Using that understanding to develop insight

Insight relies on you understanding your audience. GCS guidance defines it as as “a deep truth based on behaviour, experiences, attitudes, emotions or beliefs that is powerful enough to effect change”.

It works on the principle that understanding your audience’s’ opinions, attitudes, views, values, behaviour and influences will help you to identify what’s at the heart of what they say and do.

Tip: Understanding the behavioural context

Most behaviour is automatic and it can also be helpful to understand and focus on these unthinking behaviours when planning communications. For example, people’s habits, the mental shortcuts people are making or their inherent biases, which include a natural preference for the status quo.

Insight can be developed from the themes and understandings that emerge from lots of different pieces of evidence, data and information. It unpicks them to answer the underlying question why? It provides the hook for communications.

A good insight can help you communicate more effectively by:

  • understanding the real issue your communications need to focus on
  • finding the best way to engage your target audience with your key messages
  • giving your target audience a clear understanding of what’s in it for them

Here are some simple steps for generating insight:

  1. Set out the task clearly – what is the question you’re trying to answer or the issue you’re looking at?
  2. Bring together all the relevant information, facts and observations you have. This could include focus group comments, management information or survey results. Make sure that this is factual rather than opinion, for example, an actual staff comment made at a focus group, rather than summary or interpretation of comments made at a focus group. This information sets out what is happening.
  3. Examine all the data and information and with a group of colleagues pull out the key facts or observations.
  4. Group together facts that seem to relate to a common theme. You should end up with a number of groups.
  5. For each group summarise the theme into a high-level understanding about the issue. Each of these high-level understandings should explain why people are doing what they are.
  6. Think about what each of these high-level understandings are telling you about the issue and use this to generate the insight. The insight should give you that underlying truth that will help you change behaviour.

Tools to help you generate insight

  • The three-stage insight model. This tool relates to the steps above and gives you a framework to help you turn the information and evidence you have into understandings and insight. You’ll have many pieces of information and evidence leading to a smaller number of understandings, leading to your final insight. The insight should be a short sentence written in the first person.


    Data: The What Understanding: The Why Insight: The ‘Aha’ moment
    Facts and observationsSurvey results

    Focus group comments


    Discussion group comments

    Facts and figures

    A number of high-level understandings drawn from the data that explain what’s going on in the ‘what’. The deep truth that strikes a chord with people and has the power to change behaviour.


    Data: The What Understanding: The Why Insight: The ‘Aha’ moment
    Facts and observationsFocus group comments from staff about their views on information security

    Security incident reports and numbers

    Comments from information security specialists in the organisation

    Survey results


    Discussion group comments

    Facts and figures

    • If my line manager doesn’t treat this as important why should I?
    • I don’t think my organisation practices what it preaches
    • I do the job right, it’s others that don’t
    • I think the risk lies elsewhere – not with me
    I understand that information security is important,
    but not everyone does. Don’t tell me, tell them.This insight means that a campaign focused on the importance of information security won’t have an effect.Audiences will agree with the messages, but not see the relevance or re-examine their own behaviours.
  • The five whys? This is useful technique to get to the underlying why behind an observation. It’s a basic root cause analysis technique. It gives you a simple structure to work through the issue to an answer. It’s called the five why’s not because you have to ask five times, but this number of repetitions is usually enough to get to the answer. The starting point is a clear and relevant observation. Once you have that you can begin asking ‘why?’ to get to the underlying issue and insight. It can be a good idea to run this with a group of people to generate a lot of possible whys at each stage, before voting on the favourite.

    The Five Whys

    The Five Whys

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