As media analysis becomes an established element in the organizational metrics toolkit, expectations about accuracy and insight are rising. Ensuring media analysis programs yield valid measurement to support important applications is hard enough in just one country and one language, but it's becoming particularly onerous within a multi-country program. Applying some straightforward and practical market research principles to media analysis will yield not only significantly improved data but also enhanced decision-support. The Five Principles of Media Analysis Media measurement and analysis delivers long-term and actionable value to an organization by helping it to optimize both its communications strategy (e.g. messages, brand attributes and differentiation) and tactics (e.g. campaign management, resource allocation). However, in order to do so effectively, the data must be derived from a rigorously grounded methodology. Five key elements are required: *1. Reproducibility of the results: Reproducible results are the cornerstone of accurate data, which applies as much to content analysis as it does to physics. In particular, reproducible content analysis data demands a method to reduce subjectivity in media analysis coding as far as possible. As media content is rarely purely factual in tone, it is important that the code frame is sufficiently general to ensure as few overlaps as possible between measurement categories, while still allowing the coder the scope to meaningfully categorize complex media coverage. Checklist: 1. Ensure your coding framework uses generic measurement parameters - particularly when working in an international environment - to enable consistent coding of complex messages or rich brand propositions across varied linguistic and cultural contexts. 2. Coding editorial material at the smallest unit possible (mentions, sentences or paragraphs) generates greater consistency than data coded at a broader semantic level (e.g. the whole article), relative to both content and tone of voice. *2. Representative Data Collection and coding procedures: To be meaningful, media analysis requires a comparable and representative sample of media titles per country, market or sector. Comparing results from five daily newspapers tracked in one country against three lifestyle magazines from elsewhere would be meaningless. Reading lists need to be representative within one country and across multiple countries to form the basis for comparability. Checklist: 1. Ensure that reading lists across multiple countries are comparable, either by tracking roughly equivalent numbers of titles in each country - based on audience segment or demographic - or by the total reach of each media segment as a percentage of all titles in each country. 2. Reading lists should be based on specific target audiences. 3. In a geographically widespread program, some countries will have more vertical sector or professional titles than others. Ensure that the results can be grouped and filtered by media segment to reduce any skewing in the overall comparative data. 4. Where competitors are tracked differentially between countries, country comparisons should use a common set of competitors. "Home" market competitors generally yield greater levels of coverage, which should ideally be weighted against other competitor coverage in that country or at least flagged as a note to the data. *3. Consistency and Quality of data collection over time: Data that is gathered and analyzed consistently will, over time, yield a clear picture of trends and performance for any given period. Frequent changes to the coding parameters and reading lists will result in inconsistent data output - a principle well understood in advertising and consumer research. Checklist: 1. Develop a set of core measurement parameters that reflect the key elements of brand and communication goals. These should be included in trend over time analyses. Additional, short-term measurement parameters can be overlaid on the core set but should not be included in the overall tracking data. 2. Any country-specific measurement parameters should be reported separately within a country-specific analysis so as to avoid skewing the data towards that country. *4. Comparability in International Programs: With so many variables between countries - including population size, GDP, media consumption and publishing etc. - one of the key challenges of international media analysis is how to report country comparisons. Where inter-country comparisons are required, weighting the results against PR spend or by the relative size of the country to which it is being compared will yield more valid results. Country comparison data should also be plotted in percentages rather than absolute terms - e.g. visibility metrics should be based on percentage share of voice rather than the absolute visibility score. *5. Independence: A basic and fundamental principle of market research is that it should be conducted by third parties with no financial or other self-interest in the results of the research. Independence yields objectivity and therefore more accurate decision-making. By applying these market research principles, analysts can radically improve the quality, objectivity and usability of media analysis data. International programs will find these recommendations particularly useful, though adjustment to the program parameters may be required to ensure valid data comparisons. CONTACTS: Mike Daniels is joint managing director at Report International. He can be reached at email@example.com. Thomas Stoeckle is the director, research & methodology at Report International. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tip Sheet: Building Effective Int’l Media Analysis Programs via Market Research Disciplines
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