Research firm uses Web to monitor elusive 'buzz'

NORWALK, CT: Delahaye Medialink has created a new analysis product that the company claims will solve one of the profession's most elusive problems: how to track information being spread by word of mouth.

NORWALK, CT: Delahaye Medialink has created a new analysis product that the company claims will solve one of the profession's most elusive problems: how to track information being spread by word of mouth.

The service combines monitoring of chat rooms, discussion groups and mass e-mail lists with traditional survey research on relevant audience segments.

'We're working to figure out the point where word-of-mouth information goes from being random to being a trend,' said Delahaye Medialink president Katie Paine.

Although the word-of-mouth product uses few new research techniques, it's the first attempt to empirically monitor 'buzz' in order to analyze the genesis of trends within key audience sectors and closely examine what is being said.

Paine is developing a 'buzz quotient' that will allow clients to track the buzz surrounding a company, product or issue over time and then compare it with other measurements, such as reputation.

'We're not just concerned with crisis avoidance, but with how this information can be used as a marketing tool,' she explained.

However, Ketchum VP and director of research Graham Hueber cautions that measuring online word of mouth is easier said than done. 'Not everyone online is a trendsetter,' he said. 'But buzz builds quickly on the Internet, and that early buzz can start trends.'

Travis Jacobsen, PR director at Nu Skin Enterprise's Big Planet Division (a company that has already expressed interest in using the product) admitted that attempting to measure the impact of word of mouth could prove an impossible task.

'Although market research gives you an idea of your target audience, audiences can shift once a product is launched,' he said. What interests him most, Jacobsen added, is the product's ability to gauge perceptions and fluctuations as they emerge, thus allowing him to quickly adapt his PR messages.

The product is available immediately. Prices vary with the amount of monitoring required.

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