When 1+1≠2: Upgrading Media Analysis to See Beyond Face Value

Measuring the complete footprint of a company's reputation in an exceedingly fragmented media environment is no easy task. However, thanks to emerging technologies and innovations within organizations across all industries, new media analysis techniques are entering communications executives' radars and pushing the "same old" measurement approaches into a new frontier--and for good reason.

"Media tracking is mission critical. It's central to reputation management, especially when you find you're not in control of your message because of [things like] bloggers and Twitter," says Scott Krugman, vice president of public relations for the National Retail Federation, "Monitoring the message is also important. In terms of media tracking, we use it for media training purposes. We need to justify our budgets, and media tracking does that, too."

Mission critical indeed, so communications executives need a plan of attack for upgrading their current measurement approaches to account for the constantly accumulating changes in today's business environment. With that in mind, thought leaders at the forefront of advanced measurement strategies recommend the following do's and don't's to achieve more meaningful results.

*Do benchmark, and use this foundation to sell the idea of measurement to the C-suite. "Without competitive benchmarks, the value of measurement data plummets," says Mike McDougall, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs for Bausch & Lomb. "Data without context may belie the true impact. Macro-analysis from professional communicators--as it relates to business impact--is the critical missing link."

With that in mind, it is essential to gather data early and often, and to always measure against this data to assess progress. Even more important, identify areas for improvement based on these assessments, and adjust strategies accordingly.

Also, remember that the C-suite's major hesitation, especially with regard to social media, is the negative coverage that is impossible to control. Always analyze and report findings in the context of the environment.

"You have to distinguish mere criticism from an actual attack," says Patrick McCrummen, principal of the McCrummen Group, noting that bloggers must be handled especially carefully, as they don't like being marketed to, and doing so will only turn them against you.

Then, when you do approach senior management with your findings, make sure you interpret them.

"We rely on the data to speak for us," McDougall says. "The board doesn't care about share of voice. What does this mean today? When does this affect operations? You have to go in with a discussion about business implications--not just to show numbers."

*Don't think in terms of all or nothing. "Good enough is usually good enough," McDougall says in reference to the pressure many executives feel to track everything. "The 'influencer' landscape is too large for an all-encompassing measurement system. The quest for perfection is a time sink."

Thus, communicators can breathe a collective sigh of relief and then consider McDougall's recommendations on how to identify the most meaningful influencers:

  • Look to global, directional measures versus hyper-local results.

  • Supplement professional measurement tools with free tracking tools (there is an ever-growing number of applications available online, a la Google Analytics, Alexa, etc.). "Google gives you a lot of opportunities to track what people are saying about you," Krugman says. "Do a search to see what people are saying about you."

  • Avoid paralysis from too much data.

*Don't assume measurement has to cost a fortune. There is such a thing as measuring media on a shoestring budget, which is good news given the current economic client.

"From [National Retail Federation's] standpoint, our main goal is to advance the message of our organization," Krugman says. "Measurement is a big part of it. We do it on the cheap, but we show the C-suite a lot of information. You need to show them meaning--the full context to what you're seeing."

Krugman offers the following considerations for executing measurement efforts on a shoestring budget:

  • Leverage your marketplace position with vendors.

  • Don't be afraid to get in on the ground floor by hiring start-ups that offer great services and are willing to negotiate fees.

  • Take to the Web.

*Do go beyond the limitations of measurement's textbook definition. McDougall insists that it's time to think not just about measurement, but also about intelligence.

"Question your reporting methods to make them invaluable. Provide analysis of what you're seeing; ask yourself, 'What does it mean?'" he says. "Use information for better decision-making on a large scale and ensure employees can extend that knowledge to your customers."

McCrummen runs with this notion of intelligent measurement, dubbing it "intelligence convergence." (For a definition of intelligence convergence, along with its two prime components, see sidebar.)

To achieve this intelligence convergence, McCrummen recommends that communications executives take the following steps:

  • Determine what you are trying to measure and make your hypothesis;

  • Aggregate your data sources into one dashboard.

  • Look for common points of alignment.

  • Layer the data.

  • Analyze patterns.

Regardless of the size of your organization and the depth of your pocketbook, it's crucial to remember that media measurement and analysis is critical to protecting a company's reputation. Gauging said reputation's media footprint doesn't have to be approached completely scientifically; rather, it can be done by reinterpreting antiquated perceptions of measurement and shaping customized strategies to meet your organization's unique needs today and beyond.

Perhaps McDougall's assessment of today's reality sums it up best for communications professionals:

"We've gone from a 24-hour news cycle to a 24-second Tweet cycle." PRN


Mike McDougall, [email protected]; Patrick McCrummen, [email protected]; Scott Krugman, ?[email protected]

Intelligence Convergence: Measurement's New Frontier

Media measurement and analysis may have been borne out of the concept of counting clips but, especially in this increasingly fragmented media landscape, painting a complete picture of your organization's reputation among each stakeholder group requires a far more complex combination of information. Patrick McCrummen, principal of the McCrummen Group, refers to this overall picture as "intelligence convergence," and he identifies the following two components:

  • Institutional Measures: Important reputational attributes measured against benchmarks over time.

  • Visibility Measures: Positive or negative brand impressions measured against sales and marketing data to improve ROI calculations.

Once they have this information, according to McCrummen, communications professionals can approach convergence, which is "layering data from multiple sources for a complete intelligence picture of public impression and expectation of your company."