Research Questions for Meaningful Change

By Graeme Newell 

You’ll probably spend a boatload of money on that next research survey, but are you getting data that will truly motivate change within your organization? Are you getting the standard template questions used by every station in the country, or something customized to your organization? When designing a survey, it is important that you roll up your sleeves, jettison the perennial survey gems, and craft questions your team will actually use . This means working backwards from the frontline solution , not working forward from the questions .

Baseline audience information is important to assess, but far too many surveys provide little else. This is especially prevalent with tracking surveys. We ask the same general questions year after year, in hope of tracking improvement. Sure, this information is nice to know, but does it lead to real change within your organization?

There should be few questions on your survey that do not lead to a corresponding and immediate action by your staff. For example, if I ask my wife “Do you think I am a good husband?” there is little I can do with the information in her answer. I will get a general impression, but I cannot take any action with this information. But if I ask my wife “What specific things could I do around the house that would make you feel better about our relationship?” now I have information I can act upon.

So the question “What shows on our channel are appointment viewing?” is a good one. That’s because it would answer the question “Which of our shows should go to the top of our promotion list and have the greatest chance of creating a viewing habit?” It would lead to an immediate restructuring of your on-air scheduling strategy.

Make your research company start the process from scratch – no templates. Begin the questionnaire process with a careful assessment by your managers and frontline supervisors. What answers about the audience will empower them to take a specific and decisive action? Try to reduce questions that provide general audience impressions. Look for information that will empower them to move forward with a resolute step.

Ask the team “What are the most important things you would like to know about our audience?” However, this question must be followed up with “What immediate action would you take if you had an answer to that question?” If they cannot give you an answer to that second part, then it should not be on the survey.

So here is the structure of the staff’s answer:
“If I knew this, I would take this immediate action.”

Graphics: “If I knew the audience’s taste for adventure and excitement, I would immediately adjust the speed and clutter factor in our on-air look.”
Producers: “If I knew how the audience felt about scenes of violence, I would adjust the amount of graphic violence in my shows.”
Editors: “If I knew the audience’s level of fascination with big name stars, I would immediately adjust who and what is featured in my in-show teases.”
Marketing: ” If I knew whether our audience sees itself as more tough or more smart, I would adjust the style of humor used in our image marketing.”

So put your own research to the test. Whip out your last questionnaire and give each question the actionable test. Are there a lot of questions that inform, but are not actionable? How many of those questions led to a specific reaction within your organization?

Graeme Newell is a broadcast and web marketing specialist who serves as the president and founder of 602 communications. You can reach Graeme at gnewell@602commu