Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Kerry Edelstein, President and Founder of Research Narrative.

Contact Kerry Online:

LinkedIn

Research Narrative


[00:00]

Kerry Edelstein, Research Narrative, Live with me at IIEX on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  We do a real quick but yet deep dive in what Research Narrative does. They’re a full-service market research agency.  But enough from me, we’ll let you hear from her.

[00:17]  

I’m here with Kerry Edelstein.

[00:20]

That’s correct.  

[00:21]  

Research Narrative.

[00:23]  

Hello, happy to be here.

[00:24]

Yep.  Happy Market Research Podcast.  We are Day 1 of IIEX in Austin. What do you think?

[00:29]

I literally just arrived, like ten minutes ago.  Gosh, there’s got to be easily like 100 different companies in the research technology space to go look at, and I maybe know a dozen of them.  I’m super excited to check out what’s here and see all the innovative ideas. I came of age in market research as we were making the transition from telephone to online research; so, I love seeing new and cool things and thinking about how we can integrate that into our business.  I’m excited.

[00:59]   

Yeah, for sure.  Well, you guys have been around for quite a while.  

[01:01]

Yeah, we’re going to hitting our eight-year anniversary this fall, which is pretty exciting.  It feels like it was just yesterday that we started it but I’m like, “Wow, we’re actually approaching a decade pretty soon.”  It goes fast.

[01:11]  

It’s a big milestone, honestly.  

[01:12]

It is.       

[01:13]

You know the…  So, one of the questions that I ask in the regular podcast interviews that we do is “What is one of the biggest challenges in market research that you face today?”  And usually these are like heads of insights and brands or whatever. So, there’s two things I hear. One of those things, which is very regular, is storytelling. And connecting that to your company’s name, Research Narrative, I think is super interesting, right?              

[01:37]

And not an accident.  That’s actually why we (1) called in that and (2) came up with the philosophy that we did, which is that…  I was actually working in an online video company, running research and analytics before I started Research Narrative, and this was the number 1 challenge we had.  It’s just literally too much data and not enough people to make sense of what it means and to break it down into a narrative that had business implications and action steps associated with it.  And so, we started this mantra at that job of research has to tell a story. Otherwise, why are we doing this? And so, when I left that job, I thought there needs to be a company whose primary focus is making sure that the research that we’re doing is telling a story.  That has to include analytics as well; it can’t just include consumer insights anymore. The two have become married. So the genesis of RN was actually intentionally a hybrid of data and story from the outset.

[02:36]

Of course, we got interrupted by Joaquim Bretcha, one of my good friends.   

[02:39]

Hello, we’re posing for a picture.

[02:41]  

Yea, President of ESOMAR.  Sir, how are you today?

[02:43] – [Joaquim in background]

Hello, nice seeing you.

[02:44]

Hi, nice to meet you and see you.

[02:47]

Research Narrative.

[02:48]

Hi, we’re just talking about storytelling with data.  

[02:51] [Joaquim]

OK.

[02:52]   

So, this guy is actually a master storyteller, but this is not about him right now.  This is about you.

[02:58] [Joaquim]

This is a very nice spot, by the way.

[03:00]      

Thank you very much.  Yeah, I feel very fortunate.  So, let’s see, got to get the train back on the rails.    

[03:08]

So the genesis of Research Narrative was literally this idea that the biggest challenge at that point in time, which was about eight years ago, was how do we take the increasing volume of research and data that’s coming out.  And we specialize in media as a company. So, in the digital media space, it was particularly epic that this change was happening. How do we deal with that and make sure that we’re not just going too far down the data engineering path without making sense of what it all means?    

[03:34]

Yeah, I love that.  So, where’s your sweet spot right now in the marketplace?  Where do guys – like when you’re pitching this particular thing or this particular way – it’s just like the customer has to buy?   

[03:43]

Well, there’s a sweet spot from the kinds of clients we serve, and then there’s a sweet spot from the work we do.   

[03:49]

Tell me about both.

[03:50]

In terms of the kinds of clients we serve, I think we do best at the intersection of media and entertainment and innovation.  So our earliest clients were companies like Netflix and Amazon Studios. We’re working with a division of Verizon that’s launching a new mobile company.  So, I love working with companies that look at the history of what they’re doing and recognize the heritage and the best practices in their space but are trying to innovate on top of that.  That’s my favorite kind of company to work with. I don’t think I would say it’s disruption; I think disruption can be just disruptive without being innovative or progressive. But I like companies that are trying to make things better and more innovative without losing sight of what works historically.  So that’s kind of our sweet spot is media meets innovation.

And then as a service provider, we set at the intersection of consumer insights and strategic advisory.  So, the consumer insights part is traditional market research, data collection, all that kind of stuff. And then the strategic advisory is the story time part:  What are we going to do with this? How do we roll it out? What does this mean for your organization? How do you do everything from knowledge management to communication and everything in between.  So we try to sit at the intersection of those two things.

[05:04]  

That’s super interesting.  

[05:05]  

Yeah, I hope so.  I like to think so, but I’m biased.  

[05:08]

This is the innovation conference, right?  Have you – and I know it’s just Day 1 – have you seen anything that’s like popping up as particularly interesting right now?

[05:18]  

Not yet ‘cause I literally just walked in the door about 15 minutes ago.  I know I wish I had that kind of prescient behavior that I could just know that that’s the company.  No, I think actually what impresses me is how long I’ve been at this and how few companies I recognize.  That just tells you… I mean that’s probably the biggest change taking place is there so many new companies out there offering unique kinds of data collection and my job is to go through and vet that:  Which of these make sense for our business? And which of these are right fit for the clients, the kind of clients that we work with? So, I’m excited actually to walk the trade show floor and see what’s out there.  Yeah, I love that.

[05:58]

You guys have a podcast.  

[06:01]

We do.  We just launched it today.  And that is that.

[06:03]   

Today.  It’s perfect.  It is perfect. Tell me about the podcast.

[06:07]

So, it’s called The Thinkerry, which is a play on my name.  It’s Thinkerry, with two r’s and my name is Kerry. A little personal branding needs discussion.  And it actually started out… I have a very entertaining team at my company, at Research Narrative.  And we would get on these weekly calls to talk about our blog and social media and what we wanted to do.  And our calls would be really entertaining and interesting in and of themselves. And we thought, “We should be recording these.  Like this is just an interesting conversation that, I think, other people would derive value from.” And so, we started to be more intentional about that and record them.  The idea is to talk about different topics that come up in the course of doing market research or analytics: so everything from how to do different kinds methodologies well to challenges facing our industry to reading between the lines and understanding communication.  So, we launched with an episode we’re calling “Show Me the Data,” which came out of a conversation I had with a client where they said, “Can you send me the raw data?” And I was like, “What does raw data mean to you?” because I think what you think it means and what I think it means are not the same.  And so, it became this conversation of how do you get to the essence of what people are requesting and how much transparency is so much that it just feels like an overwhelming firehose. So, we started to tape these conversations we were having in our team meetings and make them a podcast. So, the first one launched today, and you can find it at our website, which is Research Narrative.com/Thinkerry.             

[07:33]  

Now, are you posting these to normal podcast mediums like Apple…

[07:38]

We will eventually.  Right now, we’re just doing it through our website, and once we have a big enough volume, we’ll port it over to something like iTunes.  

[07:44]

Yeah, right, got it.  Do you see it as… Well, there are two things really that I want to pack here:  one is I completely agree with the thesis, “Do what I want, not what I say,” right?”  That’s super important for anybody that’s interacting with a customer because we’re not 1’s and 0’s.  We’re not code. Language is code.

[08:03]

People are shades of gray.

[08:04]

Yeah, totally, exactly.  And you get to know… That’s the nice part about, I think, this industry is that we get to know our customers, and you can actually…  You become your own Rosetta Stone.

[08:14]

Translator?

[08:16]  

In that framework, yeah, exactly.  So you understand what it is exactly what they mean by “Send me the data.”   

[08:20]

Yeah.

[08:21]

Totally.

[08:23]

And it’s interesting in this case, we talk a lot in this particular podcast (I won’t spoil it too much), we talk a little bit about who is actually saying the phrase and making the request because what they mean depends on what there job is and who they are and what their background is.  And so, part of translating is understanding who you’re talking to and realizing that the exact same request come from five different people and mean five different things. And being able to actually read between the lines is a big part of our job.

[08:50]

Super important.

[08:51]

And the hard part of our job because it requires a lot of nuance and follow-up.

[08:54]

Podcasts are also a very effective way to be able to impact your audience.  I’ve been talking a lot about this topic, and I’ll be talking about it actually at the conference here tomorrow.

[09:06]

Yeah, I’m excited to hear that.

[09:07]

It’s going to be a lot of fun.  I’m thrilled. I really want to encourage our listeners to think about there’s two things with podcasting.  One is it’s easy. Literally, no cost. How much are you paying right now?

[09:19]

I don’t know.  I think the license for the software we use is maybe $25, $30 bucks a month.  And the cost for the microphones is like $100 a person. I mean it was really low startup costs.

[09:29]

Yeah, exactly.  It’s like almost no cap-x to speak of.  Even my setup, which is modeled after Y-Combinator setups, is relatively professional grade.  We’re talking about like $2,500, which in the grand scheme of things is just not material.

[09:43]

No, it’s not a lot.

[09:43]

But the benefit of having the podcast is it provides an ongoing, subscription-based  medium to communicate to your audience. So the brand that you can build, the connection that you build with that audience is very meaningful and actually grows over time.

[10:00]

Absolutely.

[10:02]

Are you seeing this as a…  From your guys’ perspective right now (I know it’s early days having just put your toe in the water), are you seeing this as a marketing initiative or are seeing it as maybe something a little more unique like connecting with customers in a more in-depth way?  

[10:21]

Both, yeah.  I think we started out thinking, “Yeah, this is a great promotional strategy, but we actually recently launched a deliverable as part of our service offering that is called a consumer insights portal.  And the idea is that we take different studies and different data from around an organization and we put it all into one destination online that looks a little bit like Google Drive meets 538. We want it to be data journalism. And so, part of what we thought is we can integrate these podcasts into those deliverables and just a free add-on that gives some color to whatever the topic is.  So if we just did a segmentation for someone and we just recorded an episode about getting the most out of your segmentation research, we can upload that podcast to their portal for no additional cost, and it gives that team a little bit more color. “Oh, how do we now use this research as we roll it out?” So, it was kind of intended to serve a dual purpose. And then for us actually, it served a third purpose, which was we found when we were blogging, we would have these conversations as we edited each other about like:  “What about this? And what about this other thing?” And we had these interesting back-and-forth conversations, and we thought it’s the back-and-forth that makes the meat of what makes this interesting.

That the guy on my team who comes out of academia (We call him Dr. J; his name’s Jordan.  We have two Jordans on our team; so, we have to differentiate.) So, Dr. J comes out of an academic background; I come out of a private-sector background.  I’ve been in business my whole career. And so, we come at research from different perspectives, and we’ll debate that in a kind of friendly, funny way. And that debate is what’s interesting or that conversation is what’s interesting.  And that’s much harder to do in writing. And so, we found that we were losing some of the back-and-forth by writing everything. And that actually, talking out over a podcast and then having a conversation live might give a little bit more of color to the conversations we’re having and to the audience and give them a peek beneath the hood of how we get to the endpoint.      

[12:23]  

That’s the other part that’s interesting about podcasts is that it’s not necessarily a finished product whereas a long-form blog post, you’ll have 20 hours invested.  But you lose the whole journey of creating the blog post. Honestly, the whole meta part of that is the more interesting, valuable piece. I’m toying with… I started a company recently on April 1st actually.   

[12:48]  

Congratulations.

[12:49]  

Thank you.  It’s all very top secret actually.  But I’ve been toying with the fact of recording our staff meetings and starting a whole different podcast, which is just our staff meetings.   

[13:00]

That would be interesting like behind the scenes of a startup.

[013:03]

You’re talking like a 15 minute of a startup, and this is the staff meeting, right?  I think that the value there isn’t the content that would necessarily come out, “Oh, this is the synthesized big point.”  It’s much more about, potentially, about how do you run an effective staff meeting and what does that back-and-forth look like and how do you manage power dynamics and different initiatives and those kinds of things.  My broader point is that what’s interesting at the consumption level right now and I’m seeing this in our numbers on downloads is people are interesting in the overall journey as opposed to the – and also the “Aha” moments.  I’m not trying to take away from that – but as opposed to the (and I keep coming back to the long- form bog structure), the long form blog structure.

[13:57]   

Absolutely.  And we say we work in the world of storytelling both in the sense that it’s the name of the company and it is our client base.  Our clients are oftentimes literally storytellers: we work with TV networks and studios, etc. Part of what’s fun about launching a podcast is we actually get to be storytellers and take people on the journey that we’re going on.  And you can do some of that in a blog post, but there is a piece of it that’s missing when you only see the finished product and you don’t see the journey we went on. And I’m a perfectionist when I write; so, a lot of time was going into one post.  And in an odd way, we actually got to the outcome a lot faster when we talk through it because it’s a group dynamic and then we can have a conversation and be transparent about how we got to that endpoint right then and there without going through 15 versions of it like I might do when I’m writing until I hit that perfect lever:  “Yes, this is the thing that I want out there.”

[14:53]

Nailed it.  

[14:55]  

Absolutely.  So it’s actually become less of a time commitment to speak the things we’re thinking than it is to write them.

[15:00]

Research Narrative, Kerry, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.          

[15:05]

Thank you.      

[15:05]

Enjoy the rest of your show.

[15:06]

Thank you.  Have a great conference.