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Does your Brand Need an Insights Advocate?

Emily James

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How far does the influence of insights stretch within your brand? If the answer is not far, then you might need to consider recruiting Insight Advocates into teams within your organisation.

Scaling the influence and reach of insights is a key challenge that insight professionals have been struggling with since the dawn of market research. While we have innovated a myriad of aspects of the research process to do with insight generation, the activation stages leave a lot to be desired.

We still refer to ideas like data warehouses/insight inventories, and complete stakeholder engagement in insights as the ‘holy grail’ of market research, little more than a myth that we are working towards making a reality. But as we work towards these larger goals, there are smaller steps we can take in the meantime to boost the understanding and value of insights within organisations; one of those steps being to establish insight advocates in other teams.

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What is an Insights Advocate, and do brands really need them? The short answer is yes, Insights Advocates are incredibly valuable roles that serve to boost positive change within an organisation.

The Role of an Insights Advocate

So, to start with we should address what exactly an Insights Advocate is, and what is their role in the market research insights activation movement?

An Insights Advocate can come in a few forms, but the most impactful would be a plant in each external team within an organisation that is immersed in conversations insight teams wouldn’t normally be included in. Or similarly and less intrusively, a plant in important conversations within boardroom meetings so we’re not just delivering insight to the boardroom but actively being invited to participate in conversations within meetings that mean insight teams can be sure that insights are being activated to their fullest potential and more research can be requested at any time.

In other words, the Insights Advocate serves as a network of amplifiers across the business, boosting the communication of insights and research farther than it would have otherwise reached. The more people the insights reach, the more insights activation will likely occur.

While Insight Advocate might not exactly be a hired position, there is one way we can turn existing members of external teams into advocates. The first step is to hook colleagues in through continual communication and work to build up a good relationship with them as research stakeholders. Once you get one person involved in research and have a good time working with insight teams as they generate and activate insights, then they will take that experience and advertise the capabilities of the insight team through word of mouth – arguably one of the more powerful and effective advertising principles.

Then it’s a case of replicating this process with others across teams as they come to see how the insight team can help them with their current issues. Now this all sounds very simple in theory, but it might be harder to implement depending on the level of interest and experience stakeholders have with market research. This becomes harder still if their previous experience wasn’t up to par, as the current insight team will have to work harder over time to gain their trust.

Insight Advocates and the Spiral of Positive Change

Do you need an insights advocate?

For the most part, the answer to this question is yes. Every brand needs an Insight Advocate to make sure that the insights generated are being activated well after the research is complete, or at the very least that the insight team is continually mentioned within conversations across a business. While only deriving a little impact from this latter action, the continued exposure will serve to embed the insight team as a viable option in the minds of stakeholders everywhere.

Now, whether you have one already or not is a different matter entirely. If you find that people come to you to commission research off their own back, then you probably have a few insight advocates in the business already. But if you have to fight for funding and research opportunities then it’s possible the insight team is the only advocate there.

Apart from the obvious benefit of amplifying insights throughout the business, they also amplify the capabilities and value of the insight team themselves. As they boost the value of insights, and those insights drive positive change throughout the organisation, the insight team image and reputation across the organisation will inevitably rise as well. This great domino effect will appear after a little bit of time working their magic, and stakeholders are more likely to come to the insight team looking for answers rather than the insight team having to battle other stakeholders for the proper funding; the more funding the insights team is allocated, the better-quality research is conducted, the better-quality insights are generated and activated, and the upwards spiral of positive informed decision-making occurs.

The desired end result of all this progress is an amazing culture of insights with every member of staff within the brand happily becoming an Insights Advocate.

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Insight advocates are useful stepping stones to cultivating a true culture of insights within a brand, democratising insights and powering positive decision-making processes.

Developing a Culture of Insights

Developing a corporate culture of insights is a tricky task, but creating insights advocates in as many teams as possible is a great way to start.

One factor that is necessary for this to truly work, is to break down any form of gatekeeping within the brand. Whether that’s gatekeeping a space in the boardroom, a place in team conversations across the business, or even the gatekeeping of research itself. There might be a couple of characters that don’t like others to know where they got their insights from in order to get ahead themselves, but don’t let that stop insight teams from creating more advocates to mitigate any risks that this poses.

Democratising access to insights will help get the wheels turning. Project them everywhere possible in newsletters, videos, and conversations, and once the need for insights is realised, insight teams can then work way up to developing a universally accessible database of research projects, insights and outcomes. This universal acceptance and eagerness to conduct more research to influence decisions the end goal, and will help you build upon the research you’ve already done rather than wasting time going over the same topics and tasks for different stakeholders.

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