Insights vs. Facts – the key to winning is knowing the difference!

Co-Founder and Insights Director

In popular usage Insights is often a substitute term for Market Research.

We all do it! It can be seen as more contemporary, tied with the actual outcomes you get from the research process. Fair enough.

It’s also a friendlier word to engage non-researchers in the value of the results. Instead of the image of a necessary, but possibly dull activity best left to academic experts. Just give me the data!

Highlighting what I suggest is a flawed side-effect.

The confusion between Insights and Facts.

If we wind back to the true definition of Insights, the meaning is generally agreed as ‘a deep, clear understanding or perception of someone, something, or a complex situation’.

Along with a ‘penetrating search beyond the surface of what’s obvious’. And even what you feel as intuition or a Sixth Sense’, which I explored in my recent article about The 5 Senses of Fan Research.

Large amounts of radio research are about collecting Facts. Often survey-based, where your listeners tick boxes, with their answers to be analysed as percentages.

Profiling their demographics, how often they use you, which content features they prefer, how satisfied they are, and whether or not would they recommend you to a friend and so on. All as quantified data you can easily manage in a spreadsheet.

Which is fine for surface level benchmarking, mapping your market landscape, and a record of behaviour and attitudes. Music research is a regular tool for keeping playlists updated.

You find out the WHO and the WHAT of your situation, but it doesn’t really explain the WHY.

Because in the ultra-competitive, 24/7 radio world, it’s the Insights – the deep understanding of your audience, below the surface, that give you rocket fuel. For continuous improvements and creative innovations, to stay ahead of your competitors.

The problem is also that Facts are often not exclusive to you. Ratings data certainly isn’t, as everyone has access to the same information.

Your real competitive edge comes from outside the spreadsheet!

People make their listening choices based on a range of emotions.

Do you make them laugh or cry? Or provide an escape from a busy, stressful routine. Are you a pick-me-up or calm-me-down? How do they describe what they’re feeling and when?  

What can you best do to connect with people, at those emotional and lifestyle touchpoints?

And how do they relate to your talent – are they strangers, friends, inspiration, pranksters, heroes, story-tellers, stirrers, family, or soul-mates? If you don’t know, you need to find out. So your content, promotions and messaging are resonating with your target, and not singing off-key.

As an example of the differences between Insights and Facts, think about your relationships with family & friends.

On one level you have lots of basic Facts about their age, where they live, what’s their job, what they do on their time off, their hobbies etc. Which you mostly take for granted and instinctively draw on when planning activities and social events. And actually, is just the sort of hard information many brands keep in a listener database, for similar reasons.

BUT you also have deeper, more intimate Insights into what makes your family & friends tick. Like WHY they chose their career – was it a childhood dream, or was it shaped by an adult experience? What emotional needs drive their recreation activities? Or how they feel about their life, their hopes, fears and aspirations. What should you do to improve the relationship after an upset?

Because when you’re developing and maintaining this most precious connection with another person, you’re constantly nurturing your interactions, adjusting what you say to them, and how you socialise with them. So you don’t lose the relationship – miscommunication or neglect causing it to wither on the vine.

It’s just the same when you’re in the business of entertaining people. How can you relate to them, and understand their needs at any given moment? To make them smile, keep them company, help them chill if you don’t have those real Insights into their Hearts & Minds.

And how did you acquire Insights into your family & friends? Did you send them surveys…? Thought so. It comes from conversations over time. Simply being with them, talking, sharing stories, offering and receiving help in the tough times. Workmates develop friendships during the breaks and after-hours through chatting. First dates only progress further with open communication and trust.

Social media has of course amplified and accelerated our ability to form or revive personal relationships. Though I wonder, amongst all the privacy and commercial exploitation concerns, if we’re now going back to being more selective again. Valuing quality over quantity, personal over crowd. And that online interaction will go more private when we’re separated by physical distance.

Insights vs. Facts

Like the difference between EQ and IQ.

We hear a lot about the need to develop our Emotional Intelligence in business – cultivating the ability to empathise with others while being in touch with our own emotions. Bringing a range of benefits from staff, stakeholder, and consumer relationships through to leadership skills, and simply a better balance for our personal development.

A finely-tuned EQ, based on Insights, is critical to the success of a radio brand.

No point in just having high IQ with piles of Facts. Of course, they play a necessary role. But they don’t have the exclusive, deeper, ‘beyond the surface’ meaning to differentiate your special X-factor and pull ahead of competitors.

You have no show of emotionally connecting with your audience to give them WHAT they want, WHEN they want it, and HOW they want it delivered – if you don’t have the Insights into WHY they want it.

Insights vs. Facts, EQ vs. IQ, Conversations vs. Surveys.

Choose heart over head, and your listeners will love you for it 😊.

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