Dr Cherry Taylor
Welcome to the next in my series of #PR – Ask the experts interviews. This month I spoke to Dr Cherry Taylor founder of research house Dynamic Markets. Anyone who has worked in PR will have commissioned some form of research at one time or another and will understand when I say that I always find research an emotional roller-coaster. A massive high when you win the extra project, a swoop down while you wait for the results, a high again when you start storyboarding the results and a low while you wait for that first piece of coverage followed by a massive high when it starts pouring in. I thought it would be interesting to better understand the process and to share Cherry’s insight. Enjoy.
Paul Stallard: Would you mind introducing yourself and the company you work for?
Dr Cherry Taylor: I’m MD and founder of Dynamic Markets, and among other things, we offer a value-add service to PR and marketing professions on the agency and client side for research that is specifically destined for the public domain. This last bit is key as it affects everything!
We are a relatively small company, but work with some of the largest brands in the world, including Microsoft, Oracle, Google, BT, HSBC, Experian, The Carbon Trust and many more. Many of our clients (individuals) have been working with me for as long as I have been doing this (16+ years). We don’t advertise, but rely on word-of-mouth, and lots of new relationships start when people have seen coverage about one of our reports in the media.
Paul Stallard: How did you get into the research business?
CT: I loved volcanoes! No, seriously, it’s a long story – but basically, an ambitious PR agency decided to start a research division in 1996 and I was in the right place at the right time. Within 3 years, the research division assigned to helping the PR teams grew significantly, selling in research to the installed base. This was a massive learning curve for everyone, but a fantastic opportunity for me personally to really absorb what makes a PR agency / PR professional tick and to find ways of making research meet their needs. Initially, projects started as small bite-size pieces, focussed entirely on supporting the odd press release (what some would call ‘quick and dirty’, God forbid!), but over time they transformed into significant projects being used by clients across their entire sales and marketing mix. This catapulted the PR consultants deep into the core fabric of their client’s organisations and everyone benefited. Many of those relationships I developed are still strong today.
PS: How has the research business changed over the past few years
CT: Considerably, and it’s changing all the time. Much of this is driven by technology, of course. This is changing the way research companies conduct fieldwork, the way respondents prefer to complete interviews, the way clients buy research and the cost of projects too. BUT – for you and other PR professionals – one thing has not changed and probably never will, and this is that research is still all about creating relevant, compelling content for you and your clients to take to market, irrespective of how the data is collected or how it is delivered to the target audiences who buy a client’s products / services.
PS: How can research help the PR process above and beyond simply getting headlines?
CT: I always strongly encourage PR professionals to think big – way beyond what they might think are the limits of their role. Content is relevant to PR, yes, but it is also relevant to other areas of a client’s business. Marketing & sales can use it in numerous ways. Indeed, the more it is used, the more value for money a client will get from their investment in the research. This takes the pressure off the PR consultant (to some degree!) to produce piles and piles of coverage. It also makes the PR consultant look rather good in the eyes of the client’s business. I recall one consultant being amazed at the sales guys coming to her and saying “oh, you are the ones who did the research – amazing, thank you”. This is what I mean by catapulting the PR agency deep into the client’s business. Make it an annual project, build a track record, make yourselves indispensible to that business or individual! This is always my aim when I work with people.
But more than this, for the individual, it can be seriously good for your career. I have watched many of my PR clients rise quickly up their agency ladder and go on to start their own agencies. For the company too, it is an invaluable tool for increasing revenue, credibility, helping with new bus and strengthening client relationships. These sorts or personal and agency benefits have been especially common where projects have been entered for and won awards (did I mention our projects win awards?).
PS: What are the most common mistakes you see when PR professionals undertake research?
CT: The most common has to be diving straight into the creative element of scoping a project without taking a step back and thinking why are we doing this, who are the people the client needs to influence and what are we going to use it for (I think you covered this off in your Blog, Paul). This groundwork does not take long to think about, but it is so important and sets a framework against which to make a decision about whether a subject for the research is a good one or not. As part of our consultancy approach, we cover this off with PR professionals.
Following on from this, another mistake is (and this might sound a little odd) people write some questions and go and get some data – oh, if only it were that simple! More on this in question 6 below!
PS: What tips would you have for a PR company before they even write their first question?
CT: As the risk of repeating myself – get strategic and ask “why, who and what?”. Then think in terms of output. What content are you trying to create? What’s the story and what are the key messages. Write a page of A4 and read it back to yourself – if it isn’t interesting, bin it and start again! Think in statements, not questions. Get this outline content agreed by the client before the project begins – it becomes the goal posts for the project.
PS: How do you personally stay on top of new research methodology?
CT: Like any other business director, keep eyes and ears open to what’s emerging. It’s no different in market research. I also have to keep a close eye on your industry too!
PS: What are the most common ways of measuring the success of research?
CT: Without a doubt, it has to be if clients want to do another research project with us next year! We have some clients who we have worked with at least once a year for over 8 years! Some come back more frequently than once a year. But that’s my personal measure for how good a job we are doing at serving clients. The really important issue (and not unrelated) is what impact did the research project have on the client’s business and did it meet those business objectives we documented at the start of the project?