Glendale, CA, feels it has lost its identity, and the city council wants to find it. I got a kick out of this story in the local paper, as I once lived in Glendale and liked the town a lot. I also like the approach the local government is using to start its journey to a marketable identity. As the “Glendale News-Press,” reported, they’re starting with a research effort to figure out the state of their current identity. That’s a great way to start any public relations or marketing program.

While I do not specialize in research, I have made it a passion in my career. Unfortunately, companies don’t always share that passion – either ignoring research they paid for, or not attempting it at all. Hiring the first research director at Electronic Clearing House, Inc., I was pleased that the company, which was growing rapidly and still operated like a start-up at that time, wanted to commit resources to understanding customers and the market better. The experience with research at ECHO points to some lessons that Glendale can learn from.

Know Your Objectives – Before asking a single question or planning the first task of your research, be clear on your objectives. Researchers tell repeated stories about firms that were fuzzy on their objectives, then obtained results that were unfocused and off the mark.
Seek Actionable Information – Be sure that your efforts will pay off with information you can react to with programs and tactics. Without this focus, you’ll stumble on interesting factoids and anecdotes, but nothing that informs future actions that can help your company.
Quality Check Your Research – If you employ surveys or interviews, be sure to have both the sequence of the questions, the questions themselves, and the multiple-choice answers (if applicable) tested by someone or a group of people who are not involved with your research to QC your effort. Everything from typos, to biased questions, to logical breaks need to be ferreted out before you begin the actual survey/interviews.
Follow Through – While companies often invest in research, they waste the money if they don’t intend to follow through and act on the intelligence.

Recently, to freshen my perspective on research I took a one-day course in “Qualitative Research” taught by Barbara Lewis (Criterion Consulting Group) at UCLA. I’m still going to defer to experts when it comes to the details of building a research program, but I am even more convinced that research is a vital first step to any strategic or marketing initiative.

And Now For Something Completely Different . . . Glendale!

I’m looking forward to the results Glendale will receive. The city is uniquely multicultural, primarily Middle Eastern (Armenian and Iranian) in culture, mixed liberally with various Asian nationalities (Korean, Fillipino, and Chinese), Hispanics, and, to a lesser degree, Anglos. It was developed heavily in the last 30 years, and in that time the results of change have led to a disjointed, inconsistent urban environment.