Inclusive Research & a Box of Chocolates

The world may be divided into two camps:

  • Those who treat themselves to a single chocolate each day, relishing each delightful experience, and
  • Those who plunge into their box of chocolates, no holds barred, reveling in the glorious choice of flavors.

Which one are you?

Whichever type you are, I invite you to savor this gift I’d like to give you. It’s a gift of knowledge about an important and relevant topic:  Inclusivity in Research.

If you prefer “one-chocolate-at-time,” I’m sharing bite-sized videos (1-2 min.) with tips on how to write inclusive discussion guides — from Introduction to Group Dismissal:  

But first, a little background on my passion for this topic…

For my “all in” friends, you can take in the entire video in one sitting by clicking the button below (…and finish off that box of chocolates as you do).

Either way, I hope you find this series helpful as we all seek to be truly inclusive in our research!

XXOO -Alicia

P.S. What kind of chocolate-eater do you think I am? Send me an email and I’ll tell you!

The Show Must Go On!

Special Spring greetings to you in the midst of these crazy times! I truly hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.

I decided to have a little fun recently and created this 3-minute video to help us “connect” during this time of so much “distancing!” Enjoy the show!

Are you feeling AGILE?


Our clients tell us that they love that we always have a detailed plan in place for research, but are equipped to jump to a Plan B, if necessary. Given the anticipated economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, I’m here with the good news that we have a Plan C ready for you –

Here are a few ideas:

Wishing you and your family good health in these trying times. Please reach out to our team for any assistance you might need!  We can do this… safely!

Sugar and Spice and Minnesota Nice

Reflections on Authentic Listening

As a native Minnesotan, I’ve heard the phrase “Minnesota Nice,” but never knew its origins. I submitted the question to MN Public Radio’s series, “Ask a ‘Sotan.”  A reporter reached out to me and to another sociologist, Prof. Lisa Waldner, who reflected on the historical and cultural aspects of “Minnesota Nice.”

You can hear the podcast here:

While being nice may get you on Santa’s GOOD list, the phrase is often understood to mean polite to a fault or even passive-aggressive.  Waldner suggests that Minnesotans may use the positive implications of the reputation to sidestep difficult conversations about social issues.

So What?  As researchers, we often engage respondents in difficult conversations. To be truly effective, we must be more than nice – we need to have those authentic conversations that  get to the heart of the matter and reveal gold (truths) for our clients. The secret seems to be in HOW we listen, employing active and empathetic listening skills to seek to understand the other’s perspective.

Here’s a “nice” summary for you from  (I especially like #2. Make it about them, not about you or your next question)

Julian Treasure provides an interesting perspective in this TED talk on Five Ways to Listen Better: If you want to jump right to his five tips, fast forward to 4:00, where he describes various practices that can re-tune our ears for conscious listening. Good reminders!

So whether you rely on mindful listening for your craft (like me), or just want to make your holiday conversations with family & friends more authentic, here’s wishing you a season filled with sugar and spice and LOTS OF Minnesota Nice!

WANTED: Wellness!

We are living in a wellness culture. More than ever before, we are people focused on living a life that considers our health to be much more than the absence of illness – it’s a holistic sum of our physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual health.  According to the Global Wellness Institute, the health and wellness industry has swelled to a staggering $4.2 trillion.

TREND: Generation Z says “We’ve got this!”

In a recent How America Shops report, WSL Marketing reveals that 80 percent of Gen Z (the oldest of which are 22 years old) feel they already know how to live a healthy life. 63 percent say looking better makes them feel healthier, and 50 percent of Gen Z women purchase products that make them “look healthier.” (Note: Millennials lead in spending on wellness trends, but the confidence expressed by GenZ-ers stood out to me. It’s like they’ve got it all figured out!)

I recently spent some time in France with my nephew, Victor, and his friend, Hannah, two of my favorite Gen Z-ers. Ever the researcher, I asked them what wellness meant to them.

  • For Victor, wellness is “having the physical and mental freedom to enjoy life however you want to.” They both go to the gym to support their wellness goals, and Victor says he focuses on staying hydrated and including necessary vitamins in his diet.
  • Hannah says, “I notice that I’m in better spirits after the gym and that it gives me an overall better mood. I will also spend money on myself doing my nails or a little retail therapy. If I feel out of sorts I’ll usually take time to myself to relax and get away from the world.”

As a Gen X-er, I’m right alongside these generations in their pursuit of wellness. Work and life have me fully challenged and stretched. But all this ‘stretching’ gets exhausting, so, like many of us, I aspire for balance. Yoga, kick-boxing, running and cycling are a part of my routine… always a challenge with a moderator’s travel schedule!

I realized recently that what I wanted was to find a benchmark of where I’m at so I can challenge myself to achieve the next level — whatever that may be.

So I embarked on a 10-day summer adventure where I cycled 50-70 km/day through France’s Loire Valley, hiked the rugged shore of Corsica and even tried my hand (and feet) at a little rock-climbing. And you know what? I surprised myself!

I felt whole, challenged mentally and physically, and I discovered I could certainly up my game physically. And what else can I do? I’m still figuring that out, but the possibilities are endless!

What have you wanted to just try out? Beyond work, how do you want to stretch yourself? I say JUMP . . . and you may surprise yourself, too.

Here’s a peek at my summer wellness adventure…

Place Matters

As researchers, we have a lot of theoretical discussions about the significance of place and how we imbue place with meaning. A social construction of people bound together because of where they reside, work or have a history, a sense of place can offer many insights in our qualitative research.

Recently, I attended and facilitated sessions at the Qualitative Research Consultants Association’s (QRCA) annual conference in Savannah, Georgia — a city brimming with a unique sense of place.

As a sociologist, researcher and member of the International Special Interest Group, I thought it was important for the QRCA’s annual conference to include a learning opportunity that would immerse us in a cultural experience beyond the architectural and culinary tours of this beautiful city. Thus – the Gullah Geechee Experience was born —  complete with historical storyteller, authentic Gullah Geechee dishes and an entertaining and educational dinner show.

I invite you to view a 4-minute peek at our immersion experience here:

A Personal Aside…

With the midterm elections this week, there are lots of issues in the spotlight. Other issues are getting less coverage, but are a serious challenge to respected and well-founded traditions.

One of these is an initiative to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The census determines how political districts are mapped — and many immigrants are already saying they won’t participate if asked about citizenship. As a researcher, I understand the importance of eliciting honest feedback from our respondents. Asking a citizenship question will negatively affect response rates, as posited by researchers versed in the topic.  (See this New York Times article.) My own experience affirms this:  research facilities are telling me they’ve seen a decline in Hispanics willing to participate in research.

Fear silences their voices . . . and we need to hear.

The months ahead will invariably prove to be as tumultuous as the last 48. I can only hope we continue to fight for truth, rigor in our field, respect human rights, and promote the belief that there is value and beauty in our diversity.



Carpe Diem . . . Carpe Everything!

Summer months are the perfect time to ‘carpe everything.’’ Carpe boat rides, carpe evenings on patios, carpe walks or runs around the lake, carpe travel adventures . . .

As a good halfway mark for the year, summer is also a good time to assess where we are with annual goals/ projects for the year. I keep it simple and focus on one incremental goal for each area of my life. Here’s a peek at some of mine:

  • Business: Apply for Women Owned Business Certification
  • Personal Travel: Visit Korea
  • Family: Offer a special Memorial for my father
  • Health: Add fish oil, coconut oil, and weight training
  • Fun: Get my own stand-up paddle board (SUP) and go play!
  • Hobby: Record 1 song a week, on Sundays
  • . . . (Can you guess the other categories?)

What motivates us to “get on it” and just do it? For some, it’s the feeling that “the time is now.” For others, it’s simply the shifting of obstacles and things just begin to flow.

In market research, we try to identify consumers’ motivations – what makes them buy, engage, share, change, leave – all of this and more. It’s as complex a question as what makes people desire what they desire, a question I posed in graduate school for my research on sexuality and AIDS.

These resources offer some interesting perspectives on this topic, ranging from serious to lighthearted:

Whatever rocks you this summer, do it with passion, creativity, and, as some girlfriends say, “Crush it!”

Ci vediamo a settembre!

Celebrating “Service” in Many Ways

This week we mark our nation’s independence with fireworks, barbecues and other celebrations. I particularly appreciate the events that honor our veterans, as my family has served in the military for many generations . . . including my grandfather in WWII and my uncle in Vietnam.

Do you ever wonder how veterans want to be honored on days like this? I live in an area with a large military community serving at McDill Airforce base, so I often encounter people who are currently or formerly in active service. A true sociologist at heart, I never hesitate to ask them “how do you like to be honored or recognized?” While the specific answers vary, the foundation is always the same:  if the appreciation is genuine and authentic, the recognition is always valued.

Isn’t that the same for all of us? Don’t you value authentic appreciation, regardless of how it’s expressed?

Recently, I was asked to apply for a Board of Directors position with the QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association). I appreciate the organization’s work and was pleased that my involvement to date was recognized with an offer to consider a new level of service.  (If you’re curious, you can view my candidacy video here:  Alicia_Menanteau).

Interestingly, my vision of leadership mirrors many of the core values our country celebrates:

While I serve in small ways that pale in comparison to our veterans, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating our country and all who serve it – in thousands of ways – this week!

Is Storytelling Still Relevant?

Tips for Telling Your Story in Fresh Ways

It’s funny how industry buzzwords come and go. Do a quick internet search and you’ll find “Marketing Buzzwords for 2018” and even “Buzzwords to Stop Using.” 

STORYTELLING. You may be tempted to say, “Been there. Done that.” If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know the importance of crafting a story that captures your mission and helps customers connect emotionally with your brand.

But storytelling isn’t a one-time thing. Just like kids often want to hear stories again and again, we need to find engaging, fresh ways to tell our story.

At a recent AMA event, Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s CMO Bill Potts told the tale of how the rescue of a young dolphin (“Winter”) saved them from financial ruin. In truth, though, it is consistent, intentional storytelling that has made Clearwater Marine Aquarium one of the area’s most popular attractions (and revenue sources) for tourists and locals alike. (BTW, it’s right down the street from me, so let me know when you’re visiting!)

As captivating as Winter’s story is, the aquarium’s success isn’t from telling the same old story ad infinitum. Even the initial rescue was told in the media as multiple stories, all supporting the organization’s mission, Rescue. Rehab. Release:

  • Story 1: Dolphin is rescued and named Winter
  • Story 2: Winter survives, but loses tail
  • Story 3: Winter learns to swim without tail
  • Story 4: Winter gets prosthetic tail
  • Story 5: Real life sequel when second young dolphin is rescued

And those are just the stories from the first year!  Since then, the Aquarium has turned storytelling to an art form – one that generates incredible revenue for their non-profit organization and other area businesses in the tourism and hospitality. Every day, they tell the stories of rescued animals and of the lives they impact when visitors connect with animals that have physical or emotional challenges like theirs.

Sounds easy, right?

You may say, “Easy for them, stories come to their doorstep! How can my business create engaging stories when we don’t have ‘Abe the Baby Otter’ to post on our webcam?”

True. Some businesses have a product or service that’s made for storytelling. But that doesn’t get us off the proverbial hook. Here are some tips for telling your story in fresh ways:

  • Be Intentional: Don’t use “I just sell Widgets” as an excuse to give up on storytelling. Dig deep. Look for stories, and provide ways for employees and customers to share them with you. Do you personally follow up with customers to hear their story? Do your employees know how to look for, solicit and share customer stories with management? Are there milestones or events you can leverage for storytelling?
    • The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has an “Inspire Team” tasked with spotting stories as they happen each day as visitors interact with the rescued animals. Likewise, they create special events that generate their own media buzz. While they once returned rehabilitated animals to the wild without fanfare, they’ve learned that a “Welcome Home” release party is another story.
  •  Be Bold: You and I live and work in an ever-changing world. Keeping our story relevant is not for the faint of heart. We have to be willing to ask the tough questions, and be vulnerable, even if it means doing market research about our perceived product failures, or asking focus groups “what don’t you like about doing business with our company?” The information we learn will help us craft a better story, one that resonates as TRUE with your customers.
    • In “Six Tips for Telling a Better Business Story,” Forbes shares “Our best ideas are often accompanied by the disclaimer, ‘this may be a bad idea, but…’ There are definitely bad ideas, but they are often a starting point to great ideas.” Invite them from your team, explore them and find the balance between what’s too far in a bad way and what’s bold in good way.
  • Be Prepared. In a world fearful of “bad press” and fastidious protection of company image, I was surprised to learn that the Aquarium trains dozens of its front line employees how to interact with the media. Consider how much harder it would be to tell their story if all inquiries had to be directed to “the PR department.” Think, too, about the authenticity of their message when it comes from a wetsuit-clad medical assistant rather than some tie-wearing spokesperson. Good stories come from real people (like in a skillfully-moderated focus group!)
    • I don’t know how the Aquarium media-trains its staff, but I bet it includes some variation of the 5 C’s described by com author Margot de Cunha: Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations and Conflict.
      • Set the scene and provide context for your reader.
      • Use curiosity to leave the reader wanting more.
      • Characters and conversation go hand-in-hand. Use dialogue; create characters.
      • Last but not least, conflict. If there isn’t any conflict, then there’s not much of a story.

Ready to go? I’m newly inspired to tell Insights360’s market research stories in fresh ways, and I hope you do the same! After all, as a Moderator, I’m a Story Collector. Let me know if I can help you uncover your customers’ stories – so they can become your stories too!