If a brand puts out a research study and nobody reads it, was it even worth the research?
Yes, but it might be time to rethink how you use that research.
When research fails to deliver any significant marketing results, it's often because no one bothered to create actual shareable content out of the gathered information. Once the data is collected, knowing where to start with content creation requires a clearly defined, multi-step strategy.
A press release may be the very first step to making the research results public, but it should never be the last stop in distributing your insights. Not only are you relying on your research getting press, you're assuming that your audience will have the time, patience, and attention span to dig into your full-length findings.
It's highly probable that the majority of your audience doesn't have the capacity to swallow and retain the entire breadth of your months-long survey or behavior analysis report-so the challenge for marketers is how to deliver the key insights via content that is both entertaining and digestible.
This isn't to say that press releases are a waste of time. They're helpful for putting the initial news of your research results out in the public sphere and-if you get press, which isn't a given-will be the first place journalists turn to when reporting on your efforts. However, relying on the press to drive interest in your research is not enough. Considering the investment you put into completing the brand research, don't trust anyone else to guide the content creation and amplification. Choose a strategy, create the content, and then share, share, and share some more.
The First Strategy Steps
If you made the decision to invest in original brand research, consider how you'll use the results before implementing any research outreach. Don't wait until you know what the results are. Get a jump start by deciding how the end results will fit into your marketing strategy once the outcome is determined.
In her Forward 2018 breakout session, "The Unsung Hero of Content Marketing: Original Research," Clare McDermott, chief research officer at Mantis Research, suggests marketers "spend as much time on planning strategy and amplification as you spend on the research itself."
There's a reason for this time investment: If you're not putting the manpower behind a marketing strategy, but only the research phase, the results won't get the spotlight they deserve.
Image attribution: Daniil Silantev
McDermott also told her audience to ask themselves and their marketing team what story they're attempting to tell before even beginning the research. With a goal in mind, your marketing team will be ready to take action once all the steps are taken to collect and analyze the data. It is only at that point that a marketer can make a plan on what type of content they'll create.
And remember, creating content with your original research doesn't have to be a gargantuan effort. Once the research process is complete, you'll know the results inside and out. Your job is to distill the highlights in easy-to-consume formats.
The first place most brands start is creating a report from your results. That report can be the jumping-off point for many different content forms. PDFs and charts often spring from a data-driven research report, as they are a way of sharing the most important information gathered in a quick-to-digest format. Just remember, while some of your readers may be drawn to this concise format, others may be more drawn to a less traditional and more conversational presentation.
For instance, blog posts provide a completely different avenue for introducing the same results. Here you'll be able to use storytelling and description to engage the readers who favor more narration over technical content. Research findings can be used to create a strong blog series, broken up into multiple posts, so don't feel as if you need to include all the key data into a single long-form article. Skyword took this deep-dive approach to delivering research-based content after publishing its report Inside the Content Marketing Continuum™, creating a series of articles covering the survey's major takeaways.
Creating an e-book is also a popular method to upgrade your data into a valuable source of written content. Here, you'll be able to provide an easily accessible downloadable reference that will guide your readers through all of the key information you uncovered.
Image attribution: William Iven
According to Inc writer Yoav Vilner, visual content increases brand awareness, engagement, and message association. Plus visualizations have the power to deliver an entire message in a glance, making it more likely that your audience will consume it in its entirety.
Infographics are a smart choice for data-driven research as they allow for easier digestion of important statistics and allow your brand to control which takeaways you most want to draw attention to through visual cues like image placement, size, and caption pairings.
Another content type that provides the benefit of furthering user experience is interactive graphs. With the ability to immerse themselves in your data, your audience will absorb more and also spend more time reviewing the research findings. As an added bonus, infographics are easy to share via social media, meaning they can reach audiences across numerous platforms and be redistributed again and again by users.
HubSpot research found that 54 percent of content consumers prefer videos from the brands they support over other forms of content, such as email newsletters or social images. The research also suggests that video is the most memorable form of content when compared to text or images.
So what type of video content is best to share your brand's research results? All of them! Don't just create a few-minute clip to share on your website and leave it at that. Short videos will perform well on many different social media channels, but you might want to tailor your filmed approach to each audience. Your LinkedIn network will likely be looking for different insights than the ones you might highlight on your brand's Facebook page. Live video is a smart way to share one small finding at a time while also engaging with your audience in real time.
Image attribution: Seth Doyle
Reuse, Reuse, Reuse
A major question McDermott had for those considering conducting their own original research was, "How will you amplify the results?" Content creation is the first step to making a spotlight for original research; how you choose to amplify it determines how long it will live. For your findings to really touch your audience, get your data out there in as many forms as you can.
Right now, this means harnessing the tools of social media marketing. By using images, video, or written content on social media, you're able to share your findings with a much larger audience than just the individuals who are already paying attention to your brand. Social media also lets you play with retargeting in your marketing campaigns so your ideal audience gets more exposure to your messaging
Think back to the "marketing rule of seven": Your audience will need to see your stats at least that many times before they bubble up to the top of their minds. By making your data accessible to your audience, and by catering to the many different ways different minds work, you'll have the best possible platform to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. So do the research, create the content, and get it out there. Share often, share everywhere, and share in as many different content forms as you can.
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Featured image attribution: Stefan Stefancik