I've been going through the process with colleagues of considering alternative research partners to undertake the critical task of researching the underlying values of two organisations on the road to merger. Sensibly, over the course of the past fortnight, we have melded the brand and communications research with the human resource group's activities to ensure we get the best heads around understanding corporate cultures.
The process has encouraged me to revisit my thinking around the selection of brand partners, given extra poignancy by the fact that the objective is to select partners capable of satisfying the criteria of two quite cultural distinct organisations.
For the most part, the best research companies offer similar technical capabilities, but what emerges during presentations are quite different perspectives and individual styles. We have found criteria bubbling to the surface that have less to do with the technical capabilities of potential providers, but their personalities.
We are considering characteristics such as the likely performance of key individuals in the prospective organisations when presenting to two boards. And a key aspect of this is depth of experience outside of research - the ability to translate data into strategic recommendation.
We left the initial invitation to present credentials quite open to provide potential research partners to demonstrate insight and experience beyond our own. There was no point, in my view, in setting up a tight framework that may constrain original thinking and perspectives.
We have wrapped up presentations now and are on the road to locking in a decision. I suspect that I know the outcome. It will be the company and individuals that have the best prospect of, not only providing good data, but also the capacity to help us build a brand story that will ensure stakeholder buy-in from board to call centre levels.
In the end, human endeavour is all about dreams, stories and journeys. And brands personify companies. All we need is for the data to unearth a story.