5 Ways to Deliver Global Research Like a Journalist
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5 Ways to Deliver Global Research Like a Journalist

October 1, 2020

Zoë Billington

In part 1 of this series on conducting global research with impact, we covered the importance of designing global research like a social scientist. Now, let’s look at 5 ways you can deliver that research like a journalist.

[Check out the first post in this series: “Designing Global Research Like a Social Scientist.”] 

So, picture this: You’ve just wrapped a full day in field — virtual or in-person — conducting ethnographic-style interviews, moderating one-on-one usability tests, or collecting a day’s worth of survey results. It’s 10pm in the market where you’re fielding, and you’ve spent most of your day working with local clients — but your primary client is just starting their day in the US, and they’re asking for a recap of how things went. 

Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve been the researcher (or client) on either side of this equation.

As the researcher, you start to think: how can you possibly translate all your conversations, interactions, and data points into something useful before starting all over again the next day? How do you ensure that everyone is on the same page, whether or not they were involved in that day’s research. More functionally, how do you deliver before my tiredness catches up with me?

In our last post, we emphasized translation and localization of research design and assets. Well, surprise — those considerations don’t stop once you begin fielding. It’s just as important to interpret your reporting back to your stakeholders for a couple of reasons:

  • Reporting and presentation styles look different across the globe. We’ve worked with clients whose insights are headed to C-suite executives who want a short and color-coded executive summary. Others are delivering to a creative team looking for clip reel of users talking about their needs first-hand. Knowing these preferences from the start helps you work efficiently to focus your output from day 1.
  • Regional teams are operating on different timelines. They want their market insights at different times — but company silos may prevent your primary client from knowing these things from the onset of planning a project. While you may not be able to change your fieldwork and final reporting milestones mid-stream, you can try to reduce the amount of time between research and sharing out early findings to get everyone what they need.

Each audience needs a different storytelling angle, and needs it fast enough that insights remain relevant to teams on different timelines. To solve this, we put on our journalism hats — and here’s how you can do the same.

To balance the rigor of your research approach against the need to be nimble and flexible in your reporting, consider offering your stakeholders a “menu” of reporting options and aligning on the most useful — and feasible — one before fieldwork begins. 

Here are five potential options:

  1. The News Conference (aka, Daily Debrief Call): Designate a “speaker” to lead team members through sharing what stood out to them after a day of research and what questions remain. Invite teammates who did not attend research to ask the questions. This can happen in an office, airport, car, or from home, which makes this a foolproof option when there’s no time to put pen on paper. Just be sure to schedule in advance with timezones in mind. Even when your fieldwork doesn’t involve travel, we always recommend debriefing with clients — especially mid-stream — because once you wrap fieldwork, you can’t (easily) go back.
  2. The Live Blog (aka, Field Notes): Use Sharepoint, Google Drive, or another cloud storage system with phone and desktop access to set up a team folder. While you’re in the field, take notes directly in a live doc that the rest of the team can skim at any point. For qualitative work, upload any photos or videos, too. You can also give editing access to clients so they can add notes and questions directly on the shared doc. By the end of fieldwork, you’ll have a powerful bank of observations which can guide a daily debrief call and help you during reporting. One caveat to keep in mind is that this option can be difficult when you’re traveling or visiting markets with unreliable cell service/wifi, etc.
  3. The Daily Blog (aka, Narrative Summary): Remove your business-speak filter and channel the blogger within. This method involves more prosaic descriptions of what you observed and learned during research. For more exploratory projects and especially ethnographic work, it’s a great option for painting a picture of the cultural landscape and recounting user stories from the field. These are the colorful details that unfortunately sometimes get left out of thematic reporting and wrap-up discussions in favor of more strategic recommendations or tactical next steps.
  4. The Daily Digest (aka, Topline Memo): Provide 10 key headlines that speak to specific questions your team had. Be sure to caveat that these represent findings from just one day of interviews or a subset of clean partial data — not the entire sample — and are meant to provide an early glimpse at directional storylines you’re keeping an eye on as we progress with the research. Kind of like glancing over a morning newsletter from your favorite news source — this should be clear, concise, and curated.
  5. The Long Form (aka, Traditional Reporting): Investigate every potential storyline, interview all your subjects (qualitatively and/or quantitatively), and then fact check until it’s fit for print. This is the most time-consuming way of delivering insights, but is also the most thorough, accurate, and polished. Make sure you understand where your report will be “published,” or shared out — which markets will receive it? — and who its audience(s) will be. Brand team? Marketing? Product? Honing your audience is key for this one. 

Global research does not have to mean longer timelines and greater wait time between research and insights for your clients — nor does it have to mean that you’re stuck working around the clock to be available during three countries’ different working hours. By being thoughtful about the depth and presentation of insights your clients need and why, you can turn around impactful stories to meet newsroom-level deadlines.

Zoë Billington

Associate Director, Qualitative Research

As an Associate Director, Research & Strategy, Zoë gets to put her innate love for people-watching and storytelling to work every day. In her role, she both moderates qualitative research and...

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