We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘read the room,’ before. It’s the all encompassing statement that tells someone their message isn’t quite hitting the way they intended. There’s usually an awkward moment that follows and an effort to overcompensate to reset the feeling in the room. As new people come into D.C. and there is a changing of the guard, so to speak, it’s going to be critical for the brands and organizations looking to introduce themselves to read the room. Knowing your audience is the cornerstone of good relationship building, and performing research before planning the messaging will only strengthen the results of a campaign.  

In Part 2 of Josh Sharp’s conversation with one of our research and public opinion partners, Jason Boxt, founder of 3W Insights, they dive into how qualitative and quantitative research provides stronger creative outputs and relationships with your audience.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation with Jason Boxt.


What new research and data capabilities are coming or are available to us that companies and organizations should be thinking about?

There’s always something new. If you’re a non-research person you will probably be wasting your time if you’re worried about what the newest, sleekest way of capturing information is because it’s going to change in five minutes.

My job is to sort through all the data and make sure that I’m using a set of tools to meet your strategic research needs. You don’t ever want your researcher to be on the bleeding edge, and you only sometimes want your researcher to be on the leading edge. What you really need is a partner who understands the questions you need answered by the audiences you care about, and that they align their methodology to capture that information.

Survey research is always going to be there. Traditional qualitative research was often slow, expensive and unreasonable to perform, but online qualitative research has become easier and a little less expensive, and it’s really important for building context and character around the data that is survey research.

For strategists, like the people who hire me, it’s good to know lots of methodologies; however, what is most important is that you work with research partners who you trust to make sound methodology decisions relative to your strategic needs.


In D.C. particularly, there’s often a temptation to expedite the strategy process. The reason might be budget realities, but it is also sometimes the launch and test approach. If an organization is facing budget constraints, which part of the process would be the “best bang for their buck?” Where do dollars or resource lobbying get cut that shouldn’t, and why?

Well the first thing they’re going to cut is research because that’s historically been a fault line. When people are forced with scarce resources, they go through the mental checklist and think, “you know what, I really think I know these people,” or “I know what they want to hear.” People forget that we live inside our own bubbles.

I love taking clients to focus groups to see the expression on their face when they hear their stakeholders say the exact opposite of what they expected to hear. We’re all blinded by proximity bias—we live in our issue, we eat it, we breathe it, so we expect that everyone understands it.

There’s a saying: you can have two out of three things good, quick and cheap…you can’t have all three.

Is there a way of moderating your expectations or redefining what victory looks like? If you’re going to spend any money on any kind of communication strategy, and you don’t know with certitude the who, the what or the where, then you’re spending that money inefficiently. None of it is good to cut, but think about what you want. Do you want a good idea and bad content, or do you want a good idea, good content and a shitty media strategy? There’s no good answer to that question. What I would say is, in times of urgency and real budget restraints, those are not good excuses for wasting your money.


From a research perspective, do you see different tactics resonating more often on advocacy campaigns or are some things just tried and true? Alternatively, how does your approach on the research side help define what the right tactical formula is?

I’ll answer the second question first: the research is only as good as the solutions it provides. So, if you’re an event company, you’re going to want to know something that’s relevant to the experience that people have at in-person events. If you’re a video content creator, you’re going to want to know what the viewer experience is. Everyone’s going to come to it with their own bias. At the end of the day, the only metric that I look at is where are people today, and what can you do to get them to where you want them to be over time?

The goal could be behavioral. If you’re an advocacy group that’s looking to fundraise, how much are you raising today? How much can you raise six months from now? Can you increase the number of donors? If it’s a video, are we getting more click-throughs or engagements? 

Or it could be attitudinal. For example, if X percent of Americans support something right now, and we want to get that number to X plus 20 percent in three months, how do the tactics achieve the success you want? I have to be flexible in terms of the research and I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to the metrics.

Regardless of the kind of advocacy work you do, or the type of consulting work you do, you have to set goals that are measurable. You have to assess where you are and where you’d like to be, then you have to be able to measure them. If you can’t do that, then it’s just one big guessing game with somebody else’s money or with your own precious resources.


Enjoy this read? Check out Part 1 of our interview with Jason Boxt here!