2010 MRS Conference

The Park Plaza, London was the setting for the 2010 MRS conference; “a festival of ideas, innovation, and inspiration”. There can be no doubt that all three of these were achieved through the clever mix of speakers from within and without the Research industry.
The first guest to take the chair was Academy Award nominee Armando Ianucci. Research magazine’s editor Marc Brenner successfully demonstrated his qual interview techniques, managing to persuade the “hardman of politicial satire” to admit that he did ask people what they thought of his work before finalising it; even if it was just family and friends. Armando, had you broadened the sample, you never know, you might have won that Oscar for the nevertheless excellent “In the loop”. Thus the scene was set for frequent, and frankly not unexpected, digressions to the upcoming UK election, including numerous references to the industry’s infamous blunder in 1992.
Social media and communities, of course, remained a central thread for the proceedings, with an array of job titles thrust forward, aimed at demonstrating an agency’s ability to tap into this exponentially growing data stream. Social Media Knowledge Leader was a personal favourite. Doron Meyassad (Promise Communities) presented a paper discussing the opportunity for communities to allow large companies to rejuvenate their innovation pipeline through iterative co-creation. This was inspiring for any researcher who shares the view that long-term agency-client partnerships are the future of research. A witty client-side presentation by Darren Cornish (Axa) followed, concerning his change of focus from a technically minded Operations Director to becoming a social media advocate. His vision helped develop an internal community that successfully raised employee satisfaction and improved products resulting in greater sales revenue. Case studies such as these provide clear justification for the swift move of social media research up the value chain. In these times of media revolution we have the opportunity to ensure market research is used beyond the marketing department; we must take it. On this very theme, InSites’ Annelies Verhaeghe presented a rousing limerick extolling the virtues of genuinely listening to customers using observational research.
Alongside such visions of the future of research and how we can harness the digital consumer, there were numerous opportunities for researchers of all levels to hone their craft by listening to the experiences of industry experts, as well as those with more diverse backgrounds. Valuably, not all skills discussions were related to the process of research. Aptly named ‘Hothouses’, held in a steaming, packed seminar room included a talk by Executive Coach Paul Vittles outlining the necessity to step back from one’s work and focus on wider issues such as colleague satisfaction.
One of the most insightful lessons reminded us researchers that we should practice more of what we preach – ironically provided by a journalist (Brian Cathcart), in collaboration with Neil Swann (SwanUpping). Five tenets of effective journalism were introduced, followed by their potential application to the market research environment. Despite ignoring 80% of them in this blog, I summarize the rules below and hope we can all learn from them in the future.

  1. Get to the point: the punchline comes first and the background – why the man bit the dog – is woven in beneath
  2. Humanise the message: think about people before policies – use case studies/typologies that allow the audience to relate
  3. Hierarchy of information must be clear: Presentations must be client focused, not producer focused – each chart should do a small number of things very well, in a clear and logical order
  4. Make every word count: The best words are plain words, short words – and few of them
  5. Ration the numbers: where possible change numbers into pictures; 28% becomes just over one quarter

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