Tip Sheet: Best Practices In Media Measurement: Technology’s Emerging Role


The explosion of new media vehicles has prompted an information overload among communications departments charged with monitoring their organizations' media coverage. This glut of information is a limiting factor when it comes to meaningful analysis, as important content is easily lost among the millions of blogs and other news outlets. While coverage from high-profile news sources often rises to the top, the consumer-generated-media phenomenon has made the candid content on blogs and social sites all the more relevant and high-impact. Thus, advances in technology prompt the need for further advances, this time to capacitate the analysis of more voluminous data to tame information overload. Such enabling technology is inching its way into the communications landscape, offering more sophisticated and nuanced monitoring services that can: Identify the mention of a company based on individually selected search terms; Analyze the tone and context of the resulting hits; and, Suggest additional search terms that appear consistently alongside requested information and imply the potential importance of an unforeseen issue. Among the new analysis tools is text mining, which, according to a Dow Jones white paper, is "a powerful way to detect the complex signals of emerging reputation trends over billions of pieces of information." In the white paper, text mining is likened to the data mining of internal customer information that many marketing and communications professionals use to identify purchasing trends. However, when applied to the mass of data available on Web pages, blogs and other news platforms, the tool looks at natural language, identifies patterns and trends, measures differences in words and phrases that have the most impact on an individual organization, and thus tracks public opinion and reputation. "Fundamentally, a few things converge to create a state-of-the-art tool: At the basic level, it's access to the right content sources. Secondly, it is access to blogs, discussion boards, NGO sites and similar kinds of new media, so you can monitor threads," says David Scott, Communications Strategist, Freshspot Marketing. "Because that's such a mammoth amount of information, the technologies to apply are text mining, which creates algorithms to look for words in proximity to company and brand." Not all content sources and communications channels are equally valuable to all organizations' needs; thus, it is critical to follow these steps: Skip one-size-fits-all approaches in favor of customization. Rapid advancements in technologies enable companies and service providers to customize measurement strategies and techniques to meet their individual needs; the first step is identifying these needs, be they measurement of a past campaign's effectiveness or analysis of a reputation issue that is germinating in the blogosphere. Take preliminary steps in establishing causation and connecting communications activities to bottom-line business results. Use text mining to identify and control opportunities and threats to your organization, as well as to monitor complex messages across brands, timeframes and media types. Incorporate visualization features into your measurement mix. Tools can now map retrieved data to paint a compelling picture. Bring it to the C-suite. Graphs that often accompany measurement dashboards can be presented to senior management to highlight changes in key issues, compare the organization to its competitors, or simply demonstrate a tangible return on ongoing campaign measurement, reputation-building and reputation risk-analysis. Do it in real-time. Media-measurement tools allow companies to monitor the massive new-media universe on a near-real-time basis. Enabled by the 24/7 news cycle - the very thing that challenges so many communicators - media measurement tools can spot conversations as they percolate in chat rooms and on blogs. Take action. For companies that monitor these conversations, swift action can be taken to halt - or at least slow - the spread of reputation-damaging commentary. Take Sony, for example. In 2005, the corporate behemoth's BMG Music Entertainment division installed digital rights management (DRM) technology on its CDs without any notification to users. The technology automatically installed a "rootkit" program that embedded the DRM software into consumers' hard drives and subsequently exposed users' computers to security vulnerabilities, hackers and the compromising of confidential data. When Sony's use of hidden software became public, the company endured a maelstrom of criticism: It was forced to recall millions of CDs, executives were forced to make a humiliating public apology, the company faced a battery of lawsuits and the brand suffered accordingly. This example is relevant to our discussion for one key reason: Conversations regarding the destructive software percolated on blogs and message boards long before the issue was picked up by mainstream media. After all, social media and online communications platforms are particularly endemic to Sony's audience, which is largely technologically savvy and participates in online discussions. Had the communications team used media-monitoring services to measure the impact or contamination level of key discussions that were previously below the threshold of accessibility, and had the company taken action based on the intelligence provided by the tool, the problem surely would have simmered, but it may not have reached the boiling point that proved to be so destructive. CONTACT: This article was written by Paul Argenti, a professor at the Tuck School of Business. He can be reached at paul.argenti@dartmouth.edu. For more on this topic, see Argenti's forthcoming white paper, published by Factiva, Dow Jones.

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