Eriks Celmins
Co-Founder and Insights Director

Everyone Has A Story

Stories or Stats?

Statistics are a necessary part of everyday business life, and radio is no exception. But in a creative enterprise it’s often difficult to resist the forces of hard data & analytics overpowering the risks, leaps of imagination and Stories needed to produce fresh, innovative content and promotions.

Going Legit

The good news is that Storytelling is becoming more recognised as a legitimate part of general business vocabulary  in research, marketing  and (digital) content. And a sales proposal to a client can tell the Story of the client’s needs, the station’s listeners, and the campaign concept – not just as a collection of hard facts about costs and audiences.

The Essentials

This is about linking the principles of Essential #1 What is the Why? and#3 Shareable Content from my last article

Especially Storytelling as applied to research Insights (not only on-air content).

Insights vs. Facts

These are often mistakenly treated as interchangeable.

But there are critical differences between Insights and Facts. There’s no shortage ofFacts (the What),which are very usefulin measuringconsumer behaviour and perceptions.

It can be less common to have access to the real, actionableInsights (the Why).

Insights are about …

Thoughts, feelings and emotions.

It’s been estimated that emotion forms 80% of a buying decision vs. 20% rational.

A sweeping stat in itself, not to take too literally, but simply indicative of marketing’s major shift to focussing on underlying emotive drivers.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass …

Traditional market research is a rational process, that tends to produce rational black & white outcomes.

 But your listener’s real world is more complex and fuzzy, full of grey areas.

So the game is about complementing big sample Stats, with the Insights from small intimate Stories, of the target consumers’ everyday lives. To feed not only research, but also idea-generation and innovation.

Lose the Spreadsheet …

The challenge for marketers & researchers is that Stories are not quantifiable as normal Excel numbers, because everyone is different – but they are now the competitive edge.

Stories can be collected in the form ofconversations, images, audio, and video, and compiled to form personal narratives. The most advanced, academic form is called “ethnographic” research involving respondents in close observation, that may remind you of The Truman Show!

But can also be as basic as a well organised, thoughtfully-planned LAB (Listener Advisory Board), engaging participants in a deep conversation about their daily media & entertainment  choices, and life in general.

Uncomfortable, Disruptive, Risky?

Absolutely, when there’s always been safety in numbers, and now we’re talking small, intimate and fuzzy.

But that’s our new world of consumer emotions – there’s no turning back the clock.

The key thing is to know who’s telling the Story, with the analytical work going into the set-up, not so much in the end-game of finding the Why.

How …

 Start by collecting detailed profiles of your database or panel, segmenting them demographically & psychographically, then methodically gather, and tag your conversations.

It takes time to sift through and pick up the major themes, but very rewarding for real Insights.

And for major issues, time and budget allowing, decision options can be quantified in a survey.

Why Social Media research can be a wasteland …

Even though it seems tempting to just throw a no-cost question out on SM, it’s unstructured and untargeted.  You don’t really know who’s making the comments and their agenda, and there’s a mountain of garbage to sift through to find a nugget of Insight.

Case Study: New Hampshire Democratic Primary (source:  news.com.au)

One simple example of the difference between Facts and Insights/Stories, based on this coverage

Incidentally, it’s often said that radio (especially personality) and political marketing have much in common.

FACT – The What :Bernie Sanders won 55% of the female Democratic vote in NH.

If you were in charge of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that tells you zero about The Why.

Nothing to drive Insights + Ideation for the next stage, and you don’t have time to spend weeks and months on a traditional research program.

INSIGHT/STORY -The Why : frominstant conversations with target voters (drawn from a pre-organised panel).

TARGET 1: First Time Voters

  • Teanie Moorecase, 18
  • Tianna Otero, 19
  • Final year high-school
  • Voted this time for: Bernie Sanders

Conversation Quotes

  • Teanie : I chose Sanders over Clinton because I feel like Clinton is more for the money aspect of it. And for the politics. Bernie is more for us, the people. He’s about helping the people”
  • Tianna: Hillary’s just not really there for the right reasons. She’s like a female Donald Trump on the other side”

Strategic/Creative Actions

Position Clinton in “soft” people-oriented scenarios and messages, and keep Bill out of sight because of potential perceived links with money and power. Note: Republicans often talk about Hillary & Bill together for this reason, no doubt based on research.

TARGET 2: Previously Voted

  • Mindy Wittock, 34
  • Jennifer Sicard, 40
  • Voted this time for: Hillary Clinton

Conversation Quotes

  • Mindy: “I have been very pro Hillary because I do have a lot of friends who support Bernie Sanders,”
  • Jennifer: “I understand it. He’s full of hopes and dreams and he wants to get rid of the bad and do good but I’m not sure he could really do that if he was in office. I try to have my friends focus on the issues.”

Strategic/Creative Actions

Plant seeds of messages they can use with their friends on how Hillary cares about people, and will use her background and experience of the levers of power, to fight for the grass-roots issues. Tapping the evil for good.

The Takeaway

It’s not enough now to have a stack of stats as your guiding research.

Your individual listener Stories can be your most powerful tool for strategy and creative innovation, even though they disrupt the traditional rules of sample sizes, margins of error, percentages etc.

As long as you tag each conversation with that person’s profile and apply common-sense interpretation, you’ll  have a rich Insight into the Why of their interaction with you and your competitors. And in their own words, not a generic, preset tick-the-box list.


Eriks Celmins
 is Managing Director of Third Wave Media, international consultant for research, strategy and content.
Full Member of Australian Market & Social Research Society (AMSRS).LinkedIn

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