Insights: What does it mean?

An insight is a term much bandied about in the field of Strategic Communications. We take its importance for granted but it is worth stopping to think about why this is so.

The desired goal of most of our work is to change perceptions or behaviour through engagement with stakeholders.  A pre-requisite for meaningful engagement  is understanding and empathizing with the people we engage with. Hence the importance of an insight.

Everyone talks about them, everyone asks for one, everyone sends you searching. But if you don’t know what to look for it’s pretty hard going finding one.

What is an insight in the context of strategic communications?

Insight is a  “A fresh and usable perspective on the relationship between an organisation/brand/product and its user/stakeholder.

Every word in this definition is significant.

“Perspective” – implies having a point of view that focuses a discussion or argument.

“Fresh” – doesn’t necessarily mean new but fresh means having a new look at an age-old problem. For example, the huge responsibility of  parenting is an age-old problem but a fresh perspective may be how modern lifestyles, breakdown of traditional support structures and greater access to information are placing a different kind of pressure on modern parents.

‘Usable” – too many strategies just look clever on paper. A good insight leads to an actionable strategy. A great insight motivates and inspires strategy that changes beliefs and feelings.

‘Relationship’ – spells out  the need to establish a connection between product/organisation  and user/stakeholder. Almonds are nutritious but a relationship is built when you link the nutrition to a user’s snacking options.

Campaigns like Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ or Ariel’s ‘Share the load’ demonstrate the power of insights in connecting with audiences to change perceptions and behaviour.

How do you arrive at an insight?

There are no short-cuts here – no quick-fixes. But two basic steps. They include:

Immerse: throw yourself in head first and just absorb. Relevant facts, figures, trends, patterns are all important…up to a point. If it’s a wellness brand it’s important to know the growing trend for acceptance of organic but that in itself is not an insight. Understanding why this is will head you in the right direction.

Think: research is only facts and figures until you analyse it and come up with some hypotheses. This is where Intuition plays a role. Observation of human behaviour is key – to  understand the deep-seated and often unstated needs and desires of your audience. A curious and open mind helps. If you are always asking why, what, how, when and where will get you to the heart of an insight – slowly but surely. Inspiration takes time and mindspace. I like this anonymous quote found online:

“Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table, your bottom on the chair and start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That’s called inspiration.”

Armed with our insight you are well positioned to devise a strategy: the way you are going to leverage this insight to change perceptions and, ultimately, behaviour.


Sylvia Mason is Creative Planner at The PRactice

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