Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Google Analytics Individual Qualification -

Google is a strange organisation. It provides all these free tools but has one product (Adwords) which seems to make all their money. Many of us have been playing with their gadgets and properties over the years. Things like like Trends, Maps and YouTube. I have experimented with early versions of Adwords, Motion Charts, and of course, Analytics.

It is this final Google property which received a revamp almost 2 years ago, this latest version referred to as Universal Analytics. My early plays with Analytics were laced with confusion (on my part) as it did not seem relevant to competitor intelligence, which is core to my interest.

For a number of years Google has been running a Analytics Individual Qualification. Within the past year it has received a revamp, now making it free. It now has to be done in a single 90 minute sitting; no pausing or browser closing to 'stop' time, like before. You are presented with 70 question in turn, with no opportunity to go back at the end. In the screens bottom corners there are an indications of how far (as a percentage) you are through the exam and how long you have left of the 90 minutes.

Why take it? There are other analytics tools you can use to analyse your site and without exception they are easier to use. Google Analytics is difficult but it is the benchmark for tooling needed to gain insight from your site, be it with or without an e-commerce element. 

In preparation I spent time going over the Google course video/dec tutorials and self tests making notes as I went (not that I could read them). This I would say is a must and the most accurate indication of the type of questioning you will face. There also a number of third part testing sites which on the whole were harder than the Google ones. My feeling was as many of these were prepared by named (with links) individuals who were showing off their prowess with Analytics to be difficult not to be disillusioned reader.

How long you take to prepare on how familiar you are with Google Analytics (GA). I would suggest at a minimum you review their tutorials, which would take a good 6-8 hours. I am a slow learner and not terribly familiar with the tool and so spent a week preparing. 

I delayed taking the Exam until I started getting more than 50% of the harder questions right.  The Exam structure is all multiple choice, tick 1 box questions. A large number of the questions have a 'catch all'....all the statements are right or wrong. My feeling was this option seemed to apply an awful lot of the time. That said, I can not be entirely sure as you have no way of knowing if you answered specific questions correctly, it only tells you at the end how many you got right and if you exceeded the 80% pass rate. If I had passed in the upper 90%'s I would know with certainty, but I did not. If you pass your Google Analytics Individual Qualification certificate should appear on your Partners profile within two days

As the Google Analytics course covers a broad selection of topics, I would restate that even if you use GA on a daily basis, I would suggest going over their tutorials. Once you are ready to face the Exam I would suggest diverting the phones, opening a single browser with the exam and another with you resources, a blank browser, cribs notes and help screens like this one which I found really useful..

In case your were wondering, you can not grab the text from an exam questions and insert it into a help page or search engine. I understand if you do pass you can not retake it for a week.

While this would seem relevant to advertising and marketing people, I would strongly recommend PR people consider this qualification. Google is not going away anytime soon and analytics is increasingly becoming a core discipline within PR, and the quest for the linkage between effort and outcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

PR vs Marketing - Let Battle Commence

I bumped into a tweet last week which mentioned the difference (or lack of) between PR and marketing. If you study the books and consult with the relevant trade bodies you will be very clear on the differences. But what of reality in this fast changing media environment?

Marketing is about selling stuff (er...simplified) encompassing sales and associated activities. PR on the other hand is more about communication with not only customer, but influencer and other stakeholders . It's about engaging with and convincing those various publics.

My angle on this is measurement. As the media environment has moved online so the arguments become louder over what are the best metrics. There now appears to be a lot more ways to show change. We used to talk about media output as the measure of PR success. Now we are told real insight comes from understanding outcomes. One of the outcomes which is most often touted is impact on sales. This is where I think the problems arise. Where marketing and PR are increasingly stepping on each others toes.

Both disciplines are starting to use very similar metrics. Sure, the online environment rather points you towards using a fairly prescriptive selection however PR is just a little bit more than just sales.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Updating a web presence

Being a partner at Media Evaluation Research I get to put together the website. Over the past couple of years this has evolved from a fairly basic Dreamweaver '1.1', adapted by my wife, who did an OU course in HTML. A subsequent version was prepped by a graphic design friend, who was getting into web design.

But it was fairly basic and non browser/device specific. While doing my CIPR Continuous Personal Development at the end of last year I stumbled on some research by Google which found people were spending on average 39 minutes browsing with a PC or laptop and 47 minutes on a phone or tablet. I know we have been told that personal devices are how the browsers of tomorrow will get their information, but this was the first tangible bit of data which said more are looking now using a phone or tablet.

This motivated me to finding a way of revising the site to be phone/tablet friendly. I experimented with WIX but settled on Weebly as I liked the way you can adapt their templates and the relative ease of generating a mobile version. I also liked the way you can keep domains with an existing holder, just swapping out of the hosting package for what turned out to be very similar money.

The Weebly GUI seems pretty bullet-proof, although there have been a few crashes, logging out and in resolves that. This uses their basic package and the tool seems adaptable enough to take further additions like a slide show or video; things I would like to look at adding in the future. I would be interested in your thoughts on the new site.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Media Evaluation Techniques (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this discussion on media evaluation techniques there was a look at the processes involved in collecting the cuttings, creating a media list and using packages like MS Excel and MS Access to collate and sample the media coverage. 

Although this 2-parter is an exploration of media evaluation techniques, deciding on a strategy is no less important. To be clear on this it is necessary to set clear campaign or period PR objectives. These objectives need to be measurable; thereby enabling the evaluator to hang the relevant techniques off of these, and thereby addressing these goals.

One of the points to emphasise is the non-prescriptive nature of this advice. As is often said in media evaluation circles, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. To paraphrase Philip Sheldrake 'Every organisation is unique, generating unique exposure, demanding a unique set of evaluation metrics'.

Once the media list has been collated and the chosen fields queried the most interesting stage to an evaluation project can start. My chosen query tool is an Excel Pivot Table, in my experience one of the most flexible and little used tools in the entire MS Office suite.

After extracting a listing featuring all the needed fields from MS Access, (see Part 1) paste into a blank Excel sheet. Add an extra column at the far left titled 'Count' and fill it with '1's down to the last entry. This will be used to calculate volume figures. 

Then from the Insert tab on the top line select Pivot Table which will then create a new tab. 

The list of fields on the right should match the column on the your listing. The first thing to do is select a metric with which to generate results, which if you want to use volume is what the 'Count' column is for. Drag it to that box unless you want to use another metric like cumulative audience. Be aware that if selecting another metric make sure it says 'Sum of....'. If it says 'Count of...' click the drop down to the right of it and select Value Field Settings and select Sum.

Pivot tables are a very flexible tool and its worth spending time dragging the fields around between the boxes and seeing what the impact is on the grid on the left. It is quite hard to break a pivot table. When you start dragging values around and doing cross-references, it is tempting to add a column or alter the source listing in some way. That is fine but delete the pivot table tab and insert a new one as it won't recognise the changes made to the listing. 

The sort of useful results which can be generated using this tool is multiple cross-referencing of fields. For example, finding out how many proactive clips there are for different subject or product areas or tracked competitors. As long as it is on the listing you should be able to query it.

The next stage is to parse these results into some form of report or presentation. Though this might make good content for a later post it is likely you have a very particular application in mind. 

I hope you have found this of interest and I would welcome any comments or thoughts you might wish to share.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Media Evaluation Techniques (Part 1)

Although everyone has a different way of doing an evaluation of a project or periods media exposure, there are certain common processes worth highlighting. From a strategic perspective the starting point has to be the objectives. on the other hand, if you are more interested in evaluation techniques, getting the media clips seem like the logical beginning point. 

While there is much to be said about PR and campaign objectives at the strategic level, this mini-guide concentrates on the execution techniques. More often than not these media clips are electronically circulated press and internet cuttings from the various specialist monitoring outfits like Gorkana or Kantar. Personally I can't speak for the latter in any detail but for the former there is also the option to create an Excel media list, which we'll talk about in a bit.

Having worked with these sources for a number of years it is my experience of the UK media that most of the coverage found tends to be either printed or online coverage. It may be a symptom of my clients interests or the keywords checked but there is seldom coverage from broadcast sources.

These Excel media lists can be filtered to only the coverage for a set period; helpful if doing monthly evaluation reports. Often these listings will also have an indication of circulation or audiences (and the dreaded AVE figures!). Unless my own  master media listing file is missing a title I tend to ignore these figures. Once this Excel listing has been formated I Paste Append into the clients MS Access file.

This is when to find out how well the listing has been formatted. All the Excel columns have to match up with the Access file. Also this will draw on a separate master media data file, and so the media titles have to match. This is often a problem as my master media titles do not start with 'The', instead leaving it at the end. For example 'Daily Telegraph, The' is our chosen format but the cuttings agencies don't always do it that way.   Once the data has been added I run a query to highlight those media titles it can't find.

After 'cleaning' the entries the next stage is to work through the cuttings, sampling them for the relevant tracked fields. It is always a good idea to sample for as many fields as you might think could be relevant. This often goes beyond the brief, but you never know what might be of interest or where coverage might take you. 

Core requirements tend to be things like favourability towards the brand and presence of key messages. Then there are additional things like the tracking of subject or product/service areas, corporate/brand descriptors, pro-activity, scale of cutting. Below is an example of a form with fields (excluding messages).

That is the first part of a two-parter. In the next section we will take a look at some techniques on how to interrogate the data, filtering, sorting and sampling. Then there is report writing, mixing graphs and tables with narrative and choosing formats, all to address the original objectives.

If you have thoughts on this or additions it would be great to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

'Just try to become less crap at it'

This was a declaration by Rory Sutherland, leader of Ogilvy Change on their website when talking about marketing. Somewhat self-deprecating, but a useful starting point from a great intellect and very relevant to media measurement.

He makes the point that he is opposed to the concept of surveys and focus groups. The areas of the brain that fire buyer behaviour do not respond well to this type of introspection, often residing at a sub-concious level. I have often wondered about the value of this style of research, seeing it as a way of gauging peoples views on questioning process rather than the actual questions; the Hawthorne Effect, and all that....

So could the media be the touch-point on people forecasting? Yes, but it needs to be one of a selection, a host of pointers based on unique circumstances, fashioned and adapted to reflect the changing circumstances (competitors, technology, expectations, etc). A gauge on the media has its advantages. Whilst it often seems a contrived situation, it is about free expression and combined with social media selective amplification, provides a good measure of weight and velocity.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thoughts on another media year

There are a number of fast forming trends shaping and reshaping the media. In a few short generation the influence of the printed has diminished dramatically with much of the audience seeking their content online, sometimes behind paywalls. Any well-informed clues on  where these trends are going is gold dust and the CIPR in this video-cast featured David Pemsel, Chief Commercial Officer, The Guardian; a paper advocating free access, for the time being anyway.

He highlighted that newspapers can be more flexible online, using a more diverse a selection of media  sources and formats. The Guardian take the view that they need to have a scale of usage to gather the influence necessary to be a news 'player', and that level of engagement presently only come from the site being without a paywall.

The discussion make a point about news ownership. The Guardian believes that their news content is most trustworthy as a result of their being owned by a Trust...an aspect they believe contrasts with other providers which may be subject to commercial or political pressures.There's also a perspective on newspaper opinion and if they are being dragged into a competition with bloggers for influence. The idea of the media 'melting pot' seemed central with good ideas and perspectives rising to the top.