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Newsletters and Reports: The Value of Two-Way Community Feedback

Gareth Bowden

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Laura Butterworth

    Two-way feedback, sharing information and dialogue between two or more parties is a vital part of running a successful research community.

    It is (hopefully) obvious that a key value of a research community is gathering data and feedback from consumers, whether this is direct feedback on products and initiatives or gaining insight into the zeitgeist through blogs and forums. This concept is what data generation in market research is at its core, but there is a lot more to feedback than just gathering data from consumers.

    The value of two-way feedback is that it puts consumers into a true dialogue with the stakeholder organisation behind the community. Two-way communication allows the community owners to feed back on the value and importance of community membership to the members individually or as a collective, keeping them continuously engaged and interested. A research community works best when community members want to be online and participating, rather than feeling like they have to be online just to earn points and incentives.

    A great deal of this feeling and perception of value comes from effective engagement and moderation techniques that have been honed for years by insight professionals everywhere. However, feeding back about the community to its participants is also key, and there are a couple of ways that have been impactful so far.

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    Feeding back news to respondents is a key tactic to inspiring longer-term market research engagement, and there are a few methods that insight experts can draw on.

    Newsletters

    Newsletters of any frequency are a great way of feeding back information to research respondents. Bi-weekly newsletters in particular can serve to give updates on the panel – what’s currently available to do and what’s coming up, as well as what the data already provided is being used for in that particular frame of time. This adds a real level of tangibility to the research conducted and respondents are able to see the changes made throughout the stakeholder organisation

    Quarterly newsletters, though, serve another vital role in creating a feedback loop. In this longer stretch of time, insight experts have a lot more that they can report on. We aim to include the following in our quarterly newsletters:

    Summary of community activity

    Here, we provide the updates on the activities that have taken place on the community and, importantly, the results! A key part of instilling a sense of value to the community members is to ensure they don’t feel their participation is being thrown into a black hole.

    Poll and survey results are easy to publish and easy for community members to consume. You can post or encourage further content based on this as well… If you have interesting results, why not create a forum topic or an opinion blog to foster further engagement? This is also a very cost-effective way of undertaking some light-touch qual testing of the assumptions you’ve made from the survey results. Additionally, if your members see that the quarterly newsletter content is meant to encourage further discussion, you’ll be fostering and curating a feedback loop that helps your objective of making your community members feel valued and heard.

    This doesn’t have to be limited to poll and survey results, either. If you have conducted deeper qualitative research, and you’re comfortable sharing some or all of your conclusions, then you can include these… Just make sure they’re either packaged in a consumable manner or linked to a ‘long read’ news item.

    Shout-outs

    This is a fairly easy one to explain. You want to reward and highlight highly engaged community members in order to (a) thank them for their contribution but also (b) encourage others to get involved.

    By simply including some ‘shout-outs’ to prize-draw winners and your most active participants, the contributors to the best discussion and the authors of some highlights of the quarter, you can heighten that ‘community feel’ and let your members know that you’re there, you’re listening, and you care.

    News items and links

     Show your community members what you’re thinking about and where your future focus lies! They’re helping you by giving insight and feedback on your business, so help them by highlighting relevant industry news and activities. Sometimes you might be able to publish some of the results (with the right respondent consent) or even allude to the research that respondents have taken part in without direct results, and sharing this with the respondents themselves will help them to see what impact they’re having, not just in the stakeholder organisation, but in the wider industry too.

    Yearly Round-Ups

    The yearly round-up newsletter is a great chance to communicate with the community but also to a client and/or stakeholder audience.

    Annual summary

    Coming in December to January, the yearly round up should provide an overview of the whole year on the community. Over the year you’ll have run loads of polls and surveys, published and moderated countless forums and blogs… Celebrate this and remind community members of everything they’ve been part of!

    Thanks and celebrations

    Thank your community members for their participation, and celebrate their contributions! Highlight your best annual contributors and contributions, give out some prizes and awards… Make sure they’ll want to come back next year.

    Infographics and visuals

    Using visuals is a great way to update and feedback to both participants and clients/stakeholders at the end of the year. If you’re a graphic design whiz, you can even capture the profile of the community to solidify that community identity.

    Monthly Summary Reports

    Monthly summaries are a great way to keep clients/stakeholders informed and engaged with the community, to ensure your dialogue with the community is up to date and informed. Provide feedback on the most/least engaged with topics and activities, discuss upcoming content ideas, and make sure you’re fully cognisant of the current, short term and long-term business aims.

    Participant Facing Reports

    Monthly summary reports can also be a great way to update participants with the technical side of the research. Keeping participants up to date on response numbers and volume is a great way to include the community in a positive feedback loop.

    You may be leery of ‘oversharing’ with your participants, but it’s important to ensure your participants feel valued and are therefore more likely to pro-actively share in the objectives of the community, so it’s best to be open and honest.

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    Two-way communication between researchers and respondents enhances the value of insights and engages participants in the purpose of the research community.

    The Value of Two-Way Communication

    Both newsletters and reports are used to demonstrate the value of the platform and how the insights are used to shape decisions within the business to both clients and participants. They are designed to be accessible and visually appealing. It’s vital that your participants are engaged, feel valued and are part of a dialogue with the business.

    Two-way communication, feeding back between sender and receiver, is also known as interpersonal communication. In the case of a research community, it helps personalise the business/client and give participants that sense of value. Further to this, it engages participants in the overall goals and purpose of the community and helps them understand why they’re being asked to undertake certain tasks.

    Communication that is well-planned, audience-focused, open and regular is key to ensuring your participants are ‘buying in’ to your community. Keep your community healthy and engaged, and you’ll continue to reap the benefit of honest, passionate insights!

    Camp InsightHub

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