Research and measurement play a strategic role in defining the success of companies' campaigns.Metrics have become crucial tools for PR, but there is still debate over the actual value of measurement services. While some clients might see tangible benchmarks emerge from measurement programs, others will find it more difficult to determine if a campaign truly moved the needle. The value of measurement is often dependent on how the company is choosing to use it. Some companies use measurement as a pre-emptive tool, while others view it as a useful way to monitor the competition. Whatever the reason for using measurement, one thing is clear: It is being used by a wide variety of companies for a multitude of reasons and with real results. One way some companies and PR firms choose to use measurement is as a planning tool for upcoming campaigns, as was the case with a recent program by Ben & Jerry's. The company has always had a reputation for being socially conscious and environmentally friendly. "Ben & Jerry's has the luxury of being in the halo effect," says Christie Heimert, PR director for the company. "It's almost iconic." Because Ben & Jerry's doesn't advertise very often, PR is front and center in its strategy. Using CARMA for measurement services, the company has been able to gauge its corporate reputation, as well as the message penetration of its commitment to social causes. One of Ben & Jerry's trademark events is the annual Free Cone Day. In 2002, the company partnered with Dave Matthews Band for an environmentally conscious campaign titled, "One Sweet Whirled." However, last year the company didn't partner with any other firms for Free Cone Day. In planning this year's event, through research done by CARMA, the company began to notice a trend in mentions in the media: Ben & Jerry's was sharing mentions with other scoop shops like MaggieMoo's and Cold Stone Creamery, some of which had started equivalents to Free Cone Day. That discovery was the incentive Ben & Jerry's PR team needed to come up with a new idea for this year's Free Cone Day, one that would reflect the company's commitment to social issues. "It made us look harder, more imaginatively, at something that we had gotten used to," Heimert says. For the event, the company partnered with Rock the Vote and Apple for a campaign titled, "ETOV - Turn it Around" ("ETOV" being "vote" spelled backwards). The one-day event, held on April 27, registered 10,000 voters, gave away a grand prize from Apple, and kept the company's tradition of giving away free ice cream cones. The decision to commit to a strong focus for the day also was reflected in the media. "This year, we did get the lion's share of the media coverage," Heimert says. "This year, we got it right." Measuring appropriate coverage Because targeting the media is always a big part of any PR campaign, measurement is often a good way to determine the amount of appropriate media coverage the company is receiving. Earlier this year, when Sun Microsystems launched Sun Fire, a new family of low-end servers powered by AMD Opteron processors, the company used measurement tools from Biz360 to track results. Andy Lark, VP of global communications, says using measurement helped gauge opportunities to see (OTS), another term for impressions. It also helped establish the recommended sum index, which is crucial when evaluating media coverage. Lark says using measurement allowed the company to determine if the media was recommending the product - whether it was in product reviews or in subtle mentions within other articles. Tracking positive references is a lead indicator of performance. So using measurement to track the OTS in business and trade press allowed Sun to "sit back and think about strategy and the campaign," Lark says. This resulted in more efficiency in media planning. In addition, using measurement provided Sun with a list of "zero mind share" writers, or those who were not covering the company. "It's been huge for us," Lark says. "You can understand who's impacted, where, when, and how." Getting feedback on a particular campaign through measurement can be useful when planning similar programs for other products, as proved to be the case for Cognos, a business information company based in Ottawa. In September 2003, the company had a major product launch for Cognos ReportNet. "It was one of the largest product launches in the history of the company," says Toni Iafrette, senior PR manager. "We wanted to ensure that the right product messages were being brought out to the market." Being able to track messages in real time, and having the ability to adjust those messages in real time, was of critical importance to Cognos' spokespeople, Iafrette says. Using Bacon's MediaSource Premium Evaluation, Cognos was able to verify that most of its key messages were being picked up. For example, the term "business intelligence" is an important message for the company, so when measurement reports showed that this term was a tier-one message in the coverage of the product launch, it confirmed that the campaign was on the right track. Measurement results from the ReportNet campaign were especially useful in March, when the company unveiled ReportNet 1.1. The PR team from Cognos took into consideration what it had learned from measurement reports about the launch of ReportNet and applied it to its strategy surrounding the release of the updated product. "I think that the measurement tool was very helpful in how we pitched [ReportNet 1.1]," Iafrette says. Reaching other outlets In addition to providing useful information for a more finely targeted pitch, measurement can also uncover new media outlets, something that is especially useful when a company plans to change its focus with a new product launch. Milpitas, CA-based LSI Logic, a semiconductor manufacturer that is very focused on the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) space, tends to concentrate on a small number of large buyers rather than the consumer space. This year, the company began using Biz360's Market360 tool, with qualitative analysis done by LSI Logic's PR firm, Brodeur Worldwide. "The objective is to not spend the time measuring," says Bill Cranston, director of sales operations at LSI Logic. "The objective is to spend the time acting on what you find." Because the company's focus is not in the consumer space, it was unlikely that it would see immediate results from a particular campaign. In addition, the company's long sales cycle makes it critical to form a lasting impression with potential customers. "It's very important that when articles and stories and communications come out, that we're mentioned prominently," he says. When LSI Logic released its RapidChip two years ago, it was because it was acknowledging a shift in the marketplace away from its traditional base of customers. RapidChip's competitors also acknowledged the market shift and began to offer new solutions aimed at this "middle ground." Although LSI Logic realized it would need to counter the jump competitors had in reaching a broad base of customers, the use of Biz360's measurement tool confirmed it. LSI Logic realized its competition was being mentioned more often in terms of competitive offerings. As a result, LSI Logic decided to form a new business model with regard to RapidChip, says Linda Capcara, group manager for Brodeur. The model defined a broader reach to bigger firms by shifting from a high volume/low number of customers to a mid-volume/high number. The measurement report also validated that LSI Logic needed to reach beyond mainstream electronic publications, such as Electronic Design and EE Times, into vertical trade titles, such as Medical Design News and Control Engineering, to achieve the same levels of awareness and penetration as the competition, Capcara says. As a result, the communications team has expanded its media relations team to include these new medical, defense, and industrial media targets. Capcara says it also used the data to hone its messages to make them more differentiated and more effective. This broadened focus has contributed to an increased number of mentions in the media. Measuring and monitoring its media mentions against the competition is something that is important for Seagate Technology, a company that designs, manufacturers, and markets hard-disc drives for a range of enterprise, PC notebook, and consumer electronics. The company monitors tech publications, daily news outlets, papers, and online media using Market360. Woody Monroy, executive director of corporate communications for the Scotts Valley, CA-based company, says having access to real-time data has been an advantage of using measurement techniques, especially when tracking the competition. "One of the main benefits for us is to do competitive comparisons," he says. In fact, mind share is one of the most important components of measurement results for Seagate. "We're in a very, very competitive business," he says. "When you're dealing in an industry that could be considered a commodity, it's a lot harder to differentiate your products; it's a lot harder to distance yourself from competitors as far as how your products are perceived by customers in the marketplace." Recently, using Market360 for monitoring and measuring technical publications, daily news outlets, and online media, Seagate noticed that a competitor was receiving the majority of the mind share because of one or two products it offered that Seagate did not. Monroy says this information helped him realize it would be important to go after the competition in certain regions of the country. In addition, the information helped Seagate successfully form a more targeted approach to the media and counter the coverage of the competitor's product launch. Planning out a strategy For the National Association of Realtors (NAR), measurement has been a tactical tool. The association, which uses Delahaye Medialink, has always appreciated the value of measurement, says Stephen Cook, VP. In fact, he compares measurement to radar during WWII: It can help seek out what could be next on the horizon. "Our focus has not been just to measure," says Stephen Cook, VP. "We've been using media content to guide our tactics and strategy." A few years ago, the Federal Reserve drafted a regulation that would have allowed banks to enter real-estate brokerage and property management, something that had been outlawed since the 1930s. As a result, the NAR decided to mount an effort to delay the rule. With only 60 days before the public comment period closed and the Federal Reserve could move ahead, the NAR had to make sure its message was targeted correctly, Cook says. The use of focus groups helped the NAR to narrow its message, but there seemed to be a problem: Although the NAR was opposed to the legislation, a group of the larger real-estate brokerages agreed with the legislation. By using content analysis tools from Delahaye, the NAR was able to determine that the movement by the real-estate brokerages didn't have any legs at the grassroots level. "It did surprise me," Cook says. "I expected there to be more of a sustained coverage." With the opposition of the real-estate brokerages established as non-threatening, the NAR decided not to pursue a counterattack and proceeded with its campaign as planned. Analysis by Delahaye also revealed that coverage of the campaign highly favored the realtors: The NAR owned more than two-thirds of exposure on the issue in that time period and dominated the American Banking Association for all positive exposure with 86% share. In addition, research also revealed that 38% of the NAR's articles communicated one or both of the specific banking issues, an increase over the average of 17%. Ultimately, Congress passed legislation denying funding for the implementation of the rule, thereby killing it for the near future. However, Cook says, another benefit of measurement in the banking issue was that it solidified the importance of keeping the lines of communication open with the media. "If you're not communicating continually, you run the risk of reporters not hearing your side of the story," he says. Measurement isn't always used during the planning stages for huge product launches or extensive campaigns. Sometimes it can be a useful tool in dealing with even the smallest PR problem. In November 2003, a rumor circulated through print, online, and broadcast media that Weight Watchers had offered actress Renee Zellweger $110,000 for each pound she would lose after filming the sequel to Bridget Jones's Diary, thereby appointing her as its new spokeswoman and replacing Sarah Ferguson in the process. For Weight Watchers, arguably one of the most recognizable brands in weight loss, this was a rumor that needed to be quashed. Distributing a blanket correction statement to the media was not an option, says Dell Jackson, VP, associate PR director for MGH, because it would have likely reached markets that had not run the story in the first place. Instead, MGH, which has used VMS' InSight for the past year, used the product to pinpoint the exact outlets that had run the story, as well as the exact time it had been aired or published. This allowed MGH to distribute a correction to the appropriate people in real time. While Jackson acknowledges the issue wasn't a crisis for Weight Watchers, he says measurement did help to thoroughly distribute the correct information, which was vital to the company.
Measuring the bloggers Erica Iacono While coverage in the traditional media is important to companies, it is often the unscheduled - and once considered undetectable - mentions that can produce the most headaches. The recent posting on a blog about easy ways to pick Kryptonite locks is just one example of how non-traditional media outlets, such as blogs, message boards, and chat rooms, are becoming just one more avenue for companies to consider when monitoring the reputations of their brands. In the past few years, several companies offering monitoring and measurement of online activity have sprouted up, alerting PR professionals to the importance of this genre of services. "It's not a separate media; it's just an addition of existing media," says Andrew Bernstein, CEO of Cymfony. "So our whole philosophy is that consumer-generated media shouldn't necessarily be looked at solely; it has to be looked at as a piece of the overall media equation." As part of the government side of its business, Cymfony has been looking at the importance of blogs for several years. And within the past three to four months, it has begun to offer a module that focuses on helping companies monitor blogs and discussion groups. The monitoring tool includes a measurement component and also helps companies decide which blogs are the most important to focus on. "We've integrated it into our overall product," Bernstein says. However, one of Cymfony's main philosophies is that one has to be able to fully understand the results of such monitoring. "Just because someone says something doesn't mean you need to react," he says. Other important things to consider are the consistency of the messages, the context of the messages, the relevancy of the blogs, and how many people are reading them. Jonathan Carson, CEO and president of BuzzMetrics, a firm that specializes in word-of-mouth research and planning, says PR firms can easily take the same basic principles behind measuring traditional media and apply them to media created by consumers. "This opens up the possibility for PR to tap into consumer marketing," he says. "The fact that consumers are creating so much of the media out there as opposed to editorial, PR is well positioned to be involved in that piece of consumer marketing." He says the 2005 budgeting cycle is the first he's seen that includes dedicated word-of-mouth, or buzz, budgets. "We're seeing very major brands dedicating as much as 2% to 3% of their budget to word of mouth and buzz," he says. "And it's up for grabs as far as who's going to get that; the interactive, the ad agencies, the media planners - they're all battling PR firms for that budget." Carson says PR professionals understand the buzz-research skill the best because it's relationship and content driven. And most often, he says, the inquiries that BuzzMetrics receives come from CEOs and other higher-ups from the top agencies in the country. "They realize that the revenue potential is much greater than making this a way to measure PR campaigns," he says. One of the primary reasons for the recent interest in buzz monitoring among major companies is because of the metrics component. "I think it's the metrics, the measurement of this field, that's enabling marketers to spend all that money," Carson says. "In the past, when there's been no way to measure buzz marketing, it's been relegated to much smaller budget levels because there was no accountability. Now that the measurement is in place ... I think that's why we're seeing the budgets come through." This general attitude toward buzz measurement has sparked huge growth in this market. In fact, BuzzMetrics has more than doubled its revenues within the past year. Another company that is hoping to enter this arena of measurement and monitoring is Rochester, NY-based Blabble. This new company, devoted to exclusively monitoring and measuring blogs, is primarily seeking to work with PR firms, says Matt Rice, president. Although Blabble is still in beta mode, it has had success with testers and is in the process of signing on clients. The company also currently offers free searches on its website. For companies choosing to venture into this new area of measurement, the advantage to monitoring blogs is that it could help them to "hedge any problems that might be coming," says Rice. Carson cites a case last year where an activist filed a lawsuit against Nabisco because of the trans-fat content of Oreos. Ultimately, it resulted in the Food & Drug Administration ordering other food companies to label its foods with the trans-fat content. Other food companies also have undergone changes to decrease or eliminate the trans-fat amount from its products. While this food-industry revolution might have emerged from out of the blue, Carson says that in going back to study the buzz before the lawsuit, BuzzMetrics discovered there had been pockets of people starting the grassroots movement. "By studying that buzz, if the food industry had been watching what people had been talking about, they would've known this was coming," he says. In the wake of the trans-fat scandal and low-carb revolution, Carson says Buzz Metrics has been doing a great deal of business directly with the food companies. With the monitoring and measurement of blogs becoming increasingly popular, companies that offer these services will have to work hard to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Bernstein says that he hopes to improve on the consumer-generated media-monitoring module, using some of the company's core technology. Part of this includes a future product that will allow for cross document profiling and merging. Although the demand for this type of monitoring has increased, Bernstein says that it shouldn't be viewed as more important than traditional forms of media. "I think there's a little bit of hype, that people were in a panic about blogs," he says. "We see blogs as just an additional form of media that needs to be paid attention to."