Research is one of the most unappreciated aspects of the creative process. But it’s the phase that enables us to defend all of our strategies, ideas and concepts with facts, results and numbers down to the very last decimal.

Best of all, when all else changes, facts remain facts. John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” And that’s coming from someone who served in Congress.

Because of their permanence, facts help form the foundations of our creative briefs. To find those truths takes time, but the better your research at the beginning, the more smoothly things will run. The more smoothly things run, the less stress involved. The less stress involved, the less hair-pulling and aggressive cupcake eating on everyone’s part.

Like all our fact-finders here at WHITE64, I take pleasure in the quest for that one detail — that one hidden insight — that will make the work shine. As a result of that, I have developed a set of tips that I follow every time I undertake a research project. Here they are for my fellow research nerds:

Chesney’s Five Tips for Grassroots Research

  1. Define your challenge: Why are you here in the first place? Where would you like this research to take you? Is there an ideal solution? Answering these questions will help you define your strategy. Do you need sales data or consumer feedback? Are you looking for a data point to use in content or one that will support a strategy?
  2. Show that data who’s boss! When you dive into a topic-related data source, ask HOW it’s relevant to your subject. Great research lives in both investigating and drawing conclusions.
  3. If you have a lead, FOLLOW IT. You may find yourself jumping from one source to the next, like a kindergartener at a pumpkin patch, but under the surface is where you uncover the gems.
  4. Document everything. Now I know that I just said to follow a lead, but make sure that while you’re on this awesome fact-finding rampage, you’re marking your path. You may be looking for the big payoff at the end of the road, but that doesn’t mean that those little straggler facts you find along the way won’t come in handy later as well.
  5. Try breaking your solution into pieces. Research isn’t fast food — if you don’t take the time to dissect the project, you can end up either overwhelmed or oversimplifying. Get an understanding of each portion of your challenge and the connections will form themselves.

The next time you’re tasked with a research project, try a few of these methods. You just might unlock the insight that will drive your next big campaign.

Date: December 15, 2014