4 tips for building effective focus groups | Public Relation

Every message starts with an intended audience.

Whether you’re a new marketing campaign or rebranding your
business, a robust discovery process is an
essential first step
to crafting an effective communications strategy. Understanding how
customers perceive your business and how they respond to messaging is
crucial to ensuring your communications will be effective.

Luckily, there’s a tried and true method for gaining essential insights
into your key audiences:

Done right, focus groups can provide valuable qualitative data that will
inform your communications strategy, allow customers to voice opinions they
may not express directly to an organization and give clients new insights
into key audience segments.

Here are four tips to keep in mind to get the most from focus groups:

Keep them small.

If you take the time to organize a focus group, it’s important that every
participant has an opportunity to voice his or her opinion. If
groups are too big, some participants may become wallflowers and won’t contribute valuable
information. Breaking large groups into multiple sessions of 7-10 people
ensures everyone can express themselves and that you get the most out of
every attendee.

[RELATED: Craft engaging stories that inspire audiences, build brand loyalty and more.]

Start broadly.

It’s important not to pigeonhole participants before you can gain insight
into their thoughts on your industry. Starting with a broad approach that
focuses on the industry as a whole may guide the conversation to essential
information you wouldn’t have thought to ask. Once you’ve touched on the
broader topic, you can dig into the key questions you want answered.

Be willing to break the script.

Come prepared with questions to guide your conversation, but don’t rely on
your notes too much. Sometimes a group tangent can flesh out valuable
information about customer pain points you didn’t anticipate. Letting
participants give you the information they think is important is better
than sticking to a prescribed script. However, always be sure to direct the
group back to the topic of focus.

Build rapport.

It’s important not to jump into discussions too quickly. Taking time to
build rapport with participants will increase your chances of them opening
up to you. This starts by being friendly, smiling, making eye contact,
asking easy opening questions and not giving away your opinions verbally or

What are your rules of engagement for creating a focus group, PR Daily readers?

Whitney Somerville is an account director with Frazier Heiby, a
communications firm. A version of this article originally on
the firm’s blog.

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