Using qualitative research in PR

Qualitative research has long been a popular method to use when connecting with consumers. In order to gain a greater understanding of qualitative research and how it can be used in PR campaigns, we speak to Ian Jenkins, global head of strategy, insight and intelligence at Atomik Research.

What is qualitative research and how is it relevant to PR?

Qualitative research is a non-numerical way of engaging with consumers or business to better understand the more emotional, less rational ways in which people behave and act. Typically, qualitative research can take many formats, such as focus groups, 1-2-1 interviews, ethnography (observed behaviour) and co-creative sessions that bring clients and their customers together to develop ideas. It’s a great way of really getting to grips with why and how people think, feel and believe in the ways that they do.

From a PR perspective, qualitative research can really help identify specific strands of behaviour and attitudes that can be developed into storyline ideas and narratives for a brand.

How can qualitative research be used to inform a communications strategy?

The best thing about qualitative research is that it helps clients focus on ideas, opportunities and new ways of looking at things. That’s why it’s really beneficial to start deploying it at the outset to aid the development of the strategy and narrative of any communications campaign.

Used correctly, qualitative research can identify unique and interesting ways in which consumers relate to a brand. And, by getting closer to what matters to people at the point that’s relevant to them, it not only identifies ways in which to engage and deepen the consumer relationship, but also the nuances of tone, style and language that works best.

In this current climate, people are judging brands on what they do more than ever. Now is the perfect time to use qualitative research to keep tracking brand awareness.


Can you give some examples?

We’ve used qualitative research to help some of the UK’s biggest brands reshape their brand communications strategies and brand image. Our recent pan European study on Luxury SUVs for VW helped them articulate a completely different narrative based upon the interior comforts of the vehicle, and the superior night vision technology of their Luxury SUV that allows drivers to ‘see the unseen’.

We’ve also helped Agent Provocateur to develop its brand’s international communications. Qualitative approaches allowed Agent Provocateur to identify the ‘real’ motivations surrounding luxury lingerie and the strong cultural differences towards provocation, sex and luxury that the brand could exploit, and how this could be expressed in international markets that have different cultural and social values surrounding romance and seduction.

Why should companies invest in qualitive research ahead of a marketing or communications campaign?

Our guiding principle, according to the famous Spanish chef Ferran Adria, is this: “With creativity, it’s not what you look for that’s important but what you find”. And so, if you want your brand to stand out and make a connection with people, you need to begin by being inquisitive, non-judgemental and open-minded. Only by listening to consumers will you find the gemstones that lead to breakthrough ideas for great products and communications.

If you want to know more about the research services our in-house team offer, contact us today.

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