This month our guest bloggers are UniSA marketing graduates Sam Lim and Olivia Aitken. Late last year, the pair conducted a research assessment with Hughes PR to ascertain ‘Who holds the balance of power in the current marketing and media landscape?’ Their blog about learnings from the project and the process is below…
Having staff with the skills and experience to conduct effective research is vital to any organisation. It can make or break the direction and strategy pursued by an organisation.
As part of our final year project of UniSA’s Marketing and Communications degree, we were assigned to investigate shifts in dominance of different types of marketing service agencies and the value added by each in managing a brand’s reputation.
During this project, we learned a number of key lessons that were just as valuable as the findings of the research itself.
1. Planning and preparation isn’t everything
Effective research begins with knowing the scale of the issue, the tools within your reach to gather the data, and setting realistic goals. The weekly seminars with Dr. Karen Nelson-Field – our coach and supervisor enabled us to understand this.
We understood the primary and secondary research required, and had a plan to obtain it. We also knew to allow plenty of time to prepare our survey questions. We didn’t understand that things will not always go as planned.
Not procuring the appropriate respondents for face-to-face surveys; errors in the wording and structure of our surveys; and technical issues with our online survey software, were all hiccups that we encountered along the way that prompted a big, fat headache!
The contingencies we continuously developed were even more crucial than our research plan.
The contingencies and opportunities that we seized included:
• Use LinkedIn as a key tool to engage targeted respondents when existing networks are not enough;
• Attend industry events along the way with key clients and other agencies to meet the right individuals to aid in making the research more effective;
• Play by the rules of ethical research, but take advantage of the position that you are in, as a student or inexperienced researcher.
2. Build trust at every stage
Working with the Hughes PR team was close to a breeze. From Tim as the Managing Director to Graphic Designer – Luke, each of the staff had a thorough understanding of what we were trying to achieve and assisted us to reach our goals.
It was important for us to remember that Hughes was our biggest stakeholder, so we had to share our thoughts and ideas with the team and get their input as well, in order to bring about confidence in our work.
3. Trust your data and findings, and pitch your recommendations with conviction
It is easy to doubt the numbers on the survey dashboard and the audio from interview recordings, but the data does not lie.
It was important for us to understand the limitations of the research, but also to have faith in the findings.
We prepared for our research presentation and considered a number of different ways to make the audience more receptive to our findings. We included a group task and a delicious treat for the audience!
I believe the extra effort to involve the Hughes team in our research project up to and including the final presentation was the major reason we were able to learn so much about the industry in such a short space of time. It was also a critical factor in leaving a high quality impression on the team.
And, for those of you wondering how we did on the assignment… we got a High Distinction!