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Podcast: Priscilla McKinney on humanity and context in market research

Priscilla McKinney CEO and Momma Bird of Little Bird Marketing joins the Infotools market research podcast to talk about humanity and context in the industry, including standards and best practices.

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This week’s podcast features Priscilla McKinney, CEO and “Momma Bird” at Little Bird Marketing, an award-winning digital marketing agency dedicated to providing top-notch content marketing solutions and strategic insights. She talks at first about how she found herself in the unique place in the industry at the intersection of marketing business and market research, starting with her unique childhood and university studies in cultural anthropology. A speaking opportunity at a GreenBook conference led her to the insights space, and fed her curiosity about human behavior and more.


During the podcast, she focused on how we all need to be aware of what is informing our opinions and the lens through which we see the world around us based on our own experiences. As market researchers we are naturally curious about the human experience, but we are bringing our own humanity into our careers. We need to use that fact to our advantage and be aware of how it is coloring our work as a whole. She talks about brands and how their own views of their products, and preconceptions of how consumers feel about those products, can sometimes get in the way.  

She also talks about the importance of looking at data more holistically and recognizing that we need a blend of methodologies to build understanding. Technology is another piece that comes into play for the market researcher, with many platforms and solutions out there to help us do our jobs. She cautions that we can’t be led by the tool, or the methodology, and we still need people in a room applying their humanity to shed light on the data and the insights. “How do we start back at the beginning, and remember that you yourself are a consumer?” Later in the episode she talks about how implementing new technology needs to be balanced by a hyper-focus on what value that technology brings and what they are hoping to gain from using it.  

We also talk about how market research is, in some ways, still falling very short in connecting with their audience’s humanity and meeting basic standards for best practices. She gives an example of being sent multiple, lengthy surveys at every point along a travel journey – from airlines, restaurants, hotels – but how none of them actually gives her an opportunity to provide the feedback she wants to give. There is a lot that could be done to think about brand and industry standards before sending out a survey. Things are changing in the industry, and those conducting market research need to be aware of these shifts and come together to agree on some standards to avoid slipping in significant ways. Some companies are stepping up to police their own practices, as the industry hasn’t been keeping up with building them. She says “start policing yourself or you are going to get policed.”

We ask Priscilla to tap into her own experience in the industry and talk about some companies that are getting it right surrounding things like respondent experience. She sees value in the UX and CX spaces influencing respondent engagement, communication and clarity during the research experience. And there are many companies in the market research space and beyond who are leading the charge, which she mentions during our interview. She also acknowledges that we are being asked to do more with less all the time, and many people are tired and don’t have the time to focus on the creation of standards – especially when not being pushed by the end client to do so.

Now is the time for market research professionals to be evaluating how to stay in alignment with their clients needs, and not be distracted by “shiny things.” The quality of conversation needs to focus on the “why” they are doing it in the first place. We finished up by talking about what success looks like for those in the profession when we get these best practices in place, and when they use technology in the right way to create efficiencies that allow the “brain” and human side to come into greater play.

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