Archive for the ‘public relations measurement’ Category

When leaders sell their profession short

I was shocked today to get pointed to a post on the Hootsuite blog by friend Kami Huyse. The post “What is the most sought-after selfie?” looked at recent famous selfies. What galled me was this paragraph:

2014 was the year of the first billion-dollar selfie. During the 2014 Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres snapped a group selfie, rumored to be sponsored by Samsung, with the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. She then uploaded the photo to her Twitter account and ended up getting millions of retweets from people around the globe. Maurice Levy, CEO of advertising firm Publicis, said that the Oscar selfie was worth between $800 million to $1 billion to its client Samsung.

I immediately shared some inappropriate words, then I left a comment on the post. But apparently I still have more to say.

Lévy is the CEO of a gigantic conglomerate of agencies lumped together as Publicis Groupe, and he was doing a talk at the MIPTV summit in April, just after the Academy Awards. Here’s the crucial quote:

The quote: “The earned media —  all the buzz which had been done around the Oscars — represents roughly a value between $800 million and a billion US dollars, because it has been mentioned all around the world, and the Samsung phone has been either mentioned or seen.”

M. Lévy has, no doubt, achieved great things. His group of companies generated $2.3 billion in revenue (US dollars) in the first quarter of 2014. Compared to me, he’s a top predator, and I’m an amoeba. So I am shocked to see a man of his stature, in his position, use a metric that has been so thoroughly discredited — Advertising Value Equivalency, or AVE.

AVEs have been around for a long time. And despite the efforts of many professional groups and individuals, they remain. Why are they problematic? I can’t state the reasons much better than this 2003 paper from the Institute for Pubic Relations. I’ll turn the paper’s objections into bullet points for brevity:

  • There’s no factual basis for assuming that an “editorial” mention is equivalent to an advertisement
  • The credibility of media varies from one topic and one outlet to the other. So using one “multiplier” is impossible
  • AVEs only measure what APPEARS, while PR folk often work to minimize coverage or not see something appear at all. This is not measurable by AVE
  • Advertisements depend on repetitive mentions to build awareness. “Earned media” cannot do the same
  • Not everything is relatable to advertising. If there are no ads on the front page of a magazine, what’s the value of a cover mention?
  • If a story tangentially mentions a brand or an organization, does the equivalency relate to the entire story or the portion of the story mentioning the specific brand?

In 2010, a coalition of leading communication organizations agreed upon what came to be known as the “Barcelona Principles.” Principle number five of the seven principles states: “AVEs are not the value of public relations.” Yet, according to PR News earlier this spring, the principles are not being adopted as quickly as might have been expected. Or hoped. And when you have people in the position of Maurice Lévy using these discredited and disavowed numbers, while it remains disappointing, it becomes less surprising.

The lesson for us here? I could simply and flippantly say “Don’t follow leaders.”  But there’s a slightly deeper lesson here. Even if you’re working with a “top agency”, even if you’re hiring “the best” — you owe it to yourself and your business to be ready to call BS on what they tell you. Don’t simply assume they know best, that their advice should be taken. If you can’t understand the strategy, or the method of evaluation; if you can’t relate the tactics to your business goals: speak up. Ask for better.

And if you’re a communicator — find a way to help push our industry out of the bad habits that we’ve developed. We can do better. And we know how.

Gobbling up social media research? Caveat lector.

Not so long ago, my friend Dennis posted an infographic about the misuse (accidential or wilful) of data in infographics. In a handy infographic format. I’m going to take the opportunity to embed it below. It’s worth keeping.

But Dennis’s nifty graphic only tells us about one place where we can be led into temptation — the infographic.

I happened upon a newsletter today that made me think of how easy it is to make marketing and communication decisions or take action based on information that should be questioned.

Mobile Commerce Daily reported on May 29 that “44pc of shoppers will never return to sites that are not mobile friendly: report.” The story is based entirely on a survey carried out by US software company Kentico, which makes content management systems. Kentico issued a news release about the survey on May 28, but it could be that the newsletter had an embargoed copy of the release.

The information is interesting. For example, it says that nearly 9 in 10 people with smartphones use them to compare products to competitors. And 45% do it right in the store, underlining the practice of “showrooming.”

But… in the newsletter story, there’s no information at all about the survey data. Even more frustrating is the lack of a link to the source data. I tracked down Kentico, then hit their press centre, where the news release about the survey sits. If you go to the Kentico site, you discover that the data-gathering part of this survey consisted of “More than 300 US residents 18 years old and over participated in the Kentico Mobile Experience Survey, conducted online during the month of April, 2013.”

Now, a survey sample is neither good nor bad. The point is to understand that sample. Was it a random sample? Did the participants selfselect? I couldn’t tell anything more than what I just said, because Kentico didn’t link to the survey itself or a more detailed report of its findings.

I contacted Kentico’s PR company, and Chris Blake of MSR Communications was prompt, open and detailed in his responses to my questions. He gave me demographic information that SurveyMonkey, the tool they used to do the research, provided, and a copy of the questionnaire. After a brief perusal of some USA census data, I learned that their sample of 300 people skewed only slightly more male, somewhat older, and way more educated than the US general population, for one thing. And the data provided on their sample gives me a sense of the potential sampling error rate (while Chris Blake suggests a ±5% margin of error, I’m thinking more like ±10%).

I don’t think there’s ANYTHING bogus about the survey results here. But I needed to take a fair amount of time to convince myself of that. And there are many occasions on which I find the data or survey results so problematic that I forget about using them.

There’s a flood of survey results and other materials that get published by the originators of the information, by newsletters, and by people like me every minute of every day. It’s easy to take everything at face value. But think twice. As a teacher of social media, I’m constantly looking for good data to share with students. As a consultant, I’m looking for information that I can use to help clients make sound decisions. But it is dangerous to see a newsletter article and use it to tell students or clients to base their actions on the data it contains.

Back in the days when ink and paper cost money, I understand the need for brevity and concision. But these newsletters are electronic. Pixels don’t cost anything but the time to write. And if you’re not going to disclose proprietary or competitive information, why not make as much information as you can readily available?

The more easily people like me can peruse your research, the more likely we’ll be to accept its conclusions. The more difficulty we have understanding the process behind the numbers, the more skeptical we become (or at least the more skeptical we SHOULD become).

And if you’re in business and trying to grapple with the challenges of communicating using social media, either desktop-style or mobile, make sure to ask questions EVERY time you see statistics and survey results. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you made a bad marketing or sales decision based on data you found in a press release and didn’t vet.

It’s too generous to assume that just because someone writes a newsletter, they’re doing your due diligence for you.

Here’s Dennis’s great graphic:

FIR Book Club with Gini Dietrich TOMORROW

One thing that really gets me going is conversation with smart people. I’m very lucky to know some that I get to see face to face, and then there are the people who I don’t know personally but get to hear speak or converse with.

And tomorrow, I get to speak with Gini Dietrich, co-author with Geoff Livingston of Marketing in the Round as part of the FIR Book Club. If you’re not familiar with FIR, it’s “For Immediate Release.” I do book reviews for that must-listen podcast, and I host these online talks as well.

Gini Dietrich is smart, funny, and prolific. She’s the founding CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based communications company that describes itself as a firm that started as “a very traditional public relations firm” and is now “a company that helps clients monitor and measure online efforts against business goals…providing an alternative to their traditional marketing efforts.”

In addition to their many clients, Arment Dietrich is responsible for the cheeky blog Spin Sucks and the PR resource site Spin Sucks Pro. And Gini became a first-time author with the publication of Marketing in the Round, a highly useful book on integrated marketing and communications in a social media age.

I’m excited to have 60 minutes to talk with Gini about her book and the ideas she and Geoff brought to it, and to offer listeners the chance to join that conversation.

If you want a primer on the book, you could listen to my review of the book on the FIR site. Then, join us on Talkshoe as a listener or a caller at 2 Eastern time tomorrow, won’t you?

Change is hard and frightening. Especially in marketing.

I’ve been thinking lately about how businesses hang on to their old ways of communicating and advertising recently. I’m going to tell you what I think first, and then I’ll tell you why.

I think that while we social media enthusiasts think everybody “gets it”, there are incredible numbers of businesses that don’t. They don’t understand social media and new communication tools; they don’t think they’re “serious”; they think they’re not part of a legitimate business. And I don’t think it’s an Ottawa problem; Chicago-based Gini Dietrich talked about hearing the same things in her town on a recent Inside PR episode.

So, two examples, and then a couple of conclusions.

First: The city of Ottawa has been trying to shop around an “integrated street furniture program” for the last several months. The city wanted to bring a private company to the table and do a deal that would see the company provide things like benches, newspaper racks, etc. etc.

The program site says:

The program will be guided by the following six principles:

  • Provide a service: There must be an existing service or an identified and demonstrated need for street furniture. Advertising is secondary to the purpose of the structure.
  • Offset capital and operating cost: Costs associated with the initial acquisition, ongoing maintenance, and periodic renewal of street furniture is transferred from the City to the service provider.
  • Generate revenue: Portions of the advertising proceeds generated from the street furniture are returned to the City as a revenue stream in order to reflect the value to the service provider derived from the use of the City’s right of way.
  • Improve the Streetscape and Preserve Identity: The City’s streetscape can be improved if street furniture has a common look and feel. Additionally, there is a high potential for increased visual clutter if services are expanded without a comprehensive policy. Although the program is seeking a common look and feel, it is not intended to provide a “one size fits all” approach, and will therefore need to be flexible enough so that street furniture can be tailored to specific areas where the street has developed a defined cultural identity. In addition, streetscape elements that were designed through public consultation as part of a street renewal project will be recognized and preserved.
  • Enhance Service: There is a need for additional services in various parts of the City. The provision of these services will be appropriate for the potential users and for the streetscape context.
  • Improve Coordination: Advertising on various types of street furniture may compete for the same audience and changes in individual agreements can significantly undermine revenue potential of other agreements.

Media reports today are saying that the City received just one response to a request for proposals. That proposal was non-compliant.

Second: findusfast bus adI’ve been noticing bus shelter ads recently like this, with a number of businesses listed, and a pointer to the site. This ad features a carpet and flooring store, a jeweler, an online flower service, and a self-storage company. I keep thinking about them each time I walk past. What’s the appeal here?

I suppose the businesses might be thinking they can’t afford shelter advertising on their own, so if they do this, they get that kind of exposure at a cost they can afford. Here in Ottawa, an ad like that would cost a minimum of $430 (for more than 100 shelters) for a four-week placement, and as much as $765 (if you’re doing under 10 shelters).

They may also think it’s useful to get the listing in the Findusfast directory. Their online pitch to advertisers gives eight reasons:

“1.  Priority listing in your category
2. Three rotating banners ads
3. Branding icon – top of page
4. Link to website
5. Link to offer, flyer, menu…
6. Map to your location
7. Mission statement line
+ a cost of $0.67 cents per day.”

So why would you go into a web directory like this, when you already have your own site? What’s the ROI? What’s it gain you compared to, say, doing a Facebook or a Google ad campaign, or buying your own bus shelter advertising from Clear Channel?

I asked a friend in the real estate business why he uses a bus-bench advertisement for himself. He doesn’t have numbers on response. But he has had anecdotal evidence from other realtors that when they change their advertisement or if they change locations, they get calls from clients saying “What happened to your ad?”And, he notes, the bus-bench market in Ottawa is strongly dominated by realtors.

So. Conclusions.

It’s pretty frustrating to think that ad campaigns with only grossly estimated eyeball counts and little ability to prove results are adopted  by businesses while effective and measurable campaigns done using PR or advertising tactics online are ignored.

The street furniture example is making me wonder whether the companies are beginning to realize that the return just isn’t there for outdoor-type advertising anymore in the broad sense. What’s the call to action? What’s the measurability? Is outdoor just a cacophony of sound and image that makes it impossible for you to stand out?

It seems to me that businesses are unwilling to let go of the things they understand, that they’re comfortable with. Even when it doesn’t work. There’s nothing new about the quote “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is I do not know which half” — Lord Leverhulme said it nearly a century ago. The difference between now and then is the absolute explosion in places and ways to waste that advertising budget.

But we early adopters — and we’re STILL early adopters — have to be patient and let others catch up to us. Or is that lasso them and drag them forward? The good news? That means there are STILL a lot of new clients for folks like you and me.

VIA Rail responds, finally.

About two weeks ago, I posted about VIA Rail (Canada’s national railroad) and its lack of an online arrival-departure system.

In the interest of fairness, I wanted to let readers know that after two e-mails, I received a reply from VIA’s Malcolm Andrews on December 29.

In it, he apologizes for not getting back to me sooner, saying “I’ve been away from the office for the past several weeks, Ms Kaloutsky has been pinch-hitting, and we’re both just now catching up on some unanswered correspondence.”

He goes on to tell me that the corporation is working to find a “more real-time solution regarding train performance information on-line.”

I had also asked if VIA monitors social media such as blogs. He tells me “We do monitor blogs and related sites; at the moment we receive a monthly report and alerts for exceptional items. Given your comments, we will now consider more timely reporting.”

I’m not sure what I’m more surprised by. A monthly report on social media and blogs seems to me to be roughly equivalent to a couple of clipbooks every decade. Is this the best that Canada’s passenger rail service can do?


PS: They should be aware that my blog is currently in the top 10 google results for via rail arrival and departure information. Or maybe they’ll get that information next month.