that live within a certain radius of a focus group facility. It means you talk to people you might not have traditionally known how to.
Perhaps more importantly, it gives these people a voice, at a time when they are often forgotten, ill-represented or ignored because of the extra effort that is falsely deemed required to connect with them.
One of the most important online research communities that Further conducted was for Macmillan Cancer Support, working with Forum Research. The client wanted to better understand the inequalities in cancer care provided to LGBT and BAME cancer patients, as well as older patients across the UK.
Traditional methods of research would have struggled to reach and engage such individuals and enable open discourse over sustained periods. An online research community enabled the client to find and engage this group in deeply sensitive subjects and handle open and frank discussions.
Corporate Social Responsibility is another area where listening to the right voices is critical towards understanding the value organisations are truly delivering to society. Recent research by the Harvard Business Review illustrates the potential CSR has but shines a light on poor practice and delivery. Online research and associated engagement techniques can benefit these areas, not least in providing the ability to hear first-hand what the impacts are, and how society is really evolving.
Healthcare, pharmaceutical, governmental and social research studies, as well as more traditional consumer market research, can give the right people a voice, but only if compromises on time and budgets are reviewed. Quick turnaround research that delivers good enough results is a big thing right now, but be warned of the perils of speaking to those that sit only on research access panels - they are not the majority, nor are their motivations to participate necessarily the right ones.
Researchers have the tools and the capabilities now to go deeper into those dark corners where research didn’t tend to go. You can do it quickly, cost-effectively, and not compromise on quality. Challenge your client, enable them to enable you to go out, reach far and wide, and speak to the right people, not just those that are the quickest and cheapest to find.
To learn more about how to find and engage and learn from and with people in hard-to-reach places, email firstname.lastname@example.org