Consistently Better or Worse?

Went out West last week for an open water swim event and swam my little lungs off and was so disappointed to learn that I came in 5 minutes slower than my last race despite feeling I swam better.

Why was this? How could I have been better and worse?
 No two open water events are comparable because the weather and water conditions will never be the same. My technique may well have been better/stronger but the wind delivering those repeated slaps in the face slowed me down.

Similarly, no two campaigns are comparable even if you start off with the same brief.
Marketing 101 tells us that consistency is great – giving the same again minimises risk, reduces the chance of post-purchase dissonance because  you give your customers what they expect but if it’s always the same, how can we exceed expectations?

When I’m writing up case studies, I start off with the same broad theme sheet or discussion guide, similar to what a moderator might use in a focus group, just to get the subjects talking. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people with largely the same questions but no two case studies are the same, how is this?

I listen and adapt my questions in response to what is said. We’ve all heard or seen the interviewer on radio/tv ask the guests questions that have been answered earlier in the conversation e.g.

Guest: I’m over in Ireland visiting my daughter who is studying here for the year.
Interviewer (5 minutes later): Do you have children?

The function of the interview is to get the information not to get through the list of questions – means to an end!  Sometimes the interviewee is all about metrics (time, money, stats) while others will be more qualitative – it’s up to us, the interviewer, to both lead and then follow the interviewee’s lead by being able to take the detours with them. 

The results will not be the same neither better nor worse but accurate and true and that is worth reading.

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