Interview with Maddie Forrester of Perception Metrics – The United States and The European Union Perception Metrics Brand Report 2009

Perception Metrics analyzes media to determine what is being said about a brand. They can evaluate both traditional and social media to provide competitive intelligence and help you understand the buzz about your brand.

Results can give insight into a location brand’s strengths and opportunities, allowing for better decisions in brand positioning in public relations. The impact of those decisions can also be measured over time so you know if your PR investment is making a difference.

Perception Metrics has worked with prestigious companies like SBC Advertising and East West Communications. Gary Moneysmith (a friend) introduced me to Brad Snyder of Perception Metrics. He thought Brad’s company might be able to provide a unique perspective on Brand America. We met and the Perception Metrics team volunteered to compare Brand America with Brand EU to get insight into the impact of the recent global economic crisis on brand perception. The analysis turned out to be even more interesting than any of the three of us imagined, and I hope you enjoy reading the summary.

I would like to thank Perception Metrics for conducting the analysis and then donating the results to the Strengthening Brand America project. Their generosity is greatly appreciated. I am hoping the analysis sparks your interest in better understanding the buzz about your location.

To provide a little more context to the research, I interviewed Maddie Forrester from the Perception Metrics team.

  1. Question: Comparing the differences and similarities in treatment of Brand America versus Brand E.U. by the electronic business media is a novel analysis for Perception Metrics. What was your initial reaction when asked to conduct the research?

    We were fascinated by it, both from a results standpoint (who wouldn’t like to see how those two giants compare to each other?) and from a methodological standpoint. Methodologically, it was interesting to look at such a specific segment of the media. Once we figured out how to pinpoint economic news, the results definitely spoke to the research question that had been posed.

    We were trying to see if economic news covered the US and the EU differently, and we were able to clearly establish that there is a strong relationship between the two, both in overall tone and some common messaging. But some of the actual content differed. For example, the negative news in the US was more focused on legal/litigation messaging.

  2. Question: Perception score is a key measure in the analysis, as is density. How should a statistics challenged reader think about these measures from a practical perspective? How do the scores from this study compare with scores of other studies you’ve completed and can any general observations be made from the comparison?

    We designed the perception score as a general measure of how good or bad media coverage is related to a subject. It’s like taking a huge thermometer and dipping it into this huge pot of "news" and then taking a reading on what it says about something specific. It allows us to compare over time and across entities (like the US to the EU). In some ways, it’s even a little better than actually reading everything said—it’s perfectly objective, so the reader’s own bias isn’t part of the equation. It will also draw the same conclusion from a document every time, something a human reader can’t do.

    The important thing about a perception score is that it can be used to compare on thing to another, or to compare something to itself over time. This competitive information can be used to create strategies, measure a branding program’s success (or lack of success), or to create a benchmark.

    Density is a little different—it’s a measure of how much the media is focused on one thing or another. If something is just mentioned in passing, it will have a very low density; if something is the focus of an article (or many articles) it will have a very high density.

    We’ve done several political projects, and, we’ve found that the media is more negative in this type of study than in studies of corporations or even people. We consistently see this in our work with East West Communications and the quarterly publication of a Nation Branding Index. The perception scores of the nations we track hover in the "neutral" range of scores, while corporations and individuals typically fall somewhere in the "positive" end of the spectrum. The US-EU data held with this. We were surprised that the coverage of the two was very similar. We expected more differentiation, which we generally see. This could lead one to consider that there might be a very strong relationship between the US and EU financial news.

  3. Question: There appear to be real cultural differences in how the European media reported on the financial crisis versus the U.S. media. In general, the U.S. media coverage is reported as having a more positive tone and litigation was a topic uniquely associated with U.S. articles. Can you comment on these differences based on your research experience?

    The US media has come out as more positive than its international cousins in several reports. I’m not sure we can actually conclude that our media is more positive in general, but it is a telling distinction.

    The same goes for the greater amount of legal language in the negative economic media for the US. We can’t necessarily conclude that there is more litigation at home than in the EU, however, it does seem to be generating more negative coverage here. Likewise, we cannot conclude that inflation is a more immediate threat in the EU. But there is more coverage of inflation there and the word "inflation" is used more often, indicating higher concern.

  4. Question: While this analysis was not designed to evaluate the relationship between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and tone of media coverage, it is fascinating that the tone of the coverage appears to have led both the decline and rise of the closing value of the DJIA. This has some very interesting implications if a cause and effect relationship can be statistically confirmed. Did this observation surprise you? From a practical point of view, what might this mean? Do you think a more robust study should be pursued to rigorously assess the relationship?

    I think this question merits more investigation and analysis. We expected to see some relationship, though this one appeared to be quite strong. Obviously, we think that the media is important to achieving both business results and political objectives. And frankly, the media is how most of us get our information, which we then use to make decisions. But what kind of influence does media coverage have on the performance of an overall economy? What impact does the economy’s performance then have on the media? Is there a feedback effect? Establishing this relationship could have a really profound impact on how we do business and communicate with our constituencies.

  5. Question: Your firm has done a number of media analyses for locations. Typically, what type of information are your location clients seeking and what kind of decisions are they making from the data?

    Locations are generally trying to form branding strategies. To inform that process, they are interested in two things: identity and differentiation. First, they want an objective way to measure how they are being described in a variety of markets. What is being said? How does it compare to how they see themselves? And second, they want to know what’s unique about them, when compared to surrounding locations, or those they aspire to "be like". They can use these two pieces of information to help develop a brand that will attract more investment. Then they can revisit it later; do a follow-up study to see how their efforts have been successful or where they might get additional branding mileage from their efforts.

  6. Question: If an economic development organization wanted to engage your company to run a study evaluating their image in the media, what would their next steps be?

    Give us a call. The first thing we do with any client is sit down with them and talk about what their goals are; what questions they are trying to answer. Then we form a strategy, together, about how to meet those goals and answer those questions.

    Lots of organizations are overwhelmed by the volume of media coverage and think they can’t make sense of it—that isn’t true, we have very cost effective solutions that allow you to use this information to formulate strategies and evaluate programs.

    You can get a very broad range of information by analyzing media coverage—general industry trends, specific entity tracking and how all of those compare with one another. That can be useful not only to branding or re-branding efforts, but also competitive intelligence, industry sector analysis, and media perception of different segments of the economy. Want to learn a little bit more about what we do and who we do it for? Check out our website at

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