12 Apr 2011
Michael Ziviani is the CEO of Precise-Value, a business he started in 1999 after leaving his role as the research manager for Microsoft Australia. Michael has brought a whole new dynamic and rigour to the art of measuring communications. He and his team have lifted measurement to a new level by providing remarkably detailed and valuable insights into the worth and return of marketing and communication campaigns.
The information he provides not only enables practitioners to measure their campaigns but also to recalibrate and focus their efforts to maximise their future returns on these campaigns.
Michael is constantly stretching the boundaries of where and how one can use coverage and campaign analysis to strategically help organisations drive even better value. He has recently been using advanced analysis of communications and CSR to prove the business benefit to organisations.
I interviewed him about his work in this field. This is what he had to say:
1. Michael after years analysing data previously with Microsoft and now with your own business Precise Value, you have some interesting observations that measurement alone is limiting, can you expand on that?
Businesses today measures lots of things – almost as if some kind of compulsion for KPI’s makes managers seem more in control. But what do those numbers really mean?
It pays to put measurement aside to seek deeper learning from evaluation and analysis. Real analysis is a quest for creating new business value or at least mapping out how to access that value for marketing and communications professionals. To get there we need a longer-term business growth solution, not tick-a-box measurement. That means providing insights with enough detail and colour to make the journey easy.
For example, I used to get asked by Product Managers ‘What’s our market share in segment X for product Y?’ So I’d say 42% – now what do you do? They’d realise then the need to know much more. So it’s a mix of qualitative (descriptive) and quantitative (KPIs) that’s actually required.
[Like: Tell me more about the audience – what needs do they have, what they think about us, even what words they use around our products. Do our comms messages resonate with that? Do the right messages have enough weight in the right media?]
2. What business value should organisations look for from, for example, their media coverage?
Well, we know from focus groups the impact of media on consumer choice is significant. Think about your own buying decisions and how likely you are to base a decision on, say, advertising alone. Most communications professionals intuitively know this and have done for years – but they haven’t been able to prove it in concrete terms. They also need to know where to focus for best effect.
This means creating a link between media outputs and business outcomes. The link can be made in four steps:
A systematic approach makes it possible to capture each step in concrete numbers. Most Communications activity, including PR, drives brand health up or down over time. Our experience also suggests PR drives the hardest to shift areas of brand consideration, preference and loyalty. Understanding your brand health position is fundamental to understanding where sales come from. And crucially, knowing where to focus for best results. The business value is in understanding how to achieve better results and do so more efficiently. Whilst I think most managers get this idea they seldom have the systematic analysis setup to support it in practice.
[For example, if a big communications push did not drive any mid-term sales result could you answer why? The above analysis gives you that answer.]
3. There is an increasing sense that marketing is content and content is marketing. How important is it to track the impact of content put out to market by companies?
Everyone wants us to do more with less these days but how do we do that and still have a life? I think we need to work smarter not harder by bringing some science to the art of communications.
By creating structured feedback we can show which content had what impact, where. This is particularly important when the communications objective changes over time – as does the competitive landscape. The tracking analysis is like a map that shows you the shortest path to meeting those objectives. It makes you more effective at what you do by:
· Reducing the effort required to achieve the same result
· Giving you the ammunition to argue for more budget
· Helping you outperform competitors
· Complementing your skills & proving your value
· Identifying who and what had the most (and least) impact
This approach forms the basis of what you could call high performance marketing communications.
4. In your view do you think business today understands the value they can extract from an in depth analysis of their coverage?
I think business is heavily distracted by change. As human beings we like routine, we like predictability and clarity. The problem is there are many forces now acting to create change and doing so at a faster pace than ever before. Those forces act in ambiguous and often complex ways so running on gut feel is not really feasible anymore.
In some ways communications professionals themselves need to see what is possible using advanced analysis. Most I speak with are amazed at the possibilities and the sources of new value. Much of that value comes from the depth of results which describe in detail how to grasp opportunities and mitigate threats.
This is really about mastering change in a systematic way. That means setting up a structure for analysis that matches your business and communications aims in a customised way. Repeating that analysis regularly creates a Plan-Do-Refine feedback loop. The feedback helps us master a dynamic media environment and the depth shows how to grasp opportunities and mitigate threats. Such strategic guidance can create massive value for an organisation. And that value can be proven with concrete numbers.
5. You believe media coverage can impact a company’s share price and you have been doing some work on this – please explain.
Once we had worked with the activity-outcome model above we knew it could be applied to significant business outcomes like share price. It just made sense that communications activity would affect share price. So we set about R&D to prove that link. After many months of careful statistics we found the proof.
For the R&D case study, results suggested that PR represented one-quarter (¼) of the controllable factors driving share price movement. That almost implies one-quarter of your efforts to boost share price are directed to communications in the media. It’s a fantastic business case. Of course you also need the material to communicate!
6. After years of analysing media coverage and its impact on numerous spokespeople and brands, how important is building a profile to being seen as a thought leader in the industry?
Thought Leadership creates a point of difference based typically on innovation and interest. It is almost never negative but instead adds a richness to the subtle ‘brand attributes’ within coverage we see. Our assessment tracks a range of attributes in client and competitor coverage so we can quantify that richness. We expect Thought Leadership to be more resilient during crises when attributes like Trustworthy or Quality may suffer erosion.
There are great examples we have seen on couching Thought Leadership and Industry research is case in point. One strategy here is to seek out a slightly offbeat take on the industry by focusing the research on something unusual. That approach can capture interest to get greater cut-through. I like that quirky curiosity the media seem to have.
7. From your experience and the thousands of media articles you have analysed over the years, what qualities do thought leaders in their respective industries display?
The client or spokesperson is generally providing industry leadership. Often they are able to explain or predict linkages between various complex concepts or between a particular piece of research and current events. Overseas trends may also factor in here. Depending on the medium, a thought leader will be able to explain the more complex concepts or research findings in everyday terms and without jargon.
The delivery is generally subtle. It would be unusual for us to see a spokesperson spruiking the services of the client overtly. This is generally an outcome of the thought leadership with the client seen as the ‘go to’ firm in that field.
Though leaders and thought leadership operates differently across industries. The Financial industry often provides advice or research with good success. That research sometimes generates significant proportions of the Impact we see.
Other industries might gain respect by showing leadership through products, or product innovation for example. The Electronics industry tends to prize technical innovation – thought leadership to them means a better product. Service based firms may demonstrate their knowledge and research round clients needs particularly into the future. .
Across various fields, the articles where there is thought leadership are more favourable than those where it is lacking. On our 5-point scale (from -2 to +2) the uplift has ranged from +0.3 to +0.8 – very noticeable shifts.
While thought leadership can appear even without a spokesperson, usually the two work together. We have certainly found that any spokesperson mention is beneficial to articles – the average uplift here is about +0.6, a substantial boost.
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