FOCUS: MEDIA ANALYSIS - Analysts on the couch. Honest and open communications is the key to any healthy relationship and the agencies and media analysts who successfully fulfil client needs are the ones who operate by this ethic

Media analysis covers a broad church - ranging from the evaluation of a product launch to a 20-country project. At the basic end it can be a few steps up from a press cuttings service, at the other end of the market PROs are paying for a consultancy approach which identifies underlying trends, changes in perception and future challenges.

Media analysis covers a broad church - ranging from the evaluation

of a product launch to a 20-country project. At the basic end it can be

a few steps up from a press cuttings service, at the other end of the

market PROs are paying for a consultancy approach which identifies

underlying trends, changes in perception and future challenges.



Media analysis, as part of the broader issue of measurement and

evaluation, is an increasingly important part of any campaign. But

unless PR companies know how to make the most of media analysis

companies, it is difficult to justify the investment and present

something useful to the client.



This Under the Spotlight answers some of the questions PROs have for

media analysis companies, with the aim of helping both sides understand

each other better.





How can I get the best out of my media analysis company?



Set out clear objectives in conjunction with the media evaluation

company so they they can tell you right from the start whether they are

feasible or not.



There is a fine line between the agency getting too involved and not

being close enough. ’You don’t want to lose control or involvement. If

you don’t understand what your evaluation is, then you’re not giving a

good service to the client,’ says Michelle Waldron, director at Biss

Lancaster.



In other words, it’s not all down to the evaluation company:

’Essentially, you’re paying them to churn the numbers, not to get under

the skin of the account. We have to be in a position to take the client

through it.



I don’t see that as the evaluator’s responsibility unless they have a

direct client interface,’ she says.



’Some evaluation companies have done this successfully where required,’

Waldron adds, ’but you can’t expect an outside company to understand all

the issues.’ Tone, for example, may not be immediately apparent to the

outsider in some cases. Positive, negative or neutral - they might not

know.



Mark Westaby, MD of Metrica, has another slant. ’What PR people are not

so good at is looking for what is less apparent. You don’t need a media

analysis company to tell you the most obvious things you’re doing.’

Imagine an iceberg, with only 20 per cent of its mass visible above the

surface - media evaluation companies are there to help you with the

other 80 per cent.



’The PR industry has not cracked evaluation,’ Waldron admits. ’We can’t

very easily point to consumer out-take. PR activity is often backed up

in a lot of other ways.’ The message is clear, however: it is no good

saying ’can you measure it?’ and then saying ’this isn’t what we hoped

for’.





How do I make sure I get the key facts rather than being drowned by

information?



Some companies will present you with a report that looks great, weighs a

lot and is full of detailed information. However, if you just want a

topline report, then say so.



As Adam Mack, account director at Millward Brown Precis, says: ’We take

all this information and show them what we think they might be most

interested in. But it comes back to partnership.’



Mike Blowers, media evaluation manager of Tellex Media Evaluation, says

PR companies have to think seriously about what they want. ’We’re

dealing with people who are not necessarily familiar with media

evaluation systems and they are looking for something that’s easy to

understand. Some might say ’it’s general’ or ’it’s obvious’, but the

balance is not easy.’



Blowers points out that it is also down to managing expectations: tell

analysis companies what you don’t like and they will build on that.

’We’re often dealing with people who are after an ad hoc report to go

with a particular campaign, without actually thinking it through. You

have to think about research up front: is evaluation worth doing if we

can’t measure it?’



In other words, the agency should be thinking: what can we do when we

get the results back? They are not an end in themselves.



John Curtis, MD of Media Measurement, says huge amounts of data is

potentially available. ’What we actually do is extremely exhaustive.

Having got how many angels there are on a pinhead into the database, we

can take it from there - nationals, radio, TV, internet, demographics

and geographics.



But what do you actually want? We don’t want to deliver Webster’s

Dictionary to you if you only want a slim pamphlet.’



Mark Westaby of Metrica urges: ’Talk to the media evaluation company and

say: ’can you help?’. The mistake a lot of PR people make is to use it

as a measurement tool and not as a planning tool, but if you put a

planning hat on, everything changes. It has to be simple, but not

simplistic.’





Are media analysis companies always honest about how well a campaign has

done?



The consensus was that both agency and client benefit from having media

analysis which can be seen as genuinely independent and completely

honest.



’There’s no point in trying to reflect what has been done in a positive

way if the results aren’t particularly good,’ says Rachel Stroud of

Impacon.



Ursula Gooday of Mantra International has good news for the industry,

however. ’It’s a terrible generalisation but you find that most PR

agencies are outperforming the objectives that are set. And we’re a

team, we’re not there to be an ogre.’ Tact and customer management are

of the essence, she says.



AD Communications does its own media analysis, but says that it if it

weren’t so specialised in the hi-tech field things would be

different.



’If we had the choice to subcontract it, we would,’ admits managing

director Richard Allen. ’It would enable the client to treat it more

independently.’



In other words, PR people can push the results forward more strongly as

evidence of their own good performance. ’PR consultancies can be

defensive when you talk about measurement,’ Mark Westaby of Metrica

concludes. ’But measurement will help the agency if they are doing a

good job. And if there is a problem you can identify it and do something

about it.’





How can I best brief a media analysis company?



Most of the media evaluators PR Week spoke to said PR briefs were often

good. And if they are inadequate, it cuts both ways. ’That’s as much our

fault as the client,’ admits Adam Mack of Millward Brown Precis. Poor

briefing can also be caused by short turnaround times for projects.

’It’s down to planning,’ Mack says.



Of course information has to be timely to be useful, but sometimes PROs

want media evaluation very much as a reflex action, rather than a more

considered campaign.



Mike Blowers of Tellex is less sanguine. ’Clients don’t tend to give

good briefs. They think: ’there’s a bloke offering a specialist

service’. And an awful lot of people don’t have key messages.’



Others say they explore the brief with the client, working out what they

want, how they want it, and what outcome to expect. And it’s up to all

parties to work together, to find out what they need. Although many PR

people are well-informed and know what media evaluation offers,

education is sometimes still required.



Peter Christopherson, business development director at Echo Research, is

fairly typical when he says: ’In general, briefings are fine. Some are

better than others but they’d all admit: ’We don’t have as much

experience as you’.’



Somewhat radically, Mark Westaby of Metrica agrees with some PROs that

evaluators don’t need to be briefed. In fact, to some extent Metrica

works the other way around. ’We ask them a whole raft of questions which

will enable us to provide the information we need.’





How easy is it to overstep the line between analysis and making

recommendations?



Leaving aside the evaluation companies which offer their services as a

’hidden’ add-on for agencies, PR people expressed concern that some

analysts can overstep the mark when it came to suggestions about

campaigns.



’Sometimes, because of their position, they slip in PR recommendations,’

says Jan Stannard, joint managing director of Marbles. ’That has the

potential to bring unnecessary friction into it, when they stray into

our area without telling us.’ Although PROs accept that there is no harm

in making suggestions, one person’s suggestion is, of course, another

person’s interference.



Adam Mack, account director at Millward Brown Precis, says: ’We would

never presume to do the job of a PR person, although I can see how that

feeling might arise. We are there to show a general picture.’



’We generally only make suggestions when invited to do so,’ said Rachel

Stroud, senior analyst at Impacon.



Metrica is unusual among evaluation companies in that it is a subsidiary

of a PR agency, Portfolio Communications, which should give it a great

understanding of agencies. Westaby says: ’We are there to help their

relationship with a client, not to hinder it. Our message to the client

is that the agency is doing its best for you.’





Media analysis comes straight off our bottom line - is it an expense

worth paying?



For a start, it’s not expensive given what you can get ... at least,

that’s what the media evaluators say. ’Anyone who tries to do it on the

cheap shouldn’t be doing it; bad information is worse than no

information,’ says Mark Westaby of Metrica. ’The power of the media is

such that it can affect your stock price and employee morale. But you

shouldn’t spend any money at all doing media analysis if you’re not

making any use of the information you get.’



’Our time is no cheaper than a public relations company’s,’ says Peter

Christopherson, business development director at Echo Research.



’They do tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to carry out

the process - it is quite lengthy and the skills that have to be brought

to bear are not junior analytical skills. But within agencies and

in-house PR departments, the job of providing evaluation is often pushed

down to a junior level. Lack of budget is a problem and there is a lack

of education among clients of what it costs. Alongside a small PR

campaign it’s a considerable expense, but agencies need to start

thinking in terms of research budgets.’



One problem may also be that agencies see media analysis as coming

straight off their bottom line, rather than including it as part of a

pitch - and therefore fee - in the first place. But Lynn Lynch, new

business director of Mediatrack, reflects the recommendations of the PR

industry’s Proof Forum when she says PROs should be putting ten per cent

into evaluation from the start. ’Good agencies put money to one side at

the planning stage.’



Since there is no standard form of evaluation, how do we get something

usable and accurate?



’Potential clients really have to question the methods used,’ says

Rachel Stroud, senior analyst at Impacon, since there are so many

methods which may not produce the same result.’



Peter Christopherson at Echo does not agree. ’There is a perceived lack

of a standard system of evaluation, but we all use a number of common

elements - frequency, circulation and audience, plus qualitative

measures (positive, negative, neutral ). Advertising value equivalents

(AVEs) are still one of the measures asked for. Clients will say: ’We

know it doesn’t stack up but the board understands it’.’



But mention AVEs to Mark Westaby of Metrica, and prepare to stand well

back. ’People still ask for them and they shouldn’t. Our advice is:

absolutely don’t do it. It’s time that PR companies start standing up to

boards - they are paid a lot of money for advice and they shouldn’t just

be telling clients what clients want to hear.’



If the public relations industry wants credibility it has to accept

accountability - which does not come from AVEs, he says. After all, it

is still tricky to place a monetary value on having your client taken to

the cleaners on Watchdog.



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