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Insights: the foundation of a strategy for success

23rd September 2021 By Emily McGowan Phoenix
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We’re now well into the swing of September, and for me, this month has always felt pretty synonymous with new beginnings – that feeling of ‘back to school’ and the refreshed sense of ambition and direction that comes with it. Perhaps it’s my affinity to woolly jumpers, hot coffee and – dare I say it – the lead-up to Christmas, or maybe it’s just the Scorpio in me, but I’ve always found the end of summer / start of autumn a decidedly positive period, with energy renewed and a determination to get things done.

And I know I’m not the only one – for example this survey found that autumnal months were connected to an increase in productivity levels. It really does feel like a time for introspection, to reflect on what has been, adjust and use time wisely and to effect for the remainder of the year – shaping a ‘strategy’ for what is to come.

And as I look back at my 2021 resolutions, write my (many) to-do lists and plan for the months to come, naturally, all this thinking made me reflect on how much the same can be said for communications strategies – and how taking the time to stop, look at things on a deeper level and plan before acting can be integral to the results to come.

In this respect, I’ve shared some thoughts on why investing time on research and insights can play a vital role in shaping communications strategies that deliver measurable, achievable results.

  • Tactics are nothing if not targeted

In a world where things need to be done yesterday, it can be really tempting to dive straight into the deliverables – the things you’ll actually see, from images and copy to graphics and video. But investing in your research and insights beforehand can save a lot of wasted time further down the line. To deliver impactful results, all outputs should be informed by a deeper understanding of who you want to communicate with and what they need to hear from the outset.

  • Your ‘audience’ is not a collective – it is a group of very unique individuals

‘Audience’ is a bit of a buzz word, and in that sense it can be easy to pigeonhole the vast scope of your target market into broad signifiers like ‘affluent’, ‘female’ or ‘Gen Z’. This might mean you have a pre-conceived idea about who that ‘type’ of person is, but by instead examining your audience at a deeper level – that is, putting ‘a face to the name’, considering what makes that individual tick, their motivations, their likes and dislikes – you can uncover insights that will tell you what that individual really needs from you and your communications strategy.

  • Without acknowledging where you are, you cannot expect to progress

Without understanding where your organisation currently sits in its unique sector or market, it’s impossible to expect to adjust or exceed that position in the future. To get from A to B (that is, from your current position to your ultimate goal), you have to understand what your competitors are doing well – or not so well –  and where you are in relation to this. Taking the temperature of the broader market and its comms can prove invaluable in creating your own opportunity.

  • Your work means nothing without context

Similarly, it’s vital to look at how your work – or proposed activity – fits in relation to the bigger picture. This might involve considering PESTLE (political; economic; social; technological; legal; and environmental) factors to get a holistic understanding of how your organisation or its sector speaks to wider ongoing dialogues, from political spheres to the general public. Analysing specific research or understanding the ongoing societal conversation about an issue can provide the insight that is key to making your organisation’s offer timely and relevant. And that leads me to…

  • Understanding the WHY of your work is crucial

As a whole, the insights you gather will provide the information you need to respond and communicate in a way that engages the people you want to reach. But it’s vital to understand how your communications activity needs to support broader organisational ambitions, in order to create a strategy that delivers the right results. Measuring your success will be crucial, and making sure that people across the organisation are engaged with the process and getting their insight on what ‘good’ looks like will help you to set SMART (specific; measurable; achievable; relevant; and time-bound) objectives that focus your strategy  – and ultimately, deliver success.

At Social, through our Strategy Sprint process we focus on unearthing rich insights and ideas to shape effective communications and engagement strategies in a quick, efficient and interactive way. To find out more, you can get in touch with Emily McGowan-Phoenix, Account Manager, at or Racheal Johnson, Head of Strategy (Leeds), at