In the November 2018 PR News edition on measurement the special roundtable included a question about how communicators can hold a measurement vendor’s feet to the fire. This issue has occupied too much of my time over the years. But I believed in measurement too much to give up. I ended up doing an exhaustive search for a vendor who could provide insights, not just data.
Katie Paine seemed to share my frustration and responded to PR News’ question: “If you’re not getting insights from reports, which often is the case when there are complaints, I’d sit down with the vendor or consultant and go through every single chart and page in the report and say, ‘So what?’”
At first, my frustration led me to bring the service in-house. A do-it-yourself solution. Soon I discovered that I was not any happier with the results and worse, I was contributing to the destruction of shareholder value. I consulted my peers on their approaches to see how they got results and added value.
After that I surveyed nearly 400 Arthur Page members and they said on average they use two to three suppliers for monitoring and measuring earned and social media. Some use as many as five.
Some departments tended to use a combination of suppliers. Others had their PR agencies prepare the reports. Several trusted external specialists with all of the tasks, including the daily clips. The most popular approach was to use software, with in-house staff handlign the analytics. Which approach provided the best insights and was cost-effective? The results might surprise you.
Why Bring it in House?
Many heads of corporate communications say they can’t afford a media measurement analytics firm because they are too expensive. After doing some back-of-the-napkin math, we can see that you could be paying more doing it yourself than what the full-service analytics firms charge.
The daily clips are a good place to start doing the math. If you are media scanning in-house, you are going to be paying a coordinator to prepare a package of clips combining results from media scanning services such as Factiva, Sprinklr, and TVEyes. That coordinator’s time on this work costs about $1,250 a month (assuming 30 percent of the person’s day at an annual salary of $50,000). The scanning services cost about $5,000 per month, depending upon how many licenses you need.
The clips are just a compendium of the news. Let’s look at analytics. For those firms that do it in-house they are paying an analyst about $1,750 per month (based on the same formula for the coordinator on a base salary of $70,000).
For the sake of argument, we will assume that this analyst has a license to access the same media scanning services as the daily clip coordinator. In some cases, the analyst also has another supplier because some media software lacks comprehensive TV or radio coverage, so you can add another $2,000 per month. That analyst then uses software to create analytics reports.
The total so far is $10,000 a month for clips and analytics. These figures exclude costs for office space, equipment, benefits etc. for two employees, which add an additional 30 percent. Nor does it include your personal time (and distraction) to manage the monitoring, analytics and reporting process on an ongoing basis.
The time spent on this work is contingent on whether the data provided from the service companies is clean. In my experience the data is consistently dirty and requires substantial cleaning to be useful. While I am not adding this extra time into the analyst spending 30 percent of their day, in some cases it will be more, not less.
Here’s where it can get even worse. I have seen multiple departments within the same company using the same service supplier. Factiva or Lexus Nexus provide a valuable service not just for media monitoring but for research and accessing content that is behind pay walls.
It is not surprising to find subscriptions in the research department, strategy, or legal to name a few. Those departments together could be ringing up $15,000 a month for their media scanning needs...a need that the corporate communications department could meet since it is already paying for the service.
Let’s go back to those who say they can’t afford a media measurement and analytics firm. Some will point to the price tag, which is not uncommon to find costing $12,000 per month, which is less than our in-house example.
But let’s look at those costs. If this full-service firm is worth its price, it should have multiple media data sources to ensure you have the best, most comprehensive data pool. That requires at least two online and print earned media sources, two broadcast media sources and at least two social media sources. That is worth $10,000 per month right there.
Some media measurement and analytics firms also provide daily clips, which in-house firms are paying someone $1,250 per month to handle. Now we have a difference of just $750 per month between an in-house solution and the full-service firm. This does not include any duplication of service providers, which with just one other department duplicating contracts will put you at $15,000 a month, $3,000 above the boutique firm.
And it doesn’t include employee benefits etc., so it is fair to say that you are now paying more to have the service in-house than having a full-service supplier do it for you.
A Question of Quality
Now let’s look at the quality of the analytics. In-house analysts are spread thin because they tend to serve not just corporate communications but marketing and other departments. This can result in their expertise in media measurement not being as cutting edge as a boutique firm that focuses only on media analytics.
Analytics firms where media measurement is their bread and butter tend to constantly evolve and innovate; they must do so to stay competitive. They also tend to have economies of scale so they can continue to develop their specialized talent and technology.
The nut we are trying to crack is how do we get comprehensive scanning, clean data, daily clip reports, results that aren’t derived from questionable practices such as “digital fingerprints,” consistent reporting and actionable insights? And all of this at the best price point.
Doing the Math
I was always an advocate for doing the work in-house until I started doing the math. From a qualitative perspective, my frequent request for proposals from suppliers showed me how the best-in-class specialists were increasingly more effective than my own analyst’s cost and capabilities.
Adding everything together, you are paying too much for an in-house solution. You may still have to hold your supplier’s feet to the fire, but the good ones can take the heat and deliver.
Note: This content appeared originally in PR News, December 2018. For subscription information, please visit: http://www.prnewsonline.com/about/info
Graeme Harris was head of corporate communications for UBS Canada. Contact him at: email@example.com