On September 6th, at Ketchum’s offices in London, AMEC’s Young Leaders Group and the PRCA Best Practice Committee held and inspiring event called “The New Normal: how a multiplicity of research and measurement methods can be your guide in today’s disruptive communications world.”
Moderated by Ben Levine (AMEC Board Director & Ketchum) and Orla Graham at Cision, we heard from Barnaby Barron at Cision, Rob Agnew at Vitreous World and Erin Salisbury from Ketchum. Here is what they covered:
Barnaby spoke first, and started his speech by referring to the ‘New Normal’ saying, ‘it is never normal’! Barnaby took inspiration from his university days studying physics at Cardiff University, particularly the concept of chaos theory. In chaos theory, small effects can have huge consequences. Barnaby used this analogy to link to media evaluation, explaining that a company’s reputation is part of a complicated system with different variables, making it hard to predict future patterns. The new normal in terms of news distribution, Barnaby reminded us, is the fact that people are increasingly shunning news sites per se as a first port of call for news, and that they are having their news agenda curated via a social feed.
He showed information from the Edelman Trust Barometer, explaining that while time and again, social media is considered to be the least trusted source of news, we are increasingly using our social feed as a method of receiving news. There is therefore a paradox in terms of what we say we do and what we do.
Barnaby also commented on the fact that the vast majority of media evaluation programmes are backward looking, focusing on news and social media content which been published. He called for more forward looking and iterative evaluation, to inform future strategy.
Next up, we heard from Rob Agnew from Vitreous World, who approached the topic of the ‘New Normal’ from a primary research standpoint. In his opening remarks, Rob focused on the flaws of primary research methods, hidden within these flaws some of the research secrets and insights can be found.
The ’Old Normal’ of market research, online surveys, face to face interviews and telephone polling all have their flaws. New techniques such as ‘life logging’ will still have inherent flaws, it is the bringing together of the best bits of these various techniques where the magic can happen. A multi-methodological approach can lead to the most exciting data sets.
Rob then spoke about the availability of data – and the importance of comparing survey data with client data sets. Mirroring the earlier comments made by Barnaby in relation to the Edelman Trust Barometer, Rob commented on the difference in what people think they do and what they say they do.
Rob went on to explore the flaws in political polling, particularly the past few (poorly predicted) election results. The ‘New Normal’ in terms of political polling is that people are increasingly changing their mind as late as the day of an election. This is why social media, not subject to the same mainstream news blackout on UK polling days, had such an impact on the recent UK general election.
Rob went on to explain that social media has meant that people are more willing to give away their data, and that this data is providing ever more useful insights. We are increasingly more comfortable with (or simply surrendering to!) the data collected almost without our knowledge by apps such as Apple Health.
He wrapped up by reiterating that one data source nowadays is never enough – it is the blending of multiple data sources and an understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and flaws, of each data set which can lead to the most compelling client insights.
Erin approached the topic by introducing the audience to some typical questions which clients ask ahead of a measurement programme. She then reiterated what many of us in the measurement industry know so well, every campaign / audience / country is different and requires different research and evaluation techniques. That’s why a tailored approach to measurement is paramount.
Erin then explained (I concur) that you should not always have blind faith in the technology solutions available to us. We should not always take the data which we receive from vendors at face value. With enquiring minds, we should dig deep into our data sets, to ensure the validity of the source data, before we can draw meaningful insights from it.
Erin went on to urge peers and clients to trust our advice. We must never be timid to tell clients when things go wrong. Clients are funny creatures though, they say the love test and learn iterative research techniques, but in reality, they do find it hard to accept when things don’t go as planned with their marketing campaigns.
Finally, Ern urged us all to trust in our skills. And as a profession we need to take it upon ourselves to innovate in this space.
There followed a lively Q&A session, led by an initial question from AMEC Chairman Richard Bagnall. Points discussed included how the AMEC framework is used in practice, barriers to getting client (eg sales, outcomes) data, challenging budgets, the limits of automation in data analysis and the importance of human enrichment of the data. Security of client data, encryption and GDPR were also discussed, mainly in the context of market research data. Charities were revealed to be among the most nimble and resourceful in accessing and sharing client data to help demonstrate outcomes.
The event proved to be very inspiring – not just to see the talent coming through the ranks of the measurement, evaluation and research agencies, but to see the exciting possibilities opening up to the profession through the use of technology, and ultimately through the use of multiple data sources to make the insights we can offer to our clients more meaningful and actionable.