Why Your Business Needs Agile Partnerships
In the words of Rupert Murdoch, ‘today’s world is not about the big beating the small, it’s about the fast beating the slow’. The global pandemic has torn up the rulebook and has created a rapidly evolving business reality. With WFH and social distancing becoming normalised, it is clear that traditional ways of working have all but disappeared.
The New Consumer
Because of the emotionally charged nature of the pandemic, consumer attitudes are evolving faster than ever. As we begin to emerge from the crisis, getting close to your customers takes on an even greater significance.
At MCCP, we have responded to this uncertainty by adapting our work practises and structures to the agile process. It has allowed us to deliver on research and planning briefs that are rooted in consumer sentiment, layered in deep insight and delivered with flexibility to our clients’ needs.
As we all navigate towards a volatile future, agility will be key to delivering work that is faster, better and more consistent.
But what exactly do we mean by agility and how can it help your business partnerships become more productive and successful?
Changes in The Way We Work
Agile working is not just about flexibility in how and when a project is delivered, it is also about having the correct tools and systems in place to deliver this flexibility. This should result in benefits such as, greater productivity; greater team participation; and shared iterative learning outcomes that produce a more engaged client-agency partnership.
Adapting an Agile Research and Planning Process
Agile research is a much different proposition than traditional methods. In light of recent times, MCCP have honed its research process to be less linear with a much faster turnaround. The process, although heavier in iteration, is validated through frequency and moving and adapting to the evolving attitudes and behaviours of consumers.
Rather than setting a rigid research agenda, agile research places empathy at the core of the process. Putting the consumer first, at every touchpoint and deep listening with open ears and eyes to observe their feelings and attitudes to the discussion at hand.
The result is a better more fruitful experience for everyone involved. Agile facilitates a much deeper and more rapid transfer of knowledge where shared learning and constant iteration become research fundamentals. This regular and often mode of consumer research involves constant iteration in line with changing consumer attitudes. The resulting consumer insight is one that has had many layers of input both from the client and consumer perspective. This brings a strong sense of confidence to the process, as the end result is one that has been formed and adapted to reflect the changes in attitudes. MCCP has always employed a co-creation model of strategy development that is naturally aligned to this agile process.
There is no finer example of how the agile process has been embraced in the real world than MCCP’s recent work with the Department of Health.
DOH – A model of effective and agile communications
Since the outbreak of the devastating pandemic in March, the Department of Health assumed the onerous task of being the voice of the pandemic for the people of Ireland. The starting point was not a good one as the Department was not view in the most positive light by the people of Ireland who generally viewed it as being out of touch and “pale, male and stale”. The challenge was therefore a significant one.
The sudden early impact of the pandemic took everyone unawares. As devastating early images of patients being treated in hospital carparks started to filter through from Italy, the mood of our nation took on a much more serious and sombre tone. The communications arm of the department identified a valuable early insight that would come to define its approach. The department recognised that in the absence of a vaccine, the only defence the public had against the virus was strict adherence to public health advice.
As there was no definitive answer as to how long this crisis would last, the department also recognised that this would be an ongoing iterative process.
Establishing A Rapid Response
A research process needed to be rapidly established that would listen and respond to what consumers were thinking and feeling about the disruption of their ordinary world brought about by the virus.
The weekly process involved conducting focus groups to test propositions with the public every Tuesday, providing feedback to the client on Wednesday to carry forward into a weekly briefing session with NPHET every Thursday.
MCCPs role was to direct the department to make sense of the consumer world around them, as well as giving it golden insights as to how the public were interpreting and responding to what they were seeing and hearing.
In the early days of the pandemic, the process of listening involved the detangling of public emotion at a time of empty streets with an eerie feeling that we were entering the ‘end of days’. Every week, MCCP listened to consumers as they provided feedback on public health communications which allowed the department gain a clear knowledge of what they were absorbing as well as understanding new concepts such as “flattening the curve”
While pace was an important part of the process, it was not the sole concern. MCCP was conscious of the need to deeply listen to the consumer's voice and respond in a clear and insightful way. MCCP combined its research and planning resources to facilitate this process and allow it to quickly revert back to the department with rich deconstructed comms insights and suggested actions.
The results helped to re-establish the Department of Health to a position of pride in the mindset of the Irish people. Daily press conferences held by the department, chaired by Dr Tony Holohan, instilled a sense of calm and a public belief that they were in safe hands. Being armed with rich and iterative consumer insight allowed the department to communicate rapidly, yet sensitively, to the public in a way that resonated deeply with them.
The COVID pandemic has taught us that consumers attitudes and behaviours are constantly evolving. As we close out 2020, the year ahead promises to bring with it more opportunities for growth. Make no mistake about it, as we enter a new business world the consumer is in charge and their voice needs to be heard. The cost of playing catch up is too much. Those whose ear is too distanced from the hearts and minds of consumers will ultimately pay the biggest price.
It is said that all strategy is a series of choices and all choices have consequences. For brands, the choice is to continue to adopt traditional paths to listen to the voice of the consumer or commit to more agile ways of working and research processes that are based on collaboration, iterative learning and immersive insight.