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AMEC Young Leaders Event for Measurement Month (#AMECmm)

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.

Trust in social media

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.

Harness the flaws

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.

Client questions

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.

 

 

 

 

Coverage, coverage everywhere and not a moment to think*

* The title of this blog post is inspired by “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

This is a story about change. Or perhaps it is about progress. On second thoughts I think the opposite is happening.

Media analysts are suffering from the 24-hour news cycle.  They have ’virtually’ been data puked on. There. I’ve said it.

I’ll outline some of the practical effects of change and progress in the media analysis industry over nearly 20 years on the people at the coal-face of production.

First, a history lesson. When I started working at Metrica in 1999, our clients’ hard copy coverage would arrive in sacks via the postman.  If the postman arrived with two sacks we knew we had a busy day coming.  The work level was visible.  Sometimes the number of sacks was an early indicator of a reputational client crisis emerging – no early warning signal spikes on a dashboard for us back in the 20th century!  We knew about it the morning after.

Postman

Our media analysts would pop into the office once or twice a week, pick up their hard copy cuttings, take them home (from whence they carried out content analysis) and their deadline for the work might be ‘end of the month’ or ‘two weeks’ time’.

The coverage they received was nearly always about the client. These were the days pre-automation at the media monitoring agencies, when the production rooms at Durrants and Romeike & Curtis were thick with the smell of news print and scissors were an occupational hazard.  I’d say these were the glory days, the pace was sedate, our team members’ time was productive.

Fast forward to 2017. We live in a 24-hour news cycle, with content being spewed out not just by journalists – the whole world is at it!  This has been a great opportunity for media analysts – an exponential increase in the volume of content to read and analyse.

But with it comes 21st century challenges.  The analyst no longer pops in to the office to pick up their coverage. Fewer chances to catch up and connect with them over a cup of tea – instead we communicate with each other virtually on Skype calls.  Our workload is measured in megabytes or file attachments rather than sacks of post.  The deadline is always ‘as soon as possible’ which typically means ‘tomorrow’ or ‘Monday morning’ if today happens to be a Friday!  Client crises inevitably happen over public holidays or the day before a week’s annual leave (actually, nothing changes there, the ‘law of sod’ is perpetual!).

I’m not complaining, it is a sign of progress. Computers now do the stuff they are good at, leaving the humans to do the stuff they are good at. Metadata (date, headline, source, journalist) is often pre-populated on our databases, giving us more time to analyse the content within the media. We increasingly do the interesting stuff like message identification and spotting emerging opportunities and threats.  Think how many forests have been saved now that we work in paperless offices. My double / triple /quadruple screen set up does block out the sun a bit from my window though.

Multiple screens

The biggest challenge is wading through the treacle.  As a data nerd I collect oodles of data about my freelance media analysis team.  The starkest trend is the amount of waffle and nonsense which needs to be filtered out. 2016 was particularly bad – over a third of the content we received was not relevant to our client briefs and had to be filtered out. That’s a third of my team’s time not really doing content analysis.  I don’t call that progress.

Irrel coverage over time

How has your working day changed since you started working in media analysis? Do you share my challenges? Have you developed ways to work smarter? Let’s share them amongst the AMEC Young Leaders Group**.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

** Steph is a member of the Young Leaders Group at the International Association of Measurement & Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), whose focus is to provide networking and knowledge share opportunities to rising stars in the media evaluation and analysis sector.  Come and join our LinkedIn group.

 

What is it about media evaluation in the spring time?

Blog by Steph

I love Google Trends. Its a free tool (if you have a gmail address) which gives you access rich data about search trends. This makes it a great tool for media analysts. If your client’s key marketing campaign is taking place in the summer, but the greatest level of search for your brand or keyword happens in the spring, maybe you should think about making changes to the timing of your marketing campaign.

Google Trends data reveals something interesting about search patterns for ‘media evaluation’ – the peaks in search tend to happen around March to May:

Media eval search OT

Any ideas why this could be?  It chimes with my experience of April being ‘quarterly month’ – those clients who want quarterly reports eg Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec would typically have their reports delivered in April, July, August and January. But the trends data does not really follow that pattern. Why are there not quarterly peaks in search?

It does point to the fact that we are on the cusp of having another busy period that’s for sure.  If you want to get ahead of the pack and speak to me about media evaluation please call +44 (0)1706 218 174 or tweet the team on @MediaEvalTeam