When we talk with our clients about activation we want our insights to inspire their stakeholders to take action. We want people to hear our presentation, or read our report, and walk away with a clear sense of what opportunities exist to move the business forward.
The quality of the story narrative we tell, and the visuals we use to express data, have become focal points for determining whether what we’re delivering at the end of a research project is successful. However, focusing on just these elements misses the point of what we’re trying to accomplish. The imperative at the end of a research project is that stakeholders put the information into action — “activation.” The true measure of successful research, then, should be whether it delivers a clear call to action or set of actions.
The imperative at the end of a research project is that stakeholders put the information into action — ‘activation.’ The true measure of successful research, then, should be whether it delivers a clear call to action or set of actions.”
Stories serve as a catalyst for change.
Storytelling can be a tricky topic in the world of insights. Most stories that we’re familiar with have an arc that leads to a resolution. When it comes to a marketing research initiative it’s highly unlikely that the result of our efforts is a clear resolution to a problem. More likely the result is that we’ve identified opportunity areas that will guide teams along their journey to addressing a need — be it a product/service issue, communications issue, brand development issue, etc.
For this reason, good storytelling in market research is to create clear calls to action that inspire stakeholders on what they can do to resolve whatever issue a brand is facing. Therefore, our storytelling needs to be structured in such a way as to provide clear guidance on the opportunities, not necessarily a clear resolution.
For this reason, good storytelling in market research is to create clear calls to action that inspire stakeholders on what they can do to resolve whatever issue a brand is facing.
Think about infomercials, or pitches on Shark Tank, or even requests that come from charitable organizations. The best examples of these inspire people to take action:
- Infomercials continue to be effective and utilized because they set up a challenge that many people face, provide a possible solution to this challenge, and then demand that, if you want to solve this problem, you act by making a purchase.
- The best Shark Tank pitches are set up similarly to infomercials because they speak to an origin story for a business that is driven by solving some problem that people have. Those that get funded are the ones that not only show financial opportunity but show that they can inspire large amounts of people to act by buying the product/service.
- And charitable organizations routinely lay out an issue they are trying to address, provide an example of how their efforts have helped with similar issues in the past, and implore you to act by donating so they can continue to solve problems in whatever sphere they focus on.
Research projects are no different than any of these examples:
- 1. They are borne out of a need to address a problem or challenge a business is having. This origin story is the thing we should always lead with when telling a story with the data.
- 2. They are meant to offer clarity and guidance to stakeholders, and hope that there is a way forward that we can influence by our actions. This must serve as the transition point in the story we tell. It is the part where, once we’ve laid out the reason for this research to exist, we now offer some opportunities to address our challenges.
Guidance, inspiration and action.
Where insights stories often fall apart is after these two points are conveyed. They set the stage and point to opportunities, but they don’t offer clear calls to action. Infomercials, charitable requests, Shark Tank pitches all end with clear demands that we act. Insights stories need to do the same if they are to truly be impactful.
As researchers we can be hesitant to provide definitive guidance because data is often murky. But it’s our duty to take a stand and create calls to action that will inspire stakeholders to utilize the great insights we’ve collected. This is where storytelling truly drives activation in the world of research, and it’s where stories become most effective.
Learn about the impact visualization has in delivering persuasive story reports.
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