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How to tell stories with your online qual

Published 07 Jul 2021 4 minute read

Online qual

Online qualitative research delivers a lot of deep, contextual data and insight into people’s behaviours and attitudes. But this can bring you a whole new problem; a significant volume of data that can be hard to analyse and then turn into engaging reports for onward communication.

The days when stakeholders or clients would read long, detailed research reports, or attend two-hour briefing sessions are long gone. Storytelling is the new thing and it’s a proven way of creating greater action over and above reporting facts and findings.

People crave information in bite-sized chunks that help them retain, recall and replay the insight so as to maximise the investment in it.   There are a multitude of things vying for our attention daily, so if the information and insight don’t stand out, it can be lost in the crowd.

When it comes to reporting and sharing insight with impact, there is always a balance to be struck. You want to include all the rich, colourful insight the project has uncovered, and retain people’s interest sufficiently so they can effortlessly retell the story days, weeks and even months later.

We have come up with a number of creative ways researchers can do this in order to maximise the return on investment in research.

Rolling analysis and reporting

Firstly, it’s not necessary to wait until you have a final report from your online qual project to start sharing and engaging stakeholders with snippets of the learnings.

If you are working on an ongoing project such as an online research community, that takes place over an extended period, or a series of focus groups, it’s a good idea to drip feed some of the findings as the research progresses, via a daily or weekly email, or even a short talking heads video that you produce.

These snippets can include an inspiring individual quote from a participant, or a revealing picture that’s shared. Or it can be a more detailed analysis of the data collected in the last 24 hour or from a single question.

You can share these findings in playful ways, for example by labelling them ‘most surprising thing we learnt today’ or ‘funniest comment’. this approach creates energy and excitement during the project and even helps to generate new questions to feedback into the research.

If you chose to cherry-pick quotes or findings in this way, be sure that your project stakeholders understand that there will be a more detailed analysis and in-depth storytelling to come and that the snippets you’ve been sharing don’t necessarily represent the aggregate views of respondents. Again, there is a balance to be struck between engaging your stakeholders and risking them misinterpreting the data.

When you have finished your analysis and have insights ready to communicate, rather than just circulating a cumbersome 50-slide deck, you will add more value by breaking it down into shorter, more focused outputs or even a mini-series.

Finding the right narrative to communicate requires you to understand the business challenge and the context of the business itself, why the questions are being asked and your ability to analyse the data in the context of both the business and consumers’ worlds.

7 ways to socialise your findings:

  1. Thematic reports: Create separate short reports for each of the key themes that emerge from the analysis. If you create a template for the structure of these it can be very quick to create them and using the same format in each makes the reports feel like a cohesive set. Stakeholders can then pick and choose which themes are of most interest to them. If you can structure these themes around the business questions that are most important to the organisation, they will be even more appealing.

  2. Deep dives: Create deep dives into other aspects of the research, such as by participant demographic or other characteristics – gender, age, or product users, for example – focus on characteristics that are of particular interest to the business. Again, you can template these and keep them short by having just a few key headings: top three findings, key quotes or images, what this means for the research client, for example.
  3. Top takeaways: Pick out the top three to five things you really want your audience to remember from the research as a whole and create a five-slide deck or short report on just these items. Back up with a few well-chosen pieces of evidence. As always, try to structure the findings so they answer research questions or relate to business issues.
  4. Infographics: Visual reports can be very powerful, and easier to digest than Word documents or slide decks. Infographics do not have to be numerically driven – qual versions can include timelines derived from participant diaries, customer journeys or diagrams showing relationships between emerging themes.
  5. Posters: Like infographics, but simpler: a well-chosen image or collage of images possibly with a striking verbatim quote or key takeaway, and a link to the more detailed resource. When stuck on the wall, posters can be a highly effective way of drawing attention to the research and bringing in other stakeholders who may not be on your distribution list. This obviously works best when you and your stakeholders share physical office space – so perhaps put this idea on the backburner for now, but you can still use these types of images digitally in email comms or newsletters.
  6. Videos: Lots of options here to do short, engaging video stories that are easy to watch and really bring the voice of the customer to your stakeholders: vox pops, montages, mini-movies, short clips of actual focus group discussion. These can be embedded into your presentation or they can stand alone. Make sure you get the appropriate permission when you are recruiting if you are going to share footage of participants.
  7. Mini case studies: Turn participant’s anecdotes about their experiences into mini case studies, with problem, solution, and outcome. This helps to bring the research to life, demonstrate opportunities or gaps, or illustrate your themes and findings.

Qualitative research represents a significant investment so you need to generate as much value from the findings as possible. The more rich and colourful ways you can present your findings in short, easy to digest, impactful ways, the greater the return on investment and action will ensue.

Download our 10 essential tips for analysis and reporting on your online qualitative studies and get our tried and tested approach to getting the most out of your online research communities.

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