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This is part 4 of our 2012 Insight Community of the Year finalist showcase. Check out our previous blog posts featuring Allure North America, Kimberly-Clark Australia, and Institute of Directors.

In the high-stakes, fast-paced media industry, how do you keep your competitive edge? For Discovery Communications - the world's #1 non-fiction media company and owner of over 100 worldwide channels, including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet - it's all about decision making that is both rapid and research-based.

Since its inception in 2011, Discovery Communications' Influencer Panel has been utilized for hundreds of research. The community's biggest achievement to date: playing a significant role in the introduction of Destination America, a network that debuted in the summer of 2012.

A real success story, it's no wonder that Influencer Panel was named the 2012 Vision Critical Insight Community of the Year. For brands using consumer insights to drive decision-making, here are some key lessons from this outstanding insight community:

  1. Keep your design consistent with your brand

Most organizations know that consistent design plays a huge role when it comes to maintaining corporate branding. And branding isn't just about having the right logos - it is also about delivering the same feel as your company's other assets. The external-facing tools you use for research need to reflect your organization's branding.

Discovery Communications made sure that people's experience in its insight community reflects the company's brand. It doesn't matter if people are visiting a Discovery website or if they are participating in a survey - the experience is distinctly Discovery.

  1. Get to know people

Influencer Panel provides Discovery with almost immediate feedback on everything from show titles to programming to advertising. People in the insight community love to participate because Discovery takes the time to actually get to know them.

"We are able to make stronger inferences from the results of our studies because we know about our panelists," said Colby Flint, Corporate Research Analyst at Discovery Communications. "There's a depth of information through their past survey results, and having that stored in one location is hugely beneficial in giving us context to their responses."

Although ad hoc surveys could provide valuable feedback, Discovery demonstrates the value of building a long-term relationship with your customers.

  1. Organize internally

The success of Influencer Panel is no accident. Flint and his team regularly work with other stakeholders in the company, holding monthly meetings to discuss scheduling and other project details. They also track different projects on the go, determining if a video is needed, the length of the study, and other research requirements in advance.

  1. Communicate with your customers

This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you want people to continue to provide feedback, then you need to keep the dialogue going. When redesigning its portal, Discovery made it more interactive, allowing people to view and rate promotional teasers, view recent study results, and get information on other ways of connecting with the company (social media, newsletters, etc.). They also employed rotating banners in the portal, ensuring that people see something a little different each time they visit.

  1. Treat people as influencers

Discovery gets that people want to be heard and they want to belong to an elite group. Influencer Panel is a platform where viewers can actually influence what shows they see on Discovery's various networks. More importantly, the insight community regularly gets sneak peeks of upcoming programming, giving them first access to content that other viewers won't see.

With a global audience of 1.7 billion, Discovery Communications has huge task of keeping viewers tuning in. To get viewers more informed, more excited and more vested in the future of its various networks, Discovery successfully employs consumer insights by treating people in its insight community as partners in better decision-making.

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