As a CEO and Founder, I'm in a privileged position to shape the experiences of not only my team and our clients, but our community more broadly. Arguably as well, as a voice within our industry that is perhaps more easily heard than others. The purpose of this piece is to share a little bit about my journey, and what's evolved into a social justice passion project at Echo.
Why is this important to me, and why now?
I started Echo MR with the ambition to do things a little differently, and in my own way, give back to the industry. As Echo has grown and become an established agency, this desire to give back has evolved into looking beyond - and considering what we as a company, and as an industry, have to offer in the way of helping people, and empowering people to do good.
And the truth is, those in leadership positions in our industry have a unique opportunity to make a difference. Data is power, and market research ultimately plays a role in shaping the culture of our community at large - impacting brands, advertising, TV show storylines, popular culture, the list goes on - we're the data behind it all. As leaders, we empower those around us, and often dictate the topics, issues, and initiatives that get airtime in our industry.
So, what does this look like thus far at Echo?
We started a Social Justice Research Department to devote time and brainpower to making a change. We asked our team about causes that mattered to them, and went from there. The first challenge we set ourselves was to understand the attitudes towards police reform and messaging around 'Defund the Police'.
There was so much misunderstanding, so much division - we wanted to better understand what was going on. Breakdowns in political communications and messaging is not unique to the USA. Rallying cries or phrases used to make points are often misunderstood, poorly defined, or simply misconstrued. And, we're often beholden to very simplistic polling - who agrees "yes" or disagrees "no. Beyond the obvious problems of sampling bias, there is limited nuance to anything.
We decided to conduct a message test for the phrase "Defund the Police". This phrase has been all of the things mentioned previously - poorly explained and broken down, misunderstood and misconstrued. We survey 2100 people with the primary source being our participant community. Beyond showing that a bit of education on messaging would go a long way in bringing people together we're comfortable saying that research beyond polling can be done quickly and for relatively little money.
Not surprisingly - we learned that when this statement was broken out and defined there was significantly more to agree upon than what the polls would suggest. If you'd like access to the full study, please get in touch.
What's next for us? We're working on a Corporate Social Responsibility study, as well as a Happiness and Social Opportunity initiative, and partnering with Dr. Celia Williamson at the University of Toledo on a human trafficking initiative. Stay tuned!
At this point, you might be thinking - great, but what can I do? My company doesn't have any social justice initiatives
That's ok. All of us can make small changes, and together create momentum in our industry.
One thing we can all do: within our industry, some of our accepted practices function to disclude diverse voices. Taking a critical look at who we include in our studies seems like a good place to start. If you are designing research, fielding research, or conducting analysis - talk to your colleagues and clients about making a conscious effort to include diverse cultures, demographics, ways of being, ways of living.
What difference could it make? More holistic, representative data benefits us all. And from a brand perspective, with the Selig Center's Multicultural Economy Report estimating minority groups have 3.9 trillion spending power there is an overwhelming business case for including diverse voices in our research. But beyond that, brands and companies are looking to us for expert recommendations - making suggestions on how we classify and define people - giving us more context, more data, and ultimately, better positioning us to understand consumers. Better insights = better for everyone.
What else can you do? Get in touch.
We plan to build the structure around our social justice department to help move the needle in a progressive way - including work with NGOs, political candidates, policy creation, and direct intervention. If you'd like to join us - through partnerships, brainstorming or some other way, please reach out. We see this as a starting point - a movement - and we're stronger together.