When it comes to market research, there are always questions being asked. We rely on participants in specified demographics to share their experiences and help us come to true and insightful conclusions to influence meaningful solutions. Multiple factors impact the openness of these respondents. So much of the work we do here at Zebra Strategies centers around communicating with underrepresented and hard-to-reach communities; we would be doing ourselves a disservice to not investigate best research practices across a plethora of industries and incorporate those practices into our research methodology.
Creating a safe space filled with dignity and respect takes much more than good intentions. To that end, Zebra has developed tenants, which we use to govern the way we conduct research. Among them is racial concordance, a term mostly used in the medical field that refers to healthcare providers who share the same racial or ethnic background as their patients. As cited in, Life-Threatening Disparities: The Treatment of Black and White Cancer Patients, “Even if held implicitly, race-related attitudes among physicians, can influence the quality and clarity of communication during patient-physician interactions, therefore creating disparities in treatment and shared information.” Over time, research has shown that having the same racial or ethnic background between physician and patient can improve communication and, trust, lead to better health outcomes, and overall increase the patient’s satisfaction. For example, Hispanic patients are more likely to have better communication with their healthcare provider when they share the same language and cultural background. Similarly, studies have found that Black patients are more likely to receive preventative services, such as cancer screenings, when their healthcare provider is also Black.
If it works for healthcare, why can’t it work for research? The answer is, it can. The use of racial and ethnic concordance for minority recruitment evolved from the research on relationships between physicians and patients. Public health literature like Public Health Critical Race praxis (PHCR) (Ford & Airhihenbuwa, 2010a; Ford & Airhinenbuwa, 2010b) expresses that race, among other tenants, plays an influential role in research recruitment. Much of the findings point to trust as an underlying motivation for comfort, engagement, and truth. Truth is at the heart of impactful market research, and so is trust. Respondents have to trust that we will hear them, understand them, and believe that we are indeed using the information to help foster the solutions that will positively impact them and/or their communities. We at Zebra Strategies carefully and thoughtfully build and maintain authentic relationships with members of various communities – sewing into their needs, celebrating their wins, and honestly seeking better ways to understand beliefs and practices.
But what about when time does not allow for such intimate bonds to develop? How does racial concordance help us achieve that trust? Representation does matter. A study by the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway University showed that when a person looks similar to us, we instantly believe they are trustworthy. That is why employ such a diverse group of researchers. We not only want the collective perspectives and insights, we want our respondents to see and speak with people who look like them, speak their languages, and understand their cultures. Not only does racial concordance help us effectively communicate with many hard-to-reach populations during healthcare studies but in most cases, it provides a safe space where our participants feel they can share experiences they would normally hold close to the heart while being treated with dignity and respect.
We welcome you to learn more about the importance of racial concordance as we all seek to find pathways to engage underrepresented populations.
Be Curious, Not Judgmental – Walt Whitman