What Works Best In Qualitative Research: Tell The Story Or Get To The Point?

I’ve always been an advocate of storytelling when it comes to qualitative research, as per my blog post a few months ago. Often, this means multiple slides including in-depth explanations, quotes, and visualizations (e.g., imagery, infographics, etc.) — all must-haves for telling a proper story.

But in the fast-paced world in which we live, is there still time to develop a good story? I’ve had clients who only want to see the relevant information in quick, bulleted lists with a few short quotes perhaps. Are we moving to a model where the executive summary is the report? I hope not.

We don’t say “a picture is worth a thousand words” for nothing, and this is especially true for qualitative research. What would you find more valuable? Seeing a quote from a consumer in a Word doc or seeing a PowerPoint slide of that quote along with the consumer’s picture and demographic stats? Think of how this affects teams internally. All of a sudden, this quote isn’t just one voice telling the marketing or product teams what they’re doing wrong or how they should improve. All of a sudden, they see Bob H., a father of three who’s been buying your company’s product for 20 years because he thinks it’s the best on the market. It’s easy for an organization to ignore the voices but much harder to ignore the faces.

While storytelling is detailed, takes time to read through, and sometimes requires someone to explain the results, it allows organizations to understand the full picture of what’s going on with their consumers. Only having executive-summary-style reporting is like reading the last page of a brand-new book. Sure, you know what the outcome is but you don’t know how the author reached that conclusion. Companies should realize that developing the story is worth the extra investment of time and money. Do you agree?