In or Out? The importance of real insight

It is a truism that we tend to assume others are more similar to us than they really are. We extrapolate from our own preferences, knowledge and views to wider society. When I first started working as a communications advisor, many of our supposed “insights” were driven by just this kind of approach. But today, given the plethora of available data, this simply isn’t good enough.  Insight must be real, evidence based and tangible. We are all multi-faceted with complex and often contradictory instincts, feelings and preferences, which drive our behaviours. That’s why today’s communicators utilise honest data and inputs from target audiences to drive their insights.

And insights come in many forms. But at their heart, they are driven by two things: quantitative insight (what do the majority think? are there trends over time, location, demographics?) and quantitative insight (ad verbatim feedback on how people truly feel).

At H+K we frequently work with both, as the two complement each other to enhance our understanding of our audiences. This approach changes the way you think about almost everything. Once you have been imbued with the importance of actual insight, you begin to challenge your assumptions about those around you. So, when thinking about one of today’s biggest issues – whether the UK remains in the EU or elects to leave – I understand that as one person I am far from representative, whatever my views.

In order to better understand the real impact of the debate, I thought it best to garner actual insight – and who better to ask than my 270 odd colleagues? And I am very glad I did! By sharing a relatively short, simple survey on the referendum around the agency, I gained some important insight from the H+K London team:

They are both well informed and politically engaged. 
92% knew when the referendum would be and 94% plan to vote (although I do worry a little about the 2%+ who plan to vote, but had the referendum on the wrong day). 

They have fairly firm political views.
86% are either fairly or very sure how they plan to vote, with the remainder either split or totally unsure.

But they are more split on how the referendum has been covered on the media.
38% of respondents said they are fascinated, 34% bored or irritated and 28% declared themselves indifferent. 

There are some things they are very clear on.
76% named David Cameron as the public face of the remain campaign and 70% noted immigration was seen as the number one issue of the referendum, following polling.

But there are others where people are less sure.
44% were unsure whether the UK could change its mind later, if it voted to leave and 44% of respondents also didn’t know how long negotiations to leave would take. Collectively, respondents could not highlight one lead political party associated with the remain campaign.

Data like this is incredibly useful as a snapshot into the knowledge and engagement of a specific (although I acknowledge, potentially unrepresentative) population. It highlights areas of interest, content over- (or under-) load and gaps in knowledge, to name but a few things. But data alone lacks some of the human factor that gives insight its power. We can see trends, but struggle to get behind them to better understand how people truly feel.

Because of this, I have also asked two colleagues who responded to the survey and declared themselves “undecided”, to attend two events we are hosting over the next week - one making the case to remain and the other to leave - to share their initial reservations, prior to hearing from either camp.

What would the economic impact of leaving the EU be?
“I have yet to see enough cold hard facts about how it would affect the economy. I understand that it’s hard to properly predict but too much debate seems to be scaremongering at the moment.”

What is the EU positively offering if we staying in?
“I think too much of the ‘in’ campaign focuses on the potentially negative effects of leaving the EU. I would like to hear what the EU is actually offering us for staying in.”

What could our future relationship with the EU look like?
“It is impossible to predict if our relationship with the EU would be like Switzerland, or Norway… free trade agreements?  Freedom of movement?”

Over the course of the next week, these colleagues, alongside the broader H+K team and clients will hear from both sides on the EU referendum.  Next week we will be catching up with these colleagues to see what, if anything has swayed them, and to revisit the importance of human, verbatim insight in communications.

H+K Admin

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search