Introducing our 'Their Space' Principle - By Amanda

So in the last post I mentioned ‘Their Space’. This is an approach Syren has been building into projects for some time now and we thought we should start talking about it because it is something that delivers so much value to our projects.

What does ‘Their Space’ mean?  Quite simply, it is about putting ourselves into the space of our consumer.  Before the groups/workshops.  This is not rocket science, pre-tasks have been around for ages.  What’s changed – certainly from our perspective – is our attitude towards them and how we approach them.

Over the past 2 years we’ve increasingly moved our pre-tasks online but not to online research platforms.  It all started when we were asked to go to Kenya & Nigeria to conduct some research amongst young women.  We knew a pre-task would be invaluable but we also knew that the traditional ‘paper-diary’ would not work for this market or indeed this audience.  We immediately thought online due to the high penetration of mobile phones across Kenya & Nigeria and set out to create mini-communities.  We knew that WhatsApp was even more popular in African than in the UK so we thought great, easy to set up and moderate as it utilises something we use on a daily basis and we felt it would give us better engagement given their high usage. 

What we got back far exceeded our expectations.  Not only did the participants engage, they gave so much of themselves and we broke that traditional moderator rule of giving lots of us.  But hey, some rules need to be broken.  To cut a long story short (we could talk about this particular project for hours...) here are some principles that emerged from this research that we have carried forwards into recent and current projects:

  1. Always engage participants before a group/workshop
  2. Choose a platform that is relevant to their lives, where they are comfortable hanging out and sharing. 
  3. And related to the above, something we’ve learnt is not to go near participants’ Instagram! Instagram is a curated feed that they do not want to muddy.  WhatsApp and Secret Facebook groups are private and do not interfere with a social media identity
  4. Do give a lot of yourself, it encourages your participants to give more of themselves and importantly breaks down moderator/participant barriers – especially useful when you are going into a market where there will be cultural barriers
  5. As a moderator you learn so much about each individual participant, you know who is going to be quieter and who is going to be dominant and you go in with a heads up on how to approach the moderation of the group and individuals within it
  6. If you have a packed guide (and what project doesn’t) you can keep your group/workshop focused on the key objectives/stimulus and use the ‘pre-task’ to tease out broader brand, consumer and cultural insights
  7. Above all create a sense of community. People arrive at the group eager and/or intrigued to meet each other.  And wanting to do a good job for you. There is trust built up so when in the group/workshop build on the trust and share the issue/challenge with them, let them in on what it is you are trying to solve/create.  They’ll give so much more of themselves because of the time you’ve all invested upfront.

But ‘Their Space’ isn’t just about re-defining the pre-task.  It’s also about keeping your eyes open when in market.  Insights and cultural understanding can come from anywhere.  From chatting to the taxi driver, from just sitting in a bar and enjoying a drink.  From flicking through local magazines, from chatting to the person making your coffee.  This is obvious but something that is overlooked or not brought into the presentation, just seen as interesting.  We say that this informal insight gathering is just as important as what is said in a group/workshop setting.  It gives it context, illuminating the insights.  When in market (and in this we include research in the UK, just because it is London doesn’t mean you know the London your participants know) see it through your participants’ eyes. 

It is when you bring the two together that it becomes particularly powerful.  Going back to the original project that got us thinking about all of this, we’d built such trust with the participants that they were visibly excited to meet us and each other.  From stepping off the plane to WhatsApp messages of ‘Karibu, welcome, if you need anything message us’, to enjoying a drink after the group where the conversation got really deep and personal.  They bring out the best in us, moderators and participants alike and the understanding and insight we generate is so much more powerful. 

In our next post we’ll talk about the benefits of talking to participants over time.  We recently returned to Kenya and arranged to meet up with a couple of the women we spoke to last time, if you can’t wait to hear more about this or if you want to find out more about how Syren helps clients get into ‘Their Space’ then please do get in touch.

...Or if you would like to find out more now click here to get in touch