One of the curses of doing work that is usually confidential is that – for me at least – it becomes somewhat difficult to blog about it. Mix up ‘confidential’ with ‘busy’ and you have a bit of an issue, that I don’t think I’ve really solved yet. The conventional wisdom is that you write about stuff in the news in your area, and pile in lots of links. That does work well for many people, but I work across quite a range of areas, and my core area of expertise, market research, is particularly deathly as a news topic.
I’ve had the pleasure of working on a range of projects for quite varied clients in the last few months, few of which I can talk about. Some observations, then, from four months of rushing around:
1. Telephone depth interviews are a marvellous method, much underused. They require quite a different approach to face-to-face, but when they go well, there is a great moment of connection with the user at the other end of the phone. People tell you stuff, in your ear, that they’d probably never confess in a group.
2. Running discussions in viewing studios is like trying to direct a stage play without an actual script.
3. The most difficult resource on any project is time spent with the client talking about the problem. These days, many clients spend their entire working lives running from one meeting to another, managing lots of different things but not able to spend much time on the core work itself.
4. It is now much easier to get wi-fi connections working in British hotels and offices. Not foolproof, though. Sigh.
5. The first 10 minutes of any interview or discussion are the most valuable – all the background detail of who, what and when. We always want to rush on in, but time spent understanding the interviewee and their world is repaid 10 times over when it comes to writing reports.
6. Despite all the moaning about Powerpoint, most of us struggle to write pithy, compelling presentations. What starts out as a jewel of communication turns into an 80-page deck in the twinkling of an eye.
7. Milton Keynes is a so-and-so of a place to drive around in fog.