Sunday 12 February 2006

KCG oppose, and offer, share of voice analysis

Our friends at KCG have us modestly confused. An article in their newsletter is titled Under the Influence: Five Reasons to Worry About "Share of Voice" Metrics.

Stephen explains that "we see most of our '“competition'” nowadays coming from PR firms. In attempting to transpose their typical volumetric 'Share of Voice'” measurement systems from the media business to the analyst influence business they regularly do our function a grave disservice."

In essence, he feels the key weaknesses of the share of voice approach are:

  1. It is mistaken to measure share of voice inside firms; instead, track your top ten analysts.
  2. They mistakenly measure the media: instead search research, which is essential.
  3. Searching in the same way will produce different results at different firms; each firm needs to be searched differently to produce results that are consistent.
  4. Searching on company name doesn't work; use key words.
  5. Share of voice analysis does not only analyze quotes.
The criticism seems over-blown, because KCG actually sells share of voice analysis itself, what it calls 'Coverage Metrics', and so do most of its competitor PR agencies and the AR consultancies. These studies also measure volume, even if they eliminate the media and most analysts from consideration. The fact that KCG itself supplies share of voice studies is not the only clue that those metrics can be useful.
  1. Sometimes it is appropriate to target firms and not only the key analysts. Much of the research about our firm is co-authored by a team of analysts. Following only one would be mistaken. It als would not fit the global spread of our business. We've learnt that analysts at the same firm but in other countries do not display the same preferences, and we need to get a top-level picture of the whole coverage by each firm, not just one who knows us best and is normally the most favorable. Even KCG stresses that its metrics "Measure coverage by target firm or target analyst list."
  2. To not track analysts in the media would be mad. Analysts have a huge impact on the media and their influence is reflected differently in the media from in their research. To ignore the media is lazy and woud get us killed internally. When PR and sales come back with negative media clippings, how can we say they should not be tracked?
  3. Searching is not that hard. I can recommend cut and paste: when I have the search right at a firm, I paste the search term into the back of the Excel sheet that our intern uses when she does the searches. It's very easy to be consistent if you think about it.
  4. Searching on company name can work if you and your key competitors are in the same industries. Yes, if you're in many businesses you need one or more key words to reduce the number of results. But that's not hard. Use the cut and paste tip I mentioned above.
  5. Quotes and share of voice are different things, but doesn't mean that only one of them can be useful. If my company is mentioned more in analyst research, or by analysts in the media, that's normally a better thing than being mentioned otherwise. Of course, it's also important to track quotes (although that means looking at the media, and breaking one of the KCG's commandments) but we do that by hand in a separate analysis.
In short, share of voice metrics are very useful and, honestly, if they were not then KCG and its competitors would not sell them. I am sure that KCG has a point that some PR agencies get it wrong at times: but if KCG is telling its clients to not track the media, then they will also be getting it wrong in the eyes of some clients, whose customers follow the media.

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