While not the most glamorous or the most understood PR function, Research and Analytics is core to the Access DNA – and central to what we do for clients.
Research and Analytics VP Katherine Gotts has been in the field for more than 20 years, with Access for more than 10, and has a background in library and information science. Once criticized by previous employers for her “lengthy” emails, she is now praised for her expertise, the level of thoughtfulness she brings to every project, and her sweet demeanor. She recently explained what her team has to offer and what sets Access apart from other agencies. In this interview, Katherine also shares three measurement and research techniques that she believes all agencies should – or should not – be doing.
Q: When does the Intelligence team get involved with a client or potential client?
A: At the very beginning. Before we even meet with potential clients the first time, we want to understand their coverage profile and the industry space so that we can make informed decisions about what changes and ideas to recommend. We capture and measure coverage of the brand, its competitors and the industry to determine where they are right now and ground our PR team in where the brand may be struggling in achieving some of their goals. It makes it much easier for
Access to create great results for clients from Day 1 if we understand the brand’s challenges and potential and can make recommendations that will create tangible results. There may be a few spots where we need to dig a little bit deeper, the client may have other concerns or plans that haven’t been shared with us yet, but the first thing is always setting the context because it’s going to impact everything that we do.
Q: This is more than just Googling a lot of things. What type of experience and background do the people on your team have?
A: Access Intelligence is a team of information professionals devoted exclusively to measurement and analysis. As a specialist group, we operate outside of the traditional account structure, allowing for a differentiated approach to the measurement process that ensures a business receives unbiased learnings and insights. That fresh, objective perspective allows us to assess coverage in a manner closer to that of a brand’s target consumers and also frees the account team to exclusively focus on driving media results and providing informed counsel. That is different from a lot of agencies, many of which don’t have a separate specialty practice for research and analytics, but rather assign it to someone whose core expertise is in conducting media outreach. That set up is less ideal. At Access, my team has experience and education in statistics, data maintenance, data collection and analysis.
Q: Brands faced unprecedented change in 2020. Was last year an especially challenging time for researchers, too?
A: It was probably the most challenging I’ve experienced in terms of just trying to sort through everything. There was so much news and so much to digest, much of it contradictory, and it was a challenge to get to the bottom of how the pandemic was affecting brands and public relations. We really had to focus on the sources that are the most reliable to streamline information flow. Then at a certain point, everybody seemed to get their act together and there was just an explosion of webinars and trainings that came out to help people navigate the ups and downs of what was happening in the industry. It added to the confusion for people who wanted to learn what they should do and how they could move forward with their brand marketing and comms campaigns.
A lot of these trainings didn’t really take it all the way to the next steps, because they were designed to reach out to people from all different brands spaces; they weren’t targeted enough to set somebody up to walk out the door or sign off of Zoom and immediately jump on what they needed to do with a very clear sense of how that would play out. Our team was able to help connect the dots for companies with a more tailored lens.
Q: How does Access personalize its approach to research for each of its clients? What makes Access different from other agencies in its methods?
A: Access Intelligence blends tools and technologies with human insight for a “best of both worlds” approach, which allows us to offer tailored, customized research services built from a core set of expertise areas versus out-of-the-box packaged offerings. This fluidity ensures a targeted, thoughtful approach to each project for maximum strategic impact. The why behind the what is at the heart of everything we do. We translate information into learnings and next steps. Our signature emphasis on applying human insight to every aspect of
reporting and measurement sets us apart from the automated offerings of competing agencies and tool platforms. This approach ensures accuracy and allows for nuanced insights and takeaways. And by keeping measurement responsibilities in house, we can tailor outputs to what matters most to your business.
Q: What do you believe are important approaches to research a brand should look for in an agency?
A: First, you want to have an end to end touch, meaning research should have a presence in all activity for your comms program, from planning through post-mortem. This will set you up for success from the beginning and help you course correct as you move forward with the campaign. Then when the campaign is over, evaluate the performance so you can learn from what you did, gather final insights, and bring them back to the beginning of the process. Secondly, don’t do measurement just for the sake of doing measurement. Target it to your goals and strategies so you can effectively gauge your impact. Remember, there are no one-size-fits-all measures or techniques. Lastly, contextualize data. Explain the why behind the what. Data without context is just numbers. By contextualizing, we identify next steps and concrete learnings.
Thank you, Access Intelligence team, for all you do! We wouldn’t be nearly as prepared and knowledgeable without you.