Towards the end of 2010 I was working in audience insight for the BBC, the largest broadcaster in the world (by number of employees). I was part of a team of around 70 audience researchers and planners that provided data and insight to the editorial, production and product management teams. My particular role was in digital journalism, working with BBC News and Sport, which I found a really exciting and dynamic environment. I enjoyed being part of such a large audience research team and had a wealth of support from colleagues, plus plenty of opportunity to learn from others in my field. I also had a really good group of friends through work. In short, I felt very comfortable and content in my role.
But then a job ad caught my eye. It was for an insight position at Random House, one of the UK’s largest publishers. I was curious—I love reading but had never heard of a consumer insight role at a book publishers before. I decided to look into it.
When I read the job description I was really excited because I met every one of the requirements listed. However, once I learned more, I discovered that this was a brand new position. I’d have to introduce consumer insight to an organization quite unfamiliar with my world of surveys and focus groups. Furthermore it was a standalone role and I would be the only insight specialist in the entire company.
I knew this could be a great opportunity, but I also realized that it could be pretty tough. At the BBC, research was already embedded in the organizational culture and we had a wealth of research tools at our fingertips: Audience data, consumer panels -- all of this was well established. In this standalone role, not only would I be the sole technical expert on matters of research and have to make all decisions in this area, but I’d also need to ‘sell’ consumer insight to the business, and I’m no natural salesperson.
I decided to go for the job and just see what happened. I really enjoyed the research tasks I was assigned as part of the interview process. The publishing world is going through such huge changes right now and I could see how consumer insight could play a really valuable role for Random House in adapting to changing behaviour among readers.
When I was offered the job, my very first thought was what I was leaving behind – the team and the comfortable environment at the BBC – and I needed a moment to reflect on my decision. But I was excited about the new challenge, and when I said ‘yes’ I knew I’d made the right choice.
I’ve now been at Random House for almost two years and I’m hugely proud of what I’ve achieved in this time. Consumer insight has gone from being something almost unheard of in the business to being central to a lot of what we do. I’ve loved doing research with books and readers and love that I am breaking new ground with some of the projects I’ve managed. I’ve also learned a lot about myself and realized that you don’t have to have a salesperson personality to have impact. And I’ve of course met some great people while still staying in contact with my old team. I now have a small team of my own at Random House, and I have joined a research industry networking group to get that element of peer support that is naturally missing in a standalone role.