A few months ago I read an article discussing a poll that claimed almost two-thirds (64%) of employers report that they reject young candidates because they are simply unable to articulate their skills. This article made me think about what skills I see listed on job descriptions and struggle to address. One area I had been particularly challenged by was describing my ‘media research’ skills. Like many students I had recited general academic research, but hadn’t nailed the specific skills employers seek.
Since reading that article I have had the opportunity to do a fantastic placement with Research and Analysis of Media (RAM), a leading media research company whose UK and Ireland branch is based out of Edinburgh. Coming away from the placement I have gained some great media research skills and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to articulate what they are. In the spirit of sharing, here’s a quick – not exhaustive – summary that may be useful to others seeking to demonstrate research knowledge and skills.
Value: For publishers, big and small, obtaining meaningful data about their readers and advertisers and how they interact with their content is essential. Market research is by far one of the most effective ways of collecting this data and using it to gain important business insights. Acknowledging that you clearly understand the value of research is a great first step.
Purpose & Investment: In short this means objectives first, methodologies second. Develop your research goals based on your desired business outcomes and recognise that research is an investment, so have a strategic game plan for how you will implement your findings.
Focus: You don’t need to ask every question of every person. Consider the types of people you should be targeting and what types of questions you should ask them (some may have definitive answers while others will highlight interesting paths to explore). Don’t go too broad – in-depth analysis of the right questions from the right mix of people will deliver valuable information.
Understand motive: Design questions that seek to understand why people do something, not just what they do. (Students will recognise the link here to qualitative and quantitative data). Media research has moved beyond simple what/quantity measures such as click-through rates to why/how measures that identify engagement factors.
Tools: Get familiar with a range of methods (interviewing, surveying, focus groups) and tools (online survey tools, software metrics, advanced search tools) and select the right ones for each project. When I started with RAM their digital tools seemed overwhelming, but once I got stuck into using them I found similarities to tools I had used previously that made it easier to navigate to the data I needed.
Tracking & Context: Conduct research over time and compare different data sets to understand the broader context of the results. RAM’s tools allow their client’s to measure key criteria over time, showing differences in results and allowing for comparison, investigation and direction for implementing findings. A publishing example would be assessing reader engagement with different types of editorial layouts – if one layout outperforms others, you have direction for future design.
Presentation: Avoid data dumping at all costs. If you have outlined your research purpose, it should be simple to interpret the data and make recommendations that can be presented as a logical story from data to insight to implications. The team at RAM are particularly amazing at communicating interesting and relevant information in short presentations, and having that clear, logical story was a big part of their success.
In terms of articulating the above notes into specific skills, a useful approach is to turn activities into ‘I can’ statements. I can plan research projects to fulfil business objectives. I can identify relevant media research skills that will be me an attractive candidate to prospective employers!
Special thanks to the phenomenal RAM team!