Mining Hidden Treasure of Media Analysis Research: Building Value Beyond PR


In more than 20 years of delivering media analysis programs to major companies, organizations and PR counsel, it has always been, and still remains, a puzzle as to why media analysis research seems so little socialized outside the PR function. Without doubt, media analysis data can be a valuable source of insight to marketing communications, analyst relations, HR and product development functions, just to name a few. In most organizations, market research data is treated as a key determinant of organizational success, and as a critical tool in tactical and strategic planning. As a matter of course, many organizations gather a wealth of data about both their internal and external audiences, as well as their key stakeholders. PR metrics, however, tend simply to be ignored by other management functions. We believe this to be caused by a reluctance of public relations professionals to engage with other functions using their media analysis data as a basis for discussion about resource allocation and planning. On the other hand, traditional market researchers and research users--especially in marketing and product development--tend to be ignorant (or reticent, perhaps?) about the quality, depth and value of media analysis data. Reaching Out To Other Org Functions In our dealings with PR professionals, we often find the PR functions being treated as little more than a support unit to the rest of the business, far too infrequently seen as a strategic business partner and even less often encouraged to take a leadership role. Given the importance of PR to the reputational and brand health of any organization, we have often wondered why this state of affairs exists and why it should be so prevalent. Over the years, we have observed some or all of the following elements in play: 1. Although changing slowly, there is still a prevailing view that PR isn't as "serious" as other management functions--that it's a cost center rather than delivering value to the business. Do these prejudices lead to PR not being viewed as contributing to the overall business goals? 2. PR is merely the servant of the organization--just the messenger, with little or no influence on the content of the message--whose job is simply to support the marketing and strategy functions that define business goals. 3. As long as the media are viewed as a threat to, rather than as an opportunity for, the business, PR's role will continue to be seen as simply "keeping the press off our backs." 4. By the very nature of their work, PR people tend to be word- rather than numbers-focused, and this can lead to a certain defensiveness when presenting research data to numbers-focused audiences. In fact, media analysis provides an excellent mechanism to overcome these obstacles: *Measuring intangible ROI. Being taken "seriously" within a business demands a mechanism for showing the value of the function in driving and achieving the organization's business goals. Another way of putting this is to identify to what extent (and in which way) PR/communications should contribute to achieving business goals. How can media analysis help achieve these goals? Sadly, the temptation when trying to justify PR's ROI is to reach for the nearest simple (and probably simplistic) advertising equivalency formula. Many research papers have been written discussing the limitation of this approach, and we won't go through the various technical objections here. Irrespective of the worth or meaning of advertising equivalencies in specific or limited circumstances, it must surely be more valuable to focus communications metrics on how well the function is supporting and advancing the organizations' broad goals. Against this backdrop, measuring ROI in PR should be based on meeting business objectives by: Creating credible, original and meaningful messages to drive business goals; Supporting, and integrating with the data held in the organization's marketing and outreach efforts (advertising, sales promotion, sponsorship, CSR initiatives); and, Communicating messages that are not only visible in the media, but whose "tone" and content differentiates the businessfrom competitors. Media analysis is eminently capable of measuring these elements and, given the results would be inherently grounded in the organization's goals, the ROI measures would be instantly meaningful to the organization as a whole. Consequently, the value of PR efforts would be recognized as supporting business goals rather than being reduced to a simple (and inaccurate) dollar value. *PR is an accurate bellwether of the reputational health of an organization. As the presentation of reputation in the media has a major (and demonstrable) impact on consumer perceptions and behaviors of brands and products, by measuring media coverage of reputation consistently, PR can take a lead in driving marketing communications messages as well as informing product and technology management. Building reputation demands consistent communications over the long haul--and PR management should be demonstrating its strategic value to the organization by using ongoing media analysis to help refine and correct reputational communications in light of actual media representation. One of the most concrete benefits of media analysis is that it can demonstrate to key stakeholders the strength and consistency of how the organization's messages are being presented. Some simple examples: Employees: Using media analysis data to improve staff retention by demonstrating the company's reputation as an employer of choice. Investors: Highlighting how analysts are picking up key messages, and how their sentiment toward the organization is being impacted by communications efforts. Spokespeople: How their pronouncements are being picked up by media, and are reinforcing the organization's communications goals. Product development: Showing clearly how products' media coverage reinforces the organization's core brand attributes and promise (e.g. innovation or value for money)-- demonstrating strengths and weaknesses in media reviews of products. *Media as a threat. Many organizations continue to view the press as "out to get us," and while, there is some truth in the notion that bad news makes good copy, building solid reputation coverage over time will hugely minimize the long-term impact of negative news. Media analysis enables the PR professional to show exactly how long negative coverage lasts and, more importantly, that it may only be a relatively small percentage of the organization's overall coverage in the period. Media analysis can also show a CEO and other spokespeople how the media will react negatively when they consider the organization and its spokespeople to be less than transparent or open about issues that impact upon its reputation. Media analysis' benchmarking capabilities can illustrate very powerfully just how much impact a CEO with good media training can have on the organization's reputation. *PR people hate numbers. While advertising and marketing managers speak with ease about data and numbers, PR management, unsurprisingly, is far more at home with words. This can all too often lead to reluctance within the PR community to engage actively with marketing colleagues about planning and branding issues. Media analysis companies themselves are often to blame for this state of affairs. One client of ours indicated recently that they found the short listing process very easy, as they simply eliminated the majority of vendors who said that they would supply them with giant books of data ("here's your numbers, interpret them yourselves"). Any professional media analysis service provider should work with their client to understand the methodology and meaning of their results. Media analysis data is not, in essence, difficult to talk about. After all, it simply uses two very familiar measures--visibility and favorability--which all PR functions are very used to dealing with. In our experience, when PR engages with other functions by using media analysis data as a tool for informed planning and strategy development, the response is uniformly productive and welcoming. No organization wants to work in silos, but as long as PR hides the genuine value of its work, either by not undertaking media analysis or failing to communicate its results, it will fail in its efforts to be taken seriously as a professional business partner within an organization. By taking on board the four key elements (whose mention begins on page 1), PR can not only demonstrate its importance in building reputation and brand equity, but will also provide insight and leadership in strategic planning and in setting business goals. PRN CONTACTS: This article was written by Mike Daniels, managing director of Report International, and Jill Ury, global account development director of Report International. They can be reached at mikedaniels@reportinternational.com and jill.ury@reportinternational.com, respectively. Linking Media Analysis To Business Goals How can you use media analysis to meaningfully and practically contribute to your company's broader business goals? Look at PR as part of your corporate reputation "elements." Take business goals as the starting point for message measurement. Ensure communications activities are consistently contributing to these business goals. Integrate communications activity with other business initiatives. Measure PR outputs against the same dimensions used in brand and satisfaction research. Link media content, visibility and tone to consumer opinion and behavior.

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