Showing posts with label ROC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ROC. Show all posts

Friday, July 29

Flipping Influence: Asking Earns Attention

After reading the two-part post on Sharing: It's Not Influence (Part 1, Part 2), a few people asked for alternatives. There are several, but one stands out among the rest.

Stop looking for influencers. Start making influencers.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how influencers tend to be the most influenced. Some mistook that post, Flipping The Scale: Influencers Are The Most Influenced, as influencer bashing. Maybe it was, but just a little bit. There was a bigger intent within the topic.

First, let's define "influencers" for what they really are to avoid any confusion. Online, the most common definition is "active people with big networks that seem reasonably engaged." That's it. There is nothing more to it. There doesn't even have to be any evidence to suggest that they have influenced anyone. It's about numbers.

With that understanding, the most common trait among these influencers is that they are always asking for advice, help, opinions, and ideas. Sure, sometimes it's a ruse. I recently read a thread from one who asked for advice on writing bios and then praised some pretty paltry advice that wasn't worth the bandwidth. I don't suspect the influencer had any intention of ever using any of it, but that's not the point.

Asking attracts more attention in less time than pitching egos.

I'm not suggesting that all "influencers" use the tactic for mass deception nor am I suggesting they be devalued. Some are sincere when they ask questions and then reflect crowd-sourced answers back at the people who provide them.

Other times, they listen to what people are asking elsewhere and then provide an answer, creating the impression of clairvoyance. (And yes, a few borrow what other people are saying and claim it as their own idea.) But despite the less desirable attributes, there are a few who are more authentic. It all depends on the person, not groups of people with the same moniker.

influencerThat said, the real work that needs to be done is to identify, ask, and engage people who are passionate about a topic. Those people, in turn, provide the answers. The "influencer" then has an opportunity to praise the network, collate the material, and maybe piggyback their message onto the whole mashup (sometimes with credit and sometimes without).

Everyone asked, especially those included in any answer, are now engaged, vested, and likely to promote the outcome.

Ergo, the influencer isn't really influencing anyone. The influencer is making a network of passionately engaged influencers, people who hope to have an impact on the person, place, or project. That's all there is to it. Be the influencee, not the influencer (even if it is in perception and not reality).

Stop looking for influencers. Start making influencers.

Anybody can become an influencer, at least by the standards of the current obscure and erroneous definition, because anyone can be an influencee. It's not even a new idea. This has been occurring offline since the beginning of time — everyone is all ears for the person compiling the report that they contributed to.

It's also why most "influencers" fall in and out of favor over time. It's human nature to overreach and, sooner or later, most of them overreach. They stop asking and start talking, or even more inexplicably, start charging people to hold up the mirror.

To be clear, I don't mean to make it sound as dubious as it can be. There are authentic uses for this technique. As long as a company is willing to accept some ideas from a growing network, support passionate advocates, and make it easier for those with an interest to make contributions and be elevated as an "influencer," it's all good.

It takes a significant amount of time, energy, and empathy. But it's also a key component of every successful campaign I've ever worked on. I shared a partial case study a couple years back when I retired the deck Shaping Public Opinion. If you look at the deck, you won't find what I really hope you come away with.

I didn't influence 250,000 bloggers and 15,000 journalists to cover AIDS and reach 62.5 million readers (it was even bigger for human rights). They convinced themselves.

My job, along with my teammates on that campaign, was to make it easier for them to do it. So we never wasted time begging "influencers." We made it easier for passionate people to do what they wanted to do, making them influencers.

Wednesday, July 27

Sharing: It's Not Influence, Part 2

Dental InfluenceAs a continuation of Sharing: It's Not Influence, Part 1, it may be worthwhile to begin where we left off, with a parent of a child. Children are wild cards.

The relationship between a parent and child, in terms of how influence works, ebbs and flows over the course of a lifetime. It is not defined by any single action. It is not patently obvious when it occurs. It is not even necessarily predictable by any measure.

A parent, for example, might be able to order a child to brush their teeth one night, and some people might argue that is a form of influence. However, real influence takes shape over the long term and not by a single action. Real influence might manifest in a child becoming someone who has exceptional dental practices, assuming we could isolate the influences (which we cannot).

Even a persistent parent — one who insists on dental hygiene, one who provides proper role modeling, one who nurtures and educates — may not be the most influential in person in terms of dental hygiene. It could just as easily be the dentist, dental hygienist, grandparent, sibling, friend, associate, television program, personal experience, education, or more than likely — some collective of all these people and things, with each contributing some unknown percentage of influence.

On the other hand, a persistent parent — one who does everything mentioned above — is equally likely to produce a child who does not exhibit exceptional dental practices. In fact, they are just as likely to produce a child who hates dentists, seldom brushes their teeth, and consumes more than their healthy share of snacks, sweets, and soda pop. What's that about?

In this case, the parent may have no real influence, despite their proximity to the child. Or, conversely, everything that the parent contributed could have influenced the child after all, but in the opposite direction. Or, you never know, the parent may have had influence during a certain period of time, but then this influence lost out to other people or experiences.

decisionsConfused yet? You ought to be. Outside of providing a definition of influence, no one knows how influence works. Most of the time, people do not even fully understand what influences them — let alone other people as a temporal contributor to someone's decision-making process. Sure, we have some broad brush notions — reciprocity, commitment, social morals, preference, authority, scarcity — but none of those include mere persistence. The truth is we really know next to nothing about influence, which is why it makes life interesting.

Three factors that make influence infinitely complex.

1. Attention. Marketers invest most of their time on attention. There is some truth to the notion that you cannot form an opinion about something you don't know exists. This is where reach (eyeballs), frequency (impressions), and authority (perceived expertise) count somewhat.

The challenge, however, is to remind marketers that every impression doesn't count as 100 percent attention; most impressions capture a mere fraction of our attention, especially online. There are so many things competing for our attention, all of which are being filtered by arbitrary and random conditionals. And even then, this assumes we are online as our streams chug along.

2. Receptiveness. Marketers don't seem to care much about receptiveness. Most assume that everyone is interested in their product, service, or position. They assume their message is important. And they assume you care, doubly so if chance and circumstance have happened to bring you together for some reason.

They could not be more wrong. To be open to a message, people generally have to meet a select number of conditions that vary from person to person. They have to be interested, attentive, in a good mood, open to a new opinion, and in the market for whatever you're peddling. Most have a hard time comprehending that such periods of openness are subject to varied and limited amounts of time.

3. Collectiveness. Influence doesn't happen in a vacuum. Most marketers and measurement systems treat actions as if they happen in an isolated one-on-one setting, without ever considering that multiple messages, people, and experiences all contribute to our world view. Equally important, any one of them could support or detract from anything.

Consider the composite of almost any decision you make. Even when we don't consciously consider it, our brains have created a complex composite of stuff that we apply to any number of circumstances: subconscious memories, past experiences, personal values, personality types, current events, advice from authors, opinions from family, preferences of friends, insights from opinion leaders, etc., etc., etc. Depending on the person and their individual relationship to all of these people and things and perceptions, the whole of it will weigh on any decision. And chances are, we aren't even aware of it.

Claiming to understand influence is the biggest snake oil game ever.

This isn't an attack on marketing or measures. It's more of a testament to human social intelligence, for all its strengths and weaknesses. We cannot be read so easily, even in various groupings. This also doesn't necessarily preclude marketers from making educated guesses. We do that all the time.

But for anyone to say they understand influence so thoroughly that they can entice people to do anything online is a different kind of disposition. It also shows significant shortsightedness, because surely if you could read people down to the click predictability and purchase probabilities, the financial sector — specifically the stock market — would be a better match. At minimum, such talents would preclude asking for hourly rates or retainers. A mere fraction of a percent of the profits would be enough.

Monday, July 25

Sharing: It's Not Influence, Part 1

InfluenceThere isn't any question that the current trends in marketing, especially online marketing, are centered around "influence." And most marketing, advertising, and social media firms (and certainly online influence algorithms) are all looking at the same measure — that influence can somehow be tied to reach (the number of people exposed to a message), which is directly dependent upon how willing people are to share it.

A recent study by The New York Times paints a different picture. Sharing is not as tied to influence as marketers think. There are a gambit of reasons, and influence and/or persuasion is one of the least important. Maybe marketers have it wrong.

Highlights from The New York Times Study.

• 94 percent carefully consider if the information they share will be useful to the recipient.
• 84 percent share information any time it supports a cause or an issue they care about.
• 83 percent say reading other people's responses helps them understand and process better.
• 73 percent share information because it helps them connect to people with similar interests.
• 69 percent say they share because it helps them feel more connected to the world around them.
• 68 percent share because they want to give others a better sense of who they are.
• 49 percent say that sharing allows them to potentially change opinions and encourage action.

While 49 percent is still significant, promoting action (which marketers have defined as a key component of influence) is a low priority in terms of what people choose to share. It makes sense. Nobody is trying to influence the world by sharing cat videos and bacon jokes. And those who share such things are generally not working to become "influential."

More than likely, they like cats or bacon or the humor often associated with pics and videos about those subjects. Sometimes, people share for other reasons too. It could be something even simpler; they want to associate with or get the attention of the person sharing the content.

In communication circles, the latter is especially true. Many communicators operating in social media are keen on praising and thanking each other for sharing each other's content. It sometimes goes beyond reciprocity and more toward reward. But even more importantly than that, they might share a post, even unread, to create an association with a keynote speaker and therefore have a chance to connect with other people within that stream. (Conversely, sometimes they share a link to poke someone.)

In The New York Times study, they miss the point of their own research by tying sharing to influence (specifically, how to influence sharing) despite discovering the varied reasons for sharing in the first place. And it seems to me that attempting to turn sharing into a tactical game really misses the point.

Specifically, the study suggests appealing to audience motivations, keeping it simple, appealing to humor, earning trust, and making it urgent all increas the likelihood of shared content. However, at the same time, we have to wonder if consumers are misapplying their trust in marketers attempting to piggyback their message on what people really do care about. Maybe. But more importantly, is a masquerade true influence?

Influence is especially complicated; much more than marketers think.

One recent image that caught some attention was the new Google brand shoes. Their colorful, creative, shoe image generated a significant amount of interest. In looking at the people who shared the same visual, however, it became clear why the shoe pic was being shared.

• Some people thought they were cool.
• Some people thought they were ugly.
• Some people like or have an interest in Nike.
• Some people like or have an interest in Google.
• Some people liked the last person to share them.
• Some people have an interest in fashion stories.
• Some people just like shoes; they could have had any logo.
• Some people wanted to capitalize on the fact Google+ was trending.
• Some people have an expressed interest in search, social media, and technology.

Google ShoesThe list goes on. There are more than two dozens other reasons for the shoe pic being shared, which begs the question: how does any of it tie to influence?

And even if it did tie to influence, is that influence related to the shoe? Google? Nike? High-tops in general? Or maybe the person who shared it, without any consideration of why they shared it? What about other factors? Does it matter what kind of mood they are in when they first saw the image? What they had for breakfast? How their love life is working out? What kind of personality they have? Because they set some quota about sharing X number of a things at noon, every day? And to what end does any of this even matter?

Sometimes if you want to move forward you have to look back. Since the adoption of social media, generally, and social networks, specifically, people started sharing much more than they ever had before. And as the study revealed, they share more because their audience has expanded from the five people who used to gather around the water cooler.

And yet, it's the water cooler that marketers need to think about about when it comes to sharing, because none of what was shared around that watering hole ever made anyone appear influential. Not really; maybe sometimes.

The simple truth of the matter is that real influence doesn't take place at the sharing stage. It happens on a much deeper level, much like real advertising happens at a much deeper level. Anyone can create an advertisement that entices people to notice it, but not everyone can create an advertisement that resonates with people.

Likewise, you can share anything you want and convince people to share it. But actually having them adopt your view, lock step with no questions asked, is real influence. And when you consider everything that has to be just right to make that happen, it becomes pretty clear that even true influence is subject to hundreds of different things beyond the control of the influencer.

So maybe, just maybe, there is only one question you need to ask any marketer or social media expert who claims to be able to influence the masses online. Ask them about parenting. If they struggle with getting their children to watch an hour less of television, to eat their spinach, to get straight As, to brush their teeth between meals, etc. — then they know as much about influence as you do — almost nothing. Much like The New York Times study, which has some interesting findings but equally silly conclusions.

Thursday, December 31

Recognizing Reader Picks: Top Posts Of 2009

With the new year upon us tomorrow, we would like to say goodbye to 2009 with a recap of this blog's five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of reader views after posting.

"What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?"

It is probably no surprise that our call for business leaders and government officials to change their communication struck a chord with consumers and communicators. After all, if we were to pick one word to summarize a common theme in 2009, it would be fear.

The message behind the post, which was part of a three-post series, was simple: if you want real change, you need hope over helplessness. And since most "leaders" seemed to struggle with the concept, we advised our friends and readers to ignore them and set out to find their own cheese. We're glad some people did because our government continues to push fear.

Related Labels: Psychology, Economy, Leadership

The Candy Gamble That Didn't Pay Off

For all the buzz-up Skittles earned in early March, nobody is really talking about the rainbow colored candies anymore. After the initial drunken rush of excitement generated by a Skittles experiment that turned its Web site into a collection of social media streams written by consumers, most people woke up with a hangover.

Within 48 hours, 44 percent of the public was left with a negative impression of the candy for trying too hard to be "cool" and eventually demonstrating it and the agency behind it were really clueless about social media. Effective branding, marketing, and social media require much more work than simply "turning over" a brand to consumers.

Related Labels: Skittles, Social Media

Communication Measurement For A Return On Investment

With so many conversations revolving around about how to measure a return on investment for social media and communication in general, we decided to share a formula that we've put into practice in order to measure a return on communication.

[(B • I) (m+s • r)/d] / [O/(b + t + e)] = ROC

Since January, more than 10,000 people downloaded the abstract from our Web site. And, after the initial post, the ROC series that followed remains one of the most popular published here.

Related Labels: ROC, Strategic Communication

Peanut Corporation of America Poisons Public Relations

The Peanut Corporation of America's handling of public relations after causing a salmonella outbreak will forever be remembered as one of the worst crisis communication scenarios in history. For almost three months, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) tried to spin its way out of any responsibility for contaminating as many as 2,100 peanut butter products.

The crisis eventually ended with the company filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after the FDA and several investigations finally concluded that the PCA acted with gross negligence and was responsible for sickening over 600 people in 44 states and Canada. The contaminants were also linked to nine deaths.

Related Labels: PCA, Crisis Communication

How Publicity, Public Relations, Social Media, Marketing, And Advertising View Publics

Published in two parts, we presented a model of how publicity, public relations, and social media and then marketing and advertising tend to view their publics. Both posts seemed to hit a home run in pinpointing why there are varied views on how to approach social media.

We remain vigilant in our belief that social media is best viewed as a new environment that deserves an integrated methodology incorporating all means of communication. From our viewpoint, integrated communication seems to be the best source to develop effective methodologies.

Related Labels: Social Media, Public Relations, Advertising

Five additional topics that came close in 2009

Where Edleman PR sometimes misses on the finer points.
• How spontaneous online debates can sometimes trip up experts.
• A satirical view covering everything silly in social media.
The ugly truth about some online consumer reviews.
How to demonstrate authenticity without actually saying it.

When I first started this blog in 2005, I used to lament that the biggest mistakes always seemed to overshadow the best practices. That seemed to change in 2008 as we accomplished a healthy mix of both. This year, communication models and theories have helped provide a better blend of communication-related topics. It makes 2010 seem even more promising.

In closing out 2009, I would like to extend a very special thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on this blog or across any number of social networks where the discussion tends to take place more frequently than in the comment section.

If you are one of the 3,500 subscribers or someone who visits on an occasional basis, I cannot thank you enough for making 2009 one of the best yet. It makes a difference to me, it's appreciated, and I'm grateful for having crossed paths with so many people online and in person.

Monday, October 12

Tossing Baseballs For Business: Scott Anthony

Last week, Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight Ventures, applied the wisdom of Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to explain measurement. Espstein implied that some people focus too much on baseball.

"When you're putting together a winning team, that honestly doesn't matter," said Epstein in reference to J.D. Drew's relatively low number of runs batted. "When you have a player who takes a ton of walks, who doesn't put the ball in play at an above average rate, and is a certain type of hitter, he's not going to drive in a lot of runs. Runs scored, you couldn't be more wrong. If you look at a rate basis, J.D. scores a ton of runs."

Anthony goes on to tie in business management to his article at Harvard Business Publishing, saying that business managers can learn a lot from how baseball general managers build and manage their talent portfolio. How do you really know if you are focusing on the right metrics?

Communication works much the same way. Sure, I frequently write about the importance of communication measurement. It's important. Unmeasured communication is non-communication.

However, that is not to say that all measures have to dictate the course of communication, especially with social media where people have a propensity to add too much weight to the wrong metrics. For example, I know one company that wanted to drop its Twitter account and focus on Facebook based upon the number of members alone.

In this particular situation, it turned out that the positive impact of their communication was reliant on a certain percentage of people who were engaged both on Facebook and on Twitter. Specifically, those who were engaged on both networks tended to be evangelists who considered the Twitter account their personal connection whereas they viewed Facebook as a group for everyone. Contrary, the Facebook group consisted of participants, advocates, and evangelists.

Much like J.D. Drew's relatively low number of runs batted, separating the network into mere count columns does not always lead to the right conclusions. And in this regard, Anthony's observations for innovation might apply to communication. It would require a robust categorization scheme for classifying the type of communication, the reach of the communication, the engagement level of the audiences, and market circumstances (especially a competitive analysis).

Whereas Anthony said better metrics give Epstein a competitive advantage over his rivals, I might say that a better interpretation of metrics will often deliver a competitive advantage. It also ensures Advertising Rule 9 receives due diligence.

Monday, July 6

Marketing Mainstream: Online Video

Several years ago, we floated the idea that advertisers would be able to produce online videos that would attract as much attention as any broadcast advertisement. Some people thought the idea was very funny (given the frequency in which people insist they hate advertising).

Yet, in the last 18 months, that is exactly what happened as 200,000 tuned in this week to watch the Eyebrow Dance from Canbury, 325,000 viewed the T-Mobile Dance from T-Mobile, and thousands more continue to watch Extreme LED Sheep from Samsung, a video that has already garnered more than 8.5 million views. There is enough interest in online video advertising, in fact, that Video Measures compiles a real time Top 10 Viral Videos Ads of the Week Chart.

"It's not a niche activity anymore, it's a fairly mainstream activity," Matt Cutler, vice president of Video Measures recently told Abbey Klaassen of Advertising Age. Despite more than 20 hours of new video added to YouTube during every minute of every day, there is plenty of room for advertisers to produce an online video that becomes viral.

Viral Videos Are Usually Part Of Integrated Campaigns

During the interview, Cutler also noted that advertisers began to seriously look at online video shortly after the last Super Bowl when their joint study revealed Super Bowl campaigns captured 99 million viewers compared to the 98.7 million viewers that watched during the broadcast. For the first time, marketers realized that a single online video might reach as many people as broadcast television.

However, Cutler also concludes that online video success doesn't happen in a vacuum. The best online videos are usually tied to an integrated campaign that helps connect the video with viewers. Additional advertising support, public relations, and social media all play a role. After that, assuming the video attracts critical mass, its own momentum can carry it forward as popular videos tend to attract larger audiences.

Once A Video Goes Viral, Then What?

While the prospect of capturing several million viewers is appealing, advertisers still need to overcome the notion that "viral videos" can be made. The reality is that while advertisers can make a video, its propensity to become viral is determined exclusively by the online audience.

Of course, there is something else to consider. Even viral video success stories might be empty if there is no purpose beyond popularity. Specifically, making a video is easy; ensuring it goes viral is virtually impossible (most do not); and weaving in a message that has an impact or achieves an outcome remains as elusive as ever.

Monday, April 27

Measuring Communication: Wrapping The ROC

Since January, we've presented an ongoing series dedicated to the Return on Communication (ROC) formula. The ROC defines a communication measurement abstract across advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media.

[(B • I) (m+s • r)/d] / [O/(b + t + e)] = ROC

The formula demonstrates how the return on communication is related to the brand equity of the company or product, the intent of the communication, the execution of that intent, the reach and duration of that communication, and the outcomes that communication produces over the cost required to execute it. When matched to the equation, it would read like this:

The brand times intent (message plus suitability times reach divided by the duration) over the outcomes, divided by the cost (budget plus production time plus experience expended).

In other words, a company with a strong brand and well-defined intent that properly communicates to the right audience will produce better outcomes. Those outcomes can then be divided by the cost required to execute the communication. Simplified, all this really means is the return on communication is equal to how well the intent achieves its outcomes.

I | O = ROI

This also concludes the Monday series so we can present another white paper series next week. However, from time to time, we will be revisiting the abstract with models and case studies to demonstrate how it works by example.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday since January, the ROC series explored portions of the abstract.

Monday, April 20

Measuring Communication: Five Steps To Action

While it is not part of the ROC measurement abstract, communicators might be best served to consider five basic steps before developing a communication stream, using social media, or an integrated communication strategy, which may or may not include social media. These five steps aren't what the communicator ought to do. They are what an intended public does.

Step One: Awareness. The public has to know the communication stream exists. Communication that happens in a vacuum isn't heard.

Step Two: Interest. The public has to have a reason to take an interest. The channel usually needs to offer added value, incentives, unique insights, or original content.

Step Three: Engagement. The public has to have a mechanism to engage, which means the channel needs to continually deliver on its promise to add value, incentives, unique insights, and original content. Often, with an opportunity to engage in two-way communication.

Step Four: Conviction. The public has to have a reason to become committed beyond engagement by either accepting a belief (the product/company is good) or intending to take an action (attend an event, purchase a product, etc.). The point here is that engagement, while important, might not be enough.

Step Five: Action. The public has to take action beyond engagement to become true customers or advocates. In social media, this might mean referring others or, in some cases, purchasing a product (online or off) or producing some other outcome.

It seems to me that one of the most overlooked aspects of online organizational communication is that some communicators forget that not every member of the public will begin at step one. Often times, existing customers or advocates are already aware and have an interest, which is why they are searching for the company or product or service online to begin with.

So the question to answer is always much simpler than it seems. Did the organization make it easy for these customers and advocates to engage, become convicted, and take action?

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract, with exception of today.

Tuesday, April 14

Measuring Communication, Cost Part 3

Another overlooked cost consideration in communication measurement is the human equation. Simply put, not all communication teams — public relations firms or advertising agencies or whatever — are created equal. Some demand more time from their clients than others.

It's the kind of cost consideration you might not find in Geoff Livingston's otherwise fine post on communication measurement. Firms that consider this cost will know which outcomes to measure and which ones to not measure (e.g., number of conversations about, while popular among publicity proponents, is not a measure unto itself in most cases).

Cost Consideration In House.

For example, most CEOs committing to a daily post, written by them, carries a tremendous expense to the company except in circumstances such as but not limited to crisis communication. The average CEO at a Fortune 500 company, for example, makes approximately $500,000, not counting bonuses. With bonuses, the top 20 made $36.4 million in 2006 on average.

Median salaries are much more modest. According to PayScale, the median base is between $150,000 and $200,000. While there has been ample debate about CEO salaries lately, that is not the intent of this post.

While admittedly a steep contrast, the question becomes how many $100,000-$200,000 posts can a top paid CEO afford to write, assuming they are authentic enough to write their own? Likewise, how many public relations meetings can one CEO attend? Or even, how many interviews can one accept? And what could they be doing instead?

While the answer is situational because there is little doubt that CEOs needs to be involved in the communication, in-house departments still need to pay close attention to how much time is being vested by whom.

On a more reasonable scale, the communication manager might ask if they need to write every release or does it need to be written by a less experienced member of the team? And, what could they communication manager be doing instead of hanging out on Twitter? Clearly, there may be benefits to doing so, but only with balance, and only if there are tangible outcomes.

Cost Consideration With Outsourcing.

For the in-house department outsourcing services, the question becomes one of affordability vs. expediency. Does the consultant add more experience for the investment or require more hands-on management than the scope of the project?

As an extreme example, I've seen less experienced team members take days to perform tasks that could have taken someone else a few hours. And, I've seen out-of-house firms require so much handholding that it becomes difficult to tell who was the client. In other cases, some managers complain that they have to significantly rewrite every release submitted by the public relations firm. But what they don't consider is that doing so doubles the cost of the work and distracts from other tasks.

Ideally, the right work needs to be matched with the right experience level, inside or out. While the concept might seem abstract to some, human asset management can have dramatic consequences on the end result.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract, with exception of today.

Monday, April 6

Measuring Communication, Cost Part 2

One of the most overlooked cost considerations in communication measurement is the "time to produce" or "speed to market." While the cost less is tangible than direct expenses, it's no less important because it can have a dramatic impact on communication.

As Laurence Haughton once titled his book "It's Not the Big That Eat the Small... It's the Fast That Eat the Slow." In the book, he and Jason Jennings contend that only the swiftest of corporations will thrive in today's marketplace. And while I've disagreed with Haughton before, this is one point where he is half right.

How Time To Produce Impacts Public Relations.

A few months ago, a public relations firm had an opportunity to deeply expose one of its clients to a new audience by tying in local results on a national study. In terms of news value, the story had impact, proximity, timeliness, human interest, and sensitivity — five of the ten elements that make news.

Unfortunately, the release that could have made headlines and would have resulted in speaking engagements took three weeks, leaving less than a one week window to retain any news value at all. The result was a single story in one online publication that didn't reach the intended audience.

While the late release didn't create any negative impressions, the costs associated with the release produced a negative return on communication. And, had it been a crisis communication situation, three weeks would have been just enough time to kill the organization.

How Time To Produce Impacts Advertising.

The same intangible cost has an impact on advertising as well. For example, most Web sites take two to three times longer to produce than a blog, most print advertisements take two to three times longer to produce and place than online advertisements (even longer when compared to non-ad communication vehicles), and most television commercials take four times longer to produce than an online video.

This isn't meant to disparage traditional advertising. It's needed. However, in prioritizing production, quicker and more efficient methods of communication might be worth considering. Every day there is no communication is another day that potential customers are making different purchasing decisions or increasing brand loyalty or promoting the competition.

So Why Was Haughton Only Half Right?

Sometimes companies race ahead too fast. In 2007, for example, we took note of several companies attempting to leap frog to the next level as fast as possible. One of the applications, BlogRush, has long since crashed.

There were several reasons for the "crash," but part of the underlying problem was that its customers could not keep up with the changes taking place and neither did their communication. The lesson to be learned remained the same. Planned product rollouts plus expedited and efficient communication usually wins the day.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, March 30

Measuring Communication, Cost Part 1

While most communication measurement models ask professionals to consider the cost per impression as it pertains to the cost of the media purchase, the better measure is "cost per outcome" or "cost to achieve intent" (assuming the intent is achieved). While impressions are important, there still needs to be accountability in determining what those impressions achieve.

In the ROC abstract, there are three cost considerations: actual cost, time to produce, and experience required. The first, actual budget, is the easiest to determine (C = b + t + e). Specifically, the budget consists of the cost of the project, including printing, production, and distribution. Although overlooked by many companies, it's best to include internal staff time, benefits, etc. and/or the total cost of the external sources.

Why is important to calculate all costs?

Calculating the cost of any campaign, and elements within a campaign as they pertain to outcomes, can help communication managers and executives make better budgeting decisions. For example, if Publication A delivers 10,000 impressions at a lower CPM than Publication B, which delivers 500 impressions at a higher CPM, most managers would cut B before A. However, if Publication A delivers 10 outcomes while Publication B delivers 100 outcomes, then the decision would be flawed because Publication B actually has a higher ROC.

The thinking isn't new; it's principled, well-reasoned, and had been adopted by a few media buyers who realized it was often better to buy time on a television show that your audience watched than to buy bulk value rotate "deals" that landed you impressions at 3 a.m.

Last year, I provided a different real life example where I heavily recommended a local Ham Supreme retailer to place a good portion of its media buy on an unproven pilot program. The agency I was working for balked at the idea, insisting we buy a high frequency cable rotate instead. The result: Ham Supreme ran heavily at 3 a.m. in the morning instead of on a show that eventually climbed to number one. Why did I want the pilot? Psychographics suggested Home Improvement viewers might like big ham sandwiches.

The point is that every communication related service — advertising, public relations, marketing, etc. — needs to focus on maximizing impressions. Doing so leads to better decisions. Likewise, the same can be said for decisions related to the cost of production, e.g. if a $2 per piece brochure delivers the same outcomes as a $200 per piece brochure, how can someone justify the additional $198 per piece? Conversely, how can someone count impressions never made by brochures stuck in storage.

Cost analysis can also help companies make decisions about internal vs. external time too. Very often, outsourcing specific work makes more sense than allowing less experienced staff members to perform the same work for more money when you factor in benefits. This is especially true now for companies that have cut back staff, and continue to ask employees do more for less.

Another example that comes to mind was when one of our accounts hired an in-house team member, specially to write news releases, two years ago. While the account considered it a savings, the in-house position cost them four times the amount for diminished outcomes.

In short, more than ever, communication needs to be measured against the outcomes that companies hope to achieve. While not all of these outcomes are tied to direct sales, the practice of benchmarking, measuring, and determining return can free up budgets and maximize the impact of communication over the long term. At least, that is what we've seen for almost 20 years.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Friday, March 27

Considering Impressions: Do They Count?

Anyone who has read more than a single post on this blog knows I'm outcome measurement oriented. So it was no surprise to come back from a presentation today to see a few inquisitive e-mails regarding my advertising impression post on Wednesday.

"Did you change your mind about measurement?"

No, but I do understand human behavior and human behavior suggests that impressions — frequency — do count across the entire spectrum of communication. They might not be outcomes, but they are an important part of the equation.

Specifically, no single source of communication — advertising, public relations, marketing, social media — exists in a vacuum. It works together. When communication messages across all media are aligned, the outcomes are generally more substantive than singular communication streams because it accounts for sensory capacity and orientation.


Sensory capacity and orientation are two factors that help determine how much influence a "cue" might have to a person. Or, in other words, each person's sensory capacity and orientation determines how the environment looks to that person. And, knowing this, we also know that any cue in that environment does not guarantee that the person will perceive the cues as we do nor does it guarantee the person will react the same way they perceive the cue depending on how they perceive it.

For example, some new parents become concerned when their babies do not react to animal mobiles over their cribs. But what they do not consider is that these babies see a mobile differently than their parents do. Babies see it differently because of their sensory capacity, orientation, and familiarity with the objects. Laying under the mobile, babies with developing eyesight (capacity) only see the bottoms of the animals (orientation), which diminishes their ability to recognize the animal shapes (familiarity).

Thus, babies (and people) are only influenced by a cue when they become sensitive to that cue. And one of the most important determinations of whether someone will be sensitive to a cue is dependent on past experience and familiarity. And now that this is understood, let's consider advertising and communication again.

Impressions count because they establish familiarity.

A cue, like an onsite product review, only has influence if the prospect has the capacity, orientation, and familiarity with the product to capture their attention. If someone has been exposed to several print advertisements, television advertisements, news stories, blog posts, direct friend referrals, etc., they will automatically gravitate toward reading the review of that product over the review of another product that they are being exposed to for the first time.

When you ask them what they attribute a product purchase to, they will most likely say the review because it was their last impression before the point of purchase. However, it was a collective number of positive impressions across all media and non-media that influenced their purchasing decision because without multiple exposures (capacity) during various activities (orientation) that established familiarity with the product. In some cases, a review might not have any influence at all because by the time a person is looking at a review, they might only be looking for a validation.

We even see this to be true in social media. Very often, it is not a blog alone that drives the traffic to top name social media bloggers. Rather, it's the in-person presentations, workshops, classes, books, articles (and in some cases, even advertisements), that establish enough familiarity from enough vantage points to engage and possibly influence people online.

So, in sum, I never changed my position. At the end of the day, it's all about outcomes. But outcomes cannot be achieved with a singular communication stream. We need advertising, public relations, marketing, and social media to work together, even if their various advocates have different capacities and orientations that cause them to debate the details.

Monday, March 23

Measuring Communication, Defining Outcomes

Since January, we've outlined several considerations to determine Intent and the execution of intent. But that is only part of the equation. The balance of the definition includes that the return on investment is related to the intent of the communication, the outcome it produces, and the cost to achieve those outcomes.

In social media and public relations (to some degree), there is a propensity to diminish the value of measurement based on the idea that indirect results are difficult to measure. As a result, there is a tendency is misclassify the operators of intent (such as frequency and reach) as outcomes.

Column inches are not really outcomes. Web site hits are not really outcomes. Comment counts are not really outcomes. Links are not really outcomes. Rather, all these things are generally a means to an outcome, publicity included.

“What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” — Abraham Lincoln

Never mind that Lincoln wasn't talking about animals. The publicity employed by a skunk is actually very effective, as the outcome it strives for is to be left alone. If it wanted to be a pet, only then could we say it has a public relations problem.

Most companies, of course, do not want to be left alone. Most of them want sales. When we could ask Leo Burnett, he might say that "advertising says to people, 'Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it.'”

But it's not that simple, not really. People have to know that you exist, care that you have something, and feel confident that they aren't supporting a bad corporate citizen. Of course, there is something else the Burnett quote points to. He did not say that advertising is sales, only that it leads people to where sales occur.

With the exception of online stores and direct response marketing, most advertising, public relations, and communication does not lead directly to sales. It does, however, lead people to seek out a product, include a product among their purchasing decisions, have a favorable opinion about a company, tell other people about it (as you want them to be told), listen to the company when it has news to share, and hundreds of other actionable events and changes of behavior or outcomes from defined publics.

Outcomes are measured by the actions and opinions of a defined public.

The Southwest airlines Ding! widget is one example. As a communication tool, it promises to deliver exclusive offers to a select audience (people who download the widget). Sometimes, these offers change behaviors in that a low fare offer might prompt people to visit a city they didn't consider before or place reservations in advance to a city they intend to visit in the near future.

The number of people who have downloaded the widget defines the reach; the number of sales attributed to the widget defines the outcomes. In 2007, $150 million in sales were directly attributed to the widget.

Naturally, the widget doesn't communicate in a vacuum. Other communication efforts ranging from campy advertising to its blog, all have the intent to distinguish Southwest as being casual, friendly, fun, and focused on lower prices. This intent has served the airlines since 1972. Today, it includes an early adoption of social media.

While the whole of its communication efforts help define the intent and reinforce its brand equity, the return on the widget can be directly tied to ticket sales vs. the cost to develop and promote the widget. Other efforts from other organizations might be measured differently.

For example, if an organization wanted to expand its engagement with a specific demographic and sent out a news release, then the measure of that news release might be the response from that demographic rather than the frequency or reach of the publications that ran the story. (It might also be a change in sentiment by the demographic.) How people beyond the demographic respond to the story might also be valid, but ancillary to the real measurement.

In the weeks ahead, we'll present what might be included to determine the cost to produce such outcomes. But before I did, I thought it was important to provide a baseline of what an outcome is and what it is not.

Specifically, an outcome is an actionable event that ranges from indirect such as a change in opinion to direct such as sales when confined to a specific offer. In other words, the outcome is what we do when we learn the skunk has a potent spray, assuming we are even in the skunks demographic.

Monday, March 16

Measuring Communication, Equation Influencers Part 2

“Brand is the relationship between a product and its customer.” — Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO Worldwide

While more formal definitions might include "the assortment of qualities that differentiates the brand from other commodities, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands" or "marketing effects or outcomes that accrue to a product with its brand name compared with those that would accrue if the same product did not have the brand name," Dusenberry’s proposition defines brand equity succinctly.

Brand equity is derived from what people think and feel about a particular person, product, service, or company.

In recent years, an increasing number of people misdefine brand as an identity, image, mark, or logo (e.g., as in a cattle brand). However, it's none of those things. For the relationship between those things and their relationship to a brand, it might be worthwhile to refer to an older brand primer post, which includes a in depth comment from a trademark lawyer as well.

For the purposes of measurement, a better definition that reflects Dusenberry’s proposition is that a “brand” is better thought of as the net sum of all positive and negative impressions. For example, when people think of Apple, they have an immediate emotional reaction to what Apple represents as it relates to them. It may be positive or negative or neutral or degrees in between.

The impact of brand equity on the whole of communication can be extraordinary. Simply put, Apple has developed a brand that is powerful enough that anything it does is news. The same can be said about Apple CEO Steve Jobs. It's simply not so for the bulk of many of other companies.

Brands have a two-fold relationship to the overall communication strategy.

In the ROC equation, brand equity is demonstrated as a second influencer that impacts the whole effectiveness of communication. Specifically, Brand times Intent (message plus suitability times reach) divided by duration or B • I (m+s • r)/d. The more powerful the brand, the more people take notice.

However, planned communication can also negatively impact a brand. For example, Pepsico's Tropicana package redesign had a dramatically negative impact on the brand relationship between the product and the consumer. Interesting enough, the Arnell Group didn't change the brand as much as they changed the identity of the product, which came to symbolize the relationship that consumers felt toward the product.

What the Arnell Group never seemed to consider (or Pepsico, which seems to be redesigning its entire portfolio of products for the sake of change), was that its most loyal consumers identified the orange with the straw imagery much in the same way Coca-Cola has infused itself into the psyche of American culture and around the world. In sum, the package redesign diminished the brand equity.

Over-reaching creative, erred publicity stunts, and forced viral campaigns all have a tendency to diminish brand equity. Why? Such efforts tend to push for frequency and reach at the expense of the value proposition and message, which are critical components in establishing a brand promise.

An interesting side note about brands and their meaning to people.

We've had a laugh or two over the Microsoft Branding Parody that pays homage to Fred Manley's “Nine Ways To Improve An Ad.” However, there is something else to think about.

Over time, Microsoft's brand became so entrenched with a "generic" identity that it became difficult for the company break away from it, even with the help of Jerry Seinfeld. However, as Microsoft recently learned, even a generic brand might avoid lowering the bar too much as it did with Songsmith video.

The reason this is relevant is because of another theory we've had in the mix for some time. The Fragile Brand Theory suggests that it is less important to stick with your brand choice (innovative and elusive like Apple or a generic giant like Microsoft) than to switch and swap identities that confuse your publics. In general, people develop relationships with the sustainable familiar, regardless of the brand that people, products, and companies try to project.

If there is a distinct takeaway separate from the measurement abstract, it is that as much as brands influence the impact of communication, communication tends to influence brand over the long term. Dramatic juxtapositions of established brands, regardless of what they are, do not end well.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Wednesday, March 11

Revealing Weakness: Brian Solis On Authority

Brian Solis, principal of FutureWorks, writing for TechCrunch, asked yesterday if blogs were "losing their authority to the statusphere."

Specifically, he wondered about the relevance of the Technorati Authority Index, which used to be the leading measure for bloggers to benchmark their rank. The theory was that the more blogs that link to your blog, the more authority you had in a subject area to be considered an "expert." However, as Solis alludes to in his post, engagement no longer occurs blog-to-blog or on the Internet.

Conversations are fluid.

While Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, told Solis the team is actively entrenched in the creation of a modified platform that embraces widespread, distributed linkbacks to blog posts in order to factor them into the overall authority for affected blogs, everyone seems to miss the point. While linkbacks, comment counts, retweets, votes, and all that other stuff is useful, it will never provide an valid indication of influence, authority, or status.

Real measurement doesn't happen according to online measurements. It happens as a function of the customer or reader experience. It's no longer about social media. It's about tangible real life engagement.

Conversations move everywhere. Blog-to-blog, blog-to-social network, social network-to-blog, blog-to-phone, social network-to-presentation, blog-to-physical location or office or classroom, blog-to-text message, and text message-to-whatever. They do not end with the blog nor do they end with the Internet. They continue wherever people may care to take them.

The measurement of these conversations isn't so much about who is talking about something as much as it's about someone taking action like shaving their head or walking the streets of Edinburgh in a bra. Anything else is just an adoption of the erred thinking that led some public relations firms to count column inches as a measure of success. Real measurement doesn't end with the number of "media hits" or column inches, it begins with them.

Or, to put it another way, the measure isn't that the story ran, but rather what people do once the story runs. "Media hits" or column inches are only a function of reach. And while reach can be beneficial, the wrong message still falls on deaf ears, no matter how many ears happen to hear it.

Online measures are interesting, misleading too.

We've been researching this area in public relations for years, but recently saw the same thing after an interesting occurrence on Twitter, after two different people pointed to two different posts.

Based on various online measurement models, one Twitter participant (Tweeter A) — with approximately 14,000 followers, high level of engagement, and significant number of retweets (someone else repeating what they "tweet" with citation) — is generally thought to have more influence than one (Tweeter B) with 300 followers, a lower level of engagement, and fewer retweets. However, when they pointed to posts on this blog, the opposite was proven true.

Twitter A drove 24 people to a post. Twitter B drove 103 people to a post.

So who really has more influence? Twitter A only succeeded in influencing a fraction of 1 percent of their followers while Twitter B influenced a whopping 34 percent of their followers. Ah ha. See that? Perception doesn't always equal reality.

The same can be said about comment counts too. I'm fairly certain that veteran communication and marketing bloggers like Geoff Livingston, Valeria Maltoni, and Lewis Green all shake their heads when they publish an important post and nobody comments. (Meanwhile, other bloggers publish meaningless posts and net 40 or more.)

However, what online measurements may never capture is how those seemingly quiet posts move people to apply new strategies and tactics that they've never considered before. Or maybe the content was simply profound or precise enough that there wasn't anything more to say, and the communities they've nurtured tend to avoid gratuitous exchanges such as "your best post yet."

Ho hum. It just goes to show you that The Skipper might not have been as popular as Ginger Grant, but there was no mistaking his authority.

So if Technorati really wanted to create a measure that would make the service relevant again, they might consider that, despite the fact that I doubt anyone can create an algorithm capable of peering inside the human soul. And even if they could, I suspect we wouldn't want them to.

Monday, March 9

Measuring Communication, Equation Influencers Part 1

"Maybe it's the rising quality of its cars. Maybe it's the halo surrounding Ford for passing up federal funds being devoured by its Detroit rivals. Or it could simply be Ford's focus on building image in its marketing while others flog incentives. But for whatever reason, America seems to have decided that Ford is a better idea after all." — Jean Halliday, Advertising Age

Ford, which is experiencing a revival and continuing to distance itself from General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, experienced a 16 percent increase in the number of qualified buyers who plan to buy a Ford. Conversely, GM fell 12 percent and Chrysler fell 33 percent.

The reason, in part, is sustainability of message. Ford has shifted its marketing message to a focus on the future rather than the current economic crisis that prompted GM and Chrysler to accept government bailout money and infuse distress advertising into every campaign. Distress advertising, which relies heavily on incentives, discounts, and sales is not sustainable.

While the lesson was learned across several industries, we saw it first hand while opening a Volkswagen dealership. Despite opening in a market dominated by a single dealership for 20 years, we successfully captured top sales in the state (fourth in the region) in less than four months. The reason was simple.

The cute, quirky, and sustainable electronic and print campaign appealed to the qualified buyers over distress advertising, which only reinforced the competitor's weaknesses. Over time, the competitor also conditioned qualified buyers to wait for the sale. GM and Chrysler currently have that challenge.

Both companies are currently running elongated sales incentives. However, the campaigns may be backfiring because the longer the incentives run, the more likely Chrysler will run out of qualified buyers or car buyers might not consider the incentives enough of a deep discount. In addition, too many fire sales condition consumers to only buy when there is a sale.

Considering Sustainability Is Critical To Long Term Success

In developing the Return On Communication abstract, sustainability is factored in by recognizing all communication effectiveness diminishes over time. The question communicators — advertisers, marketers, and public relations practitioners — need to ask more often is how fast will the effectiveness diminish.

Distress advertising, gimmicks, and publicity stunts tend to create attention spikes that rapidly diminish over a few days or weeks. In some cases, they may even lead to brand erosion.

For example, Chrysler's mission statement is "to achieve consumer satisfaction. We do it through engineering excellence, innovative products, high quality and superior service." Yet, its new incentive, "employee pricing plus plus" says the opposite. It suggests that "since we cannot achieve customer satisfaction, we've slashed the prices to increase unit sales."

The question to ask is what happens after an increased incentive (supposedly below employee pricing) ends? Will it be followed by employee pricing plus plus plus? Maybe. We've seen casino marketers drive properties below profitability with ever-increasing free cash offers that start with $5 and quickly expand to $100 or more. It's not sustainable, especially if core elements such as customer service are sacrificed.

Contrary, Coca-Cola might not be as expensive as an automobile, but there is no denying that it is the real thing. They save aggressive experimentation for products that have little to lose, like Vault. Currently, Coca-Cola will give away a free sample of its Vault brand (4 percent share of the citrus segment) to anyone who buys PepsiCo's Mtn Dew (80 percent share of the citrus segment).

"Many companies have challenged Mtn Dew over time, whether it was Surge or Mello Yellow and now Vault," said Frank Cooper, Pepsi's VP-portfolio brands. "What we're seeing now is a last-ditch effort to propel Vault forward in the face of Mtn Dew growth. It's an interesting tactic, but I think that the Mtn Dew consumer understands that the Mtn Dew product experience is unique."

So will it work? While Coca-Cola is usually smart in its marketing, it's clearly not sustainable, which Frank Cooper seems to know. Much more risky is the potential for the Vault campaign to backfire because the demographic might not want more kick with their citrus soda. But as pointed out in Advertising Age, Mtn Dew recently underwent a facelift that is proving unpopular. Hmmm ... sound familiar?

How To Factor In Sustainability To The Equation

Sustainability (d) is best described as one of two influencers that impact the whole effectiveness of communication, Intent (message plus suitability times reach) divided by duration or I (m+s • r)/d.

The more a buzz reliant a product might be, the effectiveness of the buzz will diminish at faster pace. That is not to say a campaign cannot be creative. Absolut Vodka still succeeds with its long running visual campaign. After 22 years, more than 1,500 of the ads featured Absolut s distinctive bottle, with the stubby neck and see-through label.

A few weeks ago, Scott Monty, digital and multimedia communications manager at Ford Motor Company, touched on the idea with a quick Twitter comment. "Viral is a result, not a strategy," he said.

He's right. Campaigns can go viral but forced viral campaigns, such as those attempted by Burgr King or Skittles never last. In order to hold interest, the campaigns rely on ever increasing the bar until even the next level is too high to be believed.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, even the best campaigns need an infusion of creative from time to time. After all, effectiveness also becomes diminished by familiarity and familiarity eventually produces boredom (just at a much slower pace than all buzz but no substance). That doesn't mean an entire brand will need a facelift, but it does mean that the creative surrounding the brand might need to be refreshed from time to time.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, March 2

Measuring Communication, Realization Part 3

Since 1999, radio has experienced a steady decline in listenership, and has become mostly confined to specific personalities and drive times. In fact, according to the BIA Financial Network, Inc. (BIAfn), the radio industry has suffered its second year of negative growth in 2008, tripling station revenue losses to -7 percent and will experience another 10 percent decline in revenue this year.

It's worth mentioning because radio provides an excellent example of the overvaluation of reach as it pertains to live radio remotes. As a promotional tool, Warner & Buchman once described radio remotes as an excellent promotional tool "to create excitement and increased awareness for a product or service and to get consumers involved with a product." Simply put, they were traffic generators.

But what traffic? When poorly planned, many stations, especially those with strong station personalities, would sometimes attract crowds that were more interested in the station than the marketer's location. And some, weren't even interested in either as much as the free food, drinks, contests, and drawings.

That is not to say radio remotes are bad. They work great for some businesses and can create an atmosphere. But in terms of real reach — real potential future buyers, some remotes are over valued. I once attended an agency organized event that delivered not a single buyer because they chose a popular remote station over a station with the right demographic, and still insisted the event was a success based on the number of bodies. Hmmm ...

Redefining Reach To Avoid Over Valuation

In most communication fields, reach is often defined as the total number of impressions or how many people are exposed to a message. However, in considering the effectiveness of communication, marketers can capture a clearer picture if they narrow the definition of reach to only include the intended public.

Mack Collier, a social media consultant, alluded to this thinking in January after he became one of 25 hand-picked communication-related bloggers to see a sneak preview of Pepsi cans sporting the new logo. While each blogger framed up their posts for their audience, most were not Pepsi fan boys.

Was it an effective application of reach? Or would Pepsi have benefited by targeting bloggers who are actually fans of the product or related products, like Justin or the Pepsi Blue Blog? And even if Pepsi did target communication bloggers, wouldn't it have been more worthwhile to send out what Fast Company has called the most ridiculous thing ever perpetrated by somebody calling himself a designer? After all, the brief has generated more buzz than the bloggers ever did, even if most of it was bad.

Some Public Relations Firms Are The Worst Offenders

Kathy Keenan, principal at Keenan Strategic Communications, called it right when she said column inches is more "ridiculous" than most public relations measures. The practice, counting column inches and then attempting to equate the value of those inches to the ad rate equivalent, is just plain fraud. I also agree that clip counting or basing the measure on circulation is equally flawed.

Don't get me wrong. Hits are great, but only if they reach the intended public. And even then, only if they move that public in a specific direction or, perhaps, raise the brand equity of the company. Personally, I suspect if more public relations firms measured properly, journalists would celebrate because it would mean a whole lot less spam.

One example I use in my Writing For Public Relations class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is how a predominately local attraction that relies on visitation from a proximity-based public would not benefit from every impression earned from mention in an out-of-market publication. Sure, it might be cool to see a West Coast local attraction written up in the Wall Street Journal, but only if business people might might buy plane tickets.

Otherwise, it's all perception that has nothing to do with much of anything. However, that perception of faux reach is so strong, even some publications are starting to cross ethical lines to have it online.

Does a local hamburger stand benefit from exposure in Singapore? Probably not, but they are paying for it.

Gaming Traffic Online Runs The Risk Of Ruining Companies

On Twitter this weekend, Joe Hunkins asked if Twitter participants would follow a company for $.01 a day. He said that half would, and half would not. But what does that do? Simple, but silly.

All it really does is bring a sketch from the once popular television show Ally McBeal to real life. In an episode called Out in the Cold, the character named Billy decides to hire six girls as his new entourage, hoping to impress a powerful potential client. However, online perception is not television programming, and paid followers will never help you determine if you have an effective message for real prospects.

Astroturf aside, the bottom line is that while exposing as many people as possible to a specific message may yield results, the over valuation of reach can distract companies from their primary objectives or even drive existing customers and prospects away. I've watched dozens of blogs over the last five years turn off their core audience by chasing numbers instead of customers.

When To Consider Reach Part Of The Equation

In sum, to determine the effectiveness of communication, the measure of reach is more useful when it is limited to intended publics as opposed to the general public. In other words, if you have a product or service intended to be purchased by your demographic, then the only number that counts are those in that demographic and the frequency that the demographic is exposed to that message.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Monday, February 23

Measuring Communication, Realization Part 2

Last November, Motrin came under fire for a snarky advertisement that played on the idea that moms who use baby carriers and slings are making a fashion statement that "totally makes me look like an official mom." After Motrin pulled the advertisement to avoid more outcry, there was plenty of debate whether or not the ad should have been pulled.

Unfortunately, many debaters asked the wrong question. Most asked a broader audience whether or not the advertisement was offensive or if the outcry was an overreaction. No surprise, most men, single women, moms who don't use baby carriers/slings, etc. all said that moms who do carry their babies in slings overreacted, which mirrored a USA Today poll that revealed only about 31 percent of the public said that the ad went too far.

"See?" said some. "Most people were not offended."

Except, except, except, communication is not an election where companies can afford a 51 percent approval rating for the win. It didn't matter what most men, single women, moms who don't use baby carriers/slings thought of the advertisement. It only mattered what moms who do carry their babies in slings thought because they were the intended audience. Specifically, the offending advertisement had nothing to do a print campaign as USA Today reported. It had to do with one video popping up on a site that consisted of moms who do carry their babies in slings. They were the audience!

How do you realize intent in communication?

Once you have the right message, your best bet is to make it suitable for the organization, medium, and audience. This is the portion of the ROC equation where execution matters most. The right message produced the wrong way could have disastrous results.

Organizational Suitability

In 2007, Gap, Apple, Motorola, and others spent nearly $100 million on the Red campaign that raised only $18 million, drawing concern among nonprofit watchdogs, cause-marketing experts, and even executives in the ad business. The controversy was a painful reminder that cause marketing is better suited to campaigns that are a little less slick and whole lot less expensive.

But it doesn't end with nonprofits. Draft FCB locked in its loss of the Wal-Mart account after rubbing the win in the face of its peers. A single photo set the tone for the downfall of a presidential candidate. PETA seemed to struggle with the concept. YouTube even requires you confirm you are over the age of 18 to view the ad.

Medium Suitability

This is the reason that is dead. As a video and entertainment site in which the brewer infused millions of dollars to produce, the concept was right but the message as well as the execution for the medium was all wrong. And now, it's closed. It might have worked, but they forgot to focus on what they know. Um, beer.

Medium suitability is also why marketing-laced press releases don't go anywhere. In 2005, for example, Pole Position Marketing apologized for sending out a release that it later described as "less than substantial" and "lacked additional relevant information." At least they had the good sense to apologize. The release was better suited for a company blog. Um, on second thought, that one didn't even warrant a post.

There is an entire Web site dedicated to bad billboards. Esquire featured several bad television commercials. Someone posted a great example of a bad radio commercial on YouTube. Almost all of them have one thing in common. They are not suited for the medium.

Audience Suitability

When Miller beer attempted to target microbrew beer drinkers a few years ago, not only did non-customers NOT buy Miller, but the ads also alienated Miller’s core blue collar consumer. The agency won awards for the campaign, and Budweiser quickly captured the alienated Miller drinker. In sum, they gave up the girl all because of one Dick.

It made about as much sense as Chrysler giving up on its roots to spend more than $100 million on Dr. Z. Did they really expect to capture German car buyers while retaining the people who gave you a second shot because of this guy?

If you want to know who gets it right, consider McDonald's. They seem to understand this in Japan, Korea, Israel, and everywhere else. Same message, different audience.

Suitability Helps Connect

Social media isn't much different. When one of my students mentioned that my posts break some from the conventions I'm teaching them about news releases, I chuckled. Different mediums call for different presentations. I wouldn't put this post on a billboard either. Or in other words, in the right venue, the Motrin advertisement might have worked.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

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