When planning for research it’s easy to be swept up in the details of your end goals. Creating prompts for a variety of methods can open up new avenues of information to pursue and new angles to explore – the possibilities widen and the drive to allow room for the unexpected and organic development of conversation and ideas can get overwhelming. And sometimes, weigh down these strategic audience engagements.
One of my favorite approaches is to step back and remember that we’re all just people. There are intrinsic commonalities that we can leverage within our research that will capture the essence of your intent while providing valuable insights. And simplicity can be the best route forward.
Last year we built a brand and website for Selah House – a Christian eating recovery center for women and young girls. We needed an indirect method to reach the young girls living in the residence at the time and were exploring graffiti walls to hang in their living room. There were many prompts we could have used to gain insight into who these girls were, what they were concerned about, and what sorts of experiences impacted their time at the treatment center. And the most telling and powerful responses we received were drawn, sketched, collaged, and written on a wall that asked, What made you smile today?
That simple question not only provided rich and raw details about these girls but was cited as a moment of delight for them as they interacted with the wall. And really, that’s what this is all about – not only listening and learning but creating positive moments, creating an experience that is thoughtful and makes a person stop and think and give voice to something personal and meaningful to them.
Similarly, we recently engaged a church community for a messaging and brand project. And to connect with them and learn more about what they might seek through spiritual experiences based upon the values of the church, we asked audiences to respond to one of the following:
The results served to illuminate people’s values, priorities, moments of joy, daily struggles, and long-term goals, with heartfelt anecdotes and details that we may not have been able to capture through more directed interview questions and focus groups. We were able to reach people on an emotional level by asking them to tell stories. And this is how we were able to gain a deeper understanding and better appreciation for others’ perspectives, situations, and ideas. We reach out to people as people, not subjects we’re studying or removed audiences we’re going to analyze…but as people who all have something unique and important to say to help shape better experiences for everyone.