How to run a focus group


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A short guide to putting together and running focus groups for qualitative research purposes

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  • Regional audience development agency. Work with cultural sector to grow, sustain and develop audiences – primarily through our subscription scheme 52 orgs covering 90 venues. Roll out national initiatives regionally such as Maximise (developing and mainstreaming audiences for black and minority ethnic work) and Family Friendly – equipping orgs to develop their family audiences (scary as that may be sometimes) Regularly funded, but generate about 40% turnover through offering consultancy services. Our core services are Marketing (website), training (professional development workshops) and intelligence.
  • As well as collecting and disseminating a large range of secondary research to our members, we also conduct primary research. Quantitative Visitor surveys – online, self completion and face to face – Centre for Life, Tyneside Cinema, Theatre Royal Box office data – regional benchmarking for ticketed orgs Mapping and profiling – using postcode analysis Qualitative Individual interviews – evaluations and visitor surveys Creative consultation – cultural olympiad Mystery shopping – family friendly Focus groups – Theatre Royal, English Heritage and The Bowes Museum
  • Pre-determined criteria eg age, lifestyle, socio demographic status
  • Directs the flow of the discussion over areas that are important Recognises important points and encourages the group to explore these and elaborate upon them Observes all the non-verbal communication going on in the room Synthesises the understanding into a report
  • Pros: The group environment with everyone in the same boat is less intimidating than individual interview Other people’s experiences or feelings ‘spark off’ another’s – it is a good vehicle for creativity The process highlights the differences between consumers thus making it possible to understand a range of attitudes and behaviour in a relatively short time
  • Group processes may inhibit the frank exchange of attitudes and beliefs and encourage unrealistic recounting of behaviour The group may react negatively to the moderator, subject matter or the environment, and freeze up A Strong personality (or perceived expert) may overawe the other members who either withdraw or simply agree
  • We’ll look at some focus groups we did for The Bowes Museum.
  • The Bowes Museum’s core audience is made up of ABC1s over 45. List the groups: Rural C2DEs BMEs Family audiences Age 18-30 Non-attending ABC1s
  • Structure: time and place, duration, demographic criteria, who is there, what equipment/tools you have
  • Started with the general and focused in on the specifics. Important to allow media to inspire response e.g. does that music remind you of anything you’ve heard before? I’d like you to sketch your impression of what you’ve just seen. We found that without access to computers, it was almost impossible to discuss websites for example.
  • Forming Inclusion, intros, icebreaker – IMPORTANT THAT EVERYONE SAYS SOMETHING IN FIRST FIVE MINUTES Storming Power and control – people want to know who knows what, who is assertive, who compliant and how the moderator will respond and manage. Some may be loudspoken, others may choose a tactic of silent aloofness – ‘actually I’ve never taken much notice of museums, I’ve got better things to spend my time on’. Storming may break out every time a new topic or new form of stimulus is introduced. Norming Establishing norms – typified when acceptance and agreement begin to pervade. People say things like ‘I’d never thought of it that way. I can see it in a different light now’ The group is now ready to perform… Performing Co-operative task-oriented activity. Assent and dissent are both allowed. Revelations and insights should be recorded. Mourning Finishing business and returning to everyday life – typically about 20 minutes from the end. We found 2 hours too long for young people, not long enough for older.
  • The moral is: never ask a question that you’re not prepared to listen to and act upon the answer. The Bowes Museum have some radical changes to make if they want to attract a young audience. We’re working with them on it!
  • How to run a focus group

    1. 1. FOCUS GROUPS Caroline Greener Marketing Manager Audiences North East
    2. 2. Seven Stories The Centre for Children’s Books Who we are and what we do
    3. 3. AUDIENCE RESEARCH <ul><li>Quantitative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Visitor surveys </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Box office data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mapping and profiling </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Qualitative </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Individual interviews </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Creative consultation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus groups </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Focus Groups – what are they? <ul><li>Seven to nine people </li></ul><ul><li>Recruited according to </li></ul><ul><li>pre-determined criteria </li></ul><ul><li>Exchange experiences, </li></ul><ul><li>attitudes and beliefs about </li></ul><ul><li>a particular product category </li></ul><ul><li>under the guidance of a </li></ul><ul><li>moderator </li></ul>
    5. 5. The Moderator <ul><li>Directs conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Explores and elaborates </li></ul><ul><li>Observes </li></ul><ul><li>Synthesises </li></ul>
    6. 6. Pros and Cons <ul><li>Advantages of group discussions are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Less intimidating than individual interview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sparking off each other </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Range of attitudes and behaviours </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Pros and Cons <ul><li>The disadvantages of a group discussion are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inhibition of frank exchange </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The big freeze </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The loud expert </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It’s up to the moderator to mitigate these! </li></ul>
    8. 8. Components of a Focus Group <ul><li>Structure </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><li>Process </li></ul>
    9. 9. The Bowes Museum <ul><li>Part of series of five focus groups for the Museum which looked at under-represented groups </li></ul><ul><li>Brief – to explore the barriers to attendance and test against existing marketing and promotion methods and all other aspects of the museum’s interpretation strategy </li></ul>
    10. 10. Structure <ul><li>Target segment – young people aged 18 – 25 years living near to Barnard Castle, County Durham </li></ul><ul><li>Recruited through WOM via the Museum’s marketing staff </li></ul><ul><li>Eight participants, each received £20 fee and visitor pass </li></ul>
    11. 11. Structure cont’d <ul><li>Location Witham Hall, Barnard Castle </li></ul><ul><li>7.30pm to 9.30pm </li></ul><ul><li>Break half way through for refreshments </li></ul><ul><li>AO lead the activities, CG typed up notes on laptop during session </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed report with anonymous quotes and exec summary used in the museum’s HLF bid and to inform marketing strategy </li></ul>
    12. 12. Content <ul><li>Leisure time </li></ul><ul><li>Attitudes towards museums </li></ul><ul><li>The Bowes Museum generally </li></ul><ul><li>The Bowes Museum marketing and promotion methods </li></ul>
    13. 13. Process <ul><li>1. FORMING </li></ul><ul><li>(inclusion) </li></ul>5. MOURNING (finishing business and returning to everyday life) 3. NORMING (establishing norms) 4. PERFORMING (co-operative, task oriented activity) 2. STORMING (power and control)
    14. 14. THE PAINFUL TRUTH <ul><li>Overall impression museums were boring and expensive </li></ul><ul><li>Prepared to visit museums on holiday but not locally </li></ul><ul><li>Average entry fee prepared to pay £3.50 </li></ul><ul><li>Reasons for non-attendance - lack of interest in exhibits, insufficient knowledge of what is exhibited and marketing not specifically targeted at their age group </li></ul>
    15. 15. Thanks! <ul><li>Caroline Greener </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing Manager </li></ul><ul><li>Audiences North East </li></ul><ul><li>0191 269 1102 </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>