Investigative Reporting: The Case for Brevity

By Laurie Gee, Director – Client Services

Remember the huge, output-by-the-pound market research reports that were commonplace a few years back?  Clear covers, large binder combs, dead trees…..   Oh my.

Our delivery methods have changed a lot since the old days, but the struggle against “excess” in research reports remains alive and well.  As collectors of data we can lose ourselves in statistics and sub-groups (the dreaded analysis paralysis!).  Time and time again, though, clients say they want brevity instead – short, high-impact reports with immediate and clear implications, tied directly to the business decisions the study was designed to address.

In today’s digital world with a seemingly never-ending stream of content competing for readers’ attention, MMR differentiates ourselves by telling a shorter and better story. We focus on providing our clients with “ready-to-distribute” reports with actionable direction and clear recommendations. Consider this from Quirk’s May 2014 Marketing Research Review:

“We all know that the days of the 100-page PowerPoint decks are gone.  Gone are the methodical presentation structures: methods, then analysis, then findings, then conclusions and recommendations at the end.  These days, execs want to cut to the chase: what did we learn from this study?  What do you recommend?  How will that impact the bottom line?  That other stuff?  It goes to the appendix.”

The secret to shorter and better requires developing our storytelling skills.  The visual presentation is still important, impacting layout of analyses beyond charts and graphs, and 1-2 page summaries heavy on design and infographics.  But we also need “researchers with a head for business who can craft compelling non-fiction stories…. very much like old-school investigative journalism…” “The type of stories that business leaders are longing to hear are investigative tales of their customers/[prospects], their needs and how they relate to the products and services that they are producing.”

At MMR, we embrace the “science” in our trade (proper methodology, validity of sample frame, etc.), and partner that with effective, investigative reporting to deliver effective direction for our clients.   For researchers in the future “…the ability to effectively tell stories will be part of the marketing research function’s [standard] deliverables.”

In-depth discussion on the need for journalism skills in market research can be found in the Quirk’s Marketing Research Review, May 2014 issue on pages 58-61.