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7 top tips for producing an exciting research project

A great research project can be a really powerful weapon in the arsenal of any tech company looking to become a thought leader. It can set a business apart from competitors with the clarity of your thinking, create a brand new narrative for the whole industry to discuss, and propel senior thought leaders into the headlines for all the right reasons.

But what makes for an insightful piece of research, and how does a business go about engaging the media with its new set of data?

Here we’ve outlined seven top tips for building your own research project to help you create waves in the tech press and beyond.

1. Defining your topic

It may sound obvious, but it’s often not as straight-forward as simply making up any topic to investigate. First, you need to consult with your press office to ensure the subject area you’re thinking of investigating ties in with your business goals, your communication goals, and a wider narrative that speaks to the audience you’re targeting.

TOP TIP: It’s important to think about whether you want to concentrate on a niche sub-sector of your industry or whether you want to take a more holistic overview of the whole sector. The research samples you approach for each could differ wildly between these two.

2. Can your research be quantified?

Whilst there are many ways of collecting data, research projects are at their strongest when you are able to see correlations and patterns that tell a story. That’s not to say qualitative research isn’t strong, just that correlations in data tend to be far more compelling for journalists if you’ve spoken to a high number of people.

In terms of suitability for different media, the trade press often holds more of an interest in data-led research, whereas qualitative data may be more suited to human-interest case study features.

TOP TIP: Closed answer questions will provide a more quantifiable data set. This will give you far more clarity when you get around to mining the data.

3. Carefully decide your research agency

One of the key parts of producing an excellent research paper is to ensure you are asking the right questions. To make sure your questions are up to scratch, do some research into the agency you will be using to put them out into the field. We would recommend finding a partner agency that is able to guide you on the most productive and representative question types, as well as providing an efficient and cost-effective service.

TOP TIP: Make a decision on the style of question you need to use ahead of sanctioning the research. This way you can shape the sort of answers that come back...Your research agency should help with this.

4. Know how to filter your data

It might feel like a daunting task trying to get decent insights from a huge spreadsheet of data points, but it is important here to take a step back and look at the data independent of the story you’re looking to achieve.

This way, you’re able to assess the data and recognise patterns and correlations without any prejudice. After this, you should then look to apply your goals for the data. Is there a human interest story that is shouting at you? Or perhaps a recognisable correlation that will speak to the opinions or attitudes of a particular demographic.

TOP TIP: Think about the types of data that are making it into the news at the time you’re running your data, as well as your own business goals. This way, you are ticking all the boxes in your search for a story that will reflect your business values, whilst also piquing the interest of journalists.

5. It’s all in the narrative…

Now comes the exciting bit - turning your data into a recognisable story. Such is the richness of data, that you may come out with a number of different angles that reflect various different insights. However, if you can find a story that jumps on an ongoing newshook in the media, then this is a great way to gain instant interest from journalists. It’s equally as important to find a data line that reflects your company’s business goals. If there is a specific issue that your company’s services or products solve, this is another great way of pushing the work that your business is doing to the forefront of the conversation.

TOP TIP: Be clear on where your insights have come from. Whilst it is important that your spokespeople provide context to the data you have pulled, it’s advised that you specifically differentiate between the data’s findings and the company’s thoughts/position on the data. I.e.: ‘The data suggests that xx’ & ‘xx’s CEO, _ _ believes that this may be due to…’.

6. Presenting your results

Data can take lots of different shapes. If you are looking to publish research to a business audience then a well thought out coherent press release may be the best strategy. Whilst this is a great way of attracting business press, there are a number of creative methods that you can use, should your topic area allow.

Infographics are a great way of showing the range of your data and why your data is important in the context of industry. They also look great on your social pages as an integrated press office approach promoting further discussion and engagement from key stakeholders in the wider industry or with customers and prospects.

If your data is opinion-led then it might be a good idea to build out these angles into various niche pieces of thought leadership. Thought leadership is often bolstered by the inclusion of data and if you can combine this with the expertise of your company spokespeople, this puts you in a good position to be a leading contributor to the specific sections of your industry.

TOP TIP: As media professionals, your teams should always keep your data front-of-mind when looking to hijack news stories in the media.

7. Don’t spend it all at once

As mentioned before, the right questions and topic area have the potential to give you a number of different media angles from your data. Whether they are quantitative or qualitative, there is always a temptation to combine these data lines into one all-encompassing offering that perfectly defines the amazing work your company is doing.

However, there can also be a benefit to separating these lines and leveraging them on different occasions. With this approach, you can keep a constant drumbeat of interesting storylines flowing to your key media. Similarly, if these data sets are different in origin, this can give media a better understanding of the scope and verticals your services/products cover.

TOP TIP: Appearing at an event that touches on one of your data lines? Save it. The use of independent research as a way of supplementing your thoughts will make journalists more inclined to engage with you.

So there you have it. Marlin’s top seven tips for producing a great research project. There is no fool-proof way of ensuring your data resonates in the correct circles of media, competitors or stakeholders. However using the above tips should set you on the right path to gaining actionable, data-led thoughts and insights for your company. As a dedicated partner to our clients in the innovative technology space, we have 11+ years of experience creating a vast array of different research pieces designed to resonate with both clients’ business values and the media. If you think we can help you, then get in touch at [email protected], or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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