NetGain Update for September
- NETGAIN UPDATE
Published by NetGain: We build the blueprint
1. NetGain Presents Online "Webinars"
2. This Month's Topic: Online Research
3. Guest Column: Bonnie Sherman, Ph.D
4. Build Your Online Presence Through Audience
5. Online Research Doesn't Mean Re-Searching
6. We'd Like Your Views On Online Multimedia
7. We Asked And You Told Us
8. Reader Feedback: Knowledge Management
9. About NetGain
11.About This Newsletter
1. NETGAIN PRESENTS ONLINE "WEBINARS"
Twelve hour-long workshops presented by the three NetGain
principals (and authors of this Update) will be available
during the fourth quarter of 2001 -- and you won't even have
to leave your desk to participate.
These Web-enabled seminars will combine toll-free telephone
calls with Iternet conferencing services provided by
ACCUTEL.COM. Webinar participants will hear the presentation
via a telephone conferencing bridge while watching related
presentation materials on the World Wide Web through the use
of MSHOW technology. Participants will be able to engage the
speaker and other participants in discussion and Q&A while
Pete Shinbach, APR, will present four workshops on online
public and investor relations. Tudor Williams, ABC, will
offer four workshops on Knowledge Management issues. And
Shel Holtz, ABC, will focus his four workshops on intranet
matters. Each workshop will be offered twice.
For details on workshop topics, schedule, and registration
information, visit the NetGain Web site beginning Monday at
and other details also will be available at
2. THIS MONTH'S TOPIC:
By Tudor Williams, ABC
Online research tools and techniques are dramatically
changing the ways we can gather data about our marketplaces,
our workplaces and our critics (analysts and media). Yet our
monthly poll last month shows that the use of online surveys,
internally or externally, is still very much in its infancy
as a corporate practice. More than a third (37%) of our
respondents have never used online research to survey
employee opinions and more than half have never used online
research to assess customer satisfaction. However, those of
our subscribers who do use online research are very positive
about the experience and indicate that response rates are
higher using online tools.
As our guest columnist, Ipsos Reids Bonnie Sherman points
out the Web provides a consistent, cost-effective approach to
global data collection. Bonnie describes how online research
can deal with the two key concerns representatives of the
sample and data security and introduces us to some of the new
opportunities that online research has created.
Shel Holtz takes us back to the fundamentals of good Web site
planning and reminds us that too often we get the sequence of
planning and research in the wrong order. Shel points out
that it is our target audience that is the actual owner of
our site and we need to deliver what the target audience
comes looking for. He then outlines for us a number of ways
to use online research to provide the data upon which our
strategies and tactics should be built.
Pete Shinbach takes a look at the other end of the research
and planning spectrum - performance measures. Pete
emphasizes the advantages of using online tools and
techniques to see the results of our communication efforts as
they occur. He goes on to describe how he uses online
measures to assess the effectiveness or PR programs.
For those of our subscribers who are currently using online
research with stakeholders, most use it to solicit feedback
from customers and clients while about a third use it with
industry analysts and media. Why do they use this form of
research -- it is faster, more convenient and cheaper.
Reasons cited for not using online research included Target
groups not online and Dont understand it.
What does all this suggest? As the use of the Internet
increases in the marketplace and the workplace so new windows
of online opportunities are opening for us to know our
customers and employees better. And that is competitive
Tudor can be reached at tudor@...
3. GUEST COLUMN: BONNIE P. SHERMAN ON THE POWER
OF ONLINE RESEARCH
There is no doubt that the ability to conduct research online
has accelerated product development cycles around the world,
and provided the marketplace with rich, new tools for
understanding behavior and attitudes.
While many associate online research with the Technology
sector, the truth is that the Web is used to collect data
in all sectoral areas, from Technology to Consumer Packaged
Goods, Financial Services, Healthcare, and more. Match the
speed and capabilities of online data collection with a
well-managed panel of online users, and suddenly clients have
the ability to do fast-turnaround projects with
pre-identified portions of the population. For example, at
Ipsos-Reid we manage a North American Internet Panel of over
80,000 households that are fully screened on key demographic
and marketing characteristics. Want to quickly understand how
young, high-income families with children choose their
financial products? Not a problem!
What if you want to understand segments of the global
population, though? The Web offers this opportunity as well.
Many clients opt to do "pop-up" surveys at their own sites
around the world, while others purchase banner ads or use
customer lists. Software packages allow for scripting in
European as well as Asian languages. While global research is
never simple, the Web provides a consistent and
cost-effective approach to global data collection.
Two of the key concerns regarding online research are
representativeness and security. At Ipsos-Reid our Internet
Panel is representative of all Internet users. Samples are
balanced to population statistics on age, gender, region, and
other variables. Currently, the online population is not
completely representative of the general population. However,
as more people obtain web access (currently at 60-70% in
North America) this is becoming less of an issue. Because
there is no way to "randomly sample" the Internet population,
the quality of your sample source is of the utmost
Just as important to clients is the security of their data.
We ensure data security in a number of ways:
* Tight sampling control. When potential respondents are
invited to complete a survey, they are provided with a
unique passcode and PIN to ensure that there are no
duplicate responses, and that only invited participants can
access the survey.
* Our servers operate with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) data
encryption, which ensures clients and respondents that
nobody else can access survey data.
* Often we present respondents with brand-new concept ideas
that clients are anxious to protect. We use a software
product that prevents respondents from saving, downloading,
printing, or sending the concepts that they are exposed to.
In fact, no type of research has moved more quickly from
offline to online than concept testing. Companies worldwide
are saving millions of dollars and months of time by moving
their concept testing from more traditional methods to
Online testing allows respondents to view simple or complex
concepts visually. In addition to presenting simple visual
stimuli, online testing also allows for the presentation of
streaming video. Clients can test television advertisements
in an online environment.
Perhaps most importantly, running concept tests online saves
time and money. Companies are looking for ever-faster
turnaround times to speed up their product development cycle,
and online testing is a valuable tool in this regard. In the
end, meeting clients' needs is what online research is all
Bonnie Sherman, PhD, is president and CEO of Ipsos
Interactive Services, a unit of Ipsos-Reid. You can contact
Bonnie at Bonnie.Sherman@...
4. BUILD YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE THROUGH AUDIENCE RESEARCH
by Shel Holtz, ABC
Far too often, we build a Web site and then conduct research
to find out what our target audience thinks of it. From where
I sit, that's backwards. The research should be done up front
with the goal of identifying what the nature of the Web site
should be from the perspective of those for whom it is being
I've been saying for some time that your organization should
view your intended audience as the actual owner of the site.
After all, it doesn't matter what you put on the site, how
great it looks, how accurate or credible it is, or how much
you've loaded it with bells and whistles. Your audience will
visit your site =only= in search of content they already have
in mind. if that content does not exist on your site, then it
is useless to the members of the audience. In an earlier
issue of Update, Pete Shinbach talked about research into
what journalists want to find on media-focused sites. Contact
information is the number-one nugget of information they
seek, yet that information appears on only a fraction of the
newsrooms online. What companies =do= post on their newsroom
sites may or may not be of any use to journalists seeking
What belongs on your site, then, is what your target audience
is likely to come looking for. And how can you know what that
is if you don't ask?
One of the best ways to mine that information is to establish
an advisory panel for the site's target audience. Define the
characteristics and attributes of the audience. For example,
your media relations site may focus on trade media working
for print monthly publications. Those journalists are
(hypothetically) between 25 and 35 years old, have a
bachelor's degree in journalism, and have been working for
the trade publication for no more than three years. Once you
have developed your trait list, find 10 individuals who match
the profile. This will be a standing body, representing the
"owners" of the site.
You will have the opportunity to use all manner of online
research with your advisory panel (none of whom ever have to
be in the same place at the same time). To begin with, you'll
want to know their expectations for a Web site from your
organization. For this you can use an online survey, followed
up with a real-time focus group. Once you have built the
site, provide this group with password-protected access so
they can provide feedback before you go live to the at-large
audience. Provide the panel with a secure discussion area
where they can engage in a dialogue with one another about
the site (with the full knowledge that you'll be monitoring
-- and participating in -- the discussion). After the site
has launched, have the panel continue to use the secure forum
to comment on emerging needs and to react to changes you
make. As you add new features, be sure to get feedback from
In addition to the research you obtain from the panel, you
can offer surveys and polls to the at-large audience; you can
also conduct one-time focus groups with randomly-selected
members of the audience who match the user profile. Because
the site was developed specifically to meet the needs of the
audience it's designed for, and because changes and additions
will be based on user feedback, you will be certain your site
is a success.
You can get Shel's feedback at shel@...
5. RESEARCH DOESN'T MEAN RE-SEARCHING
by Pete Shinbach, APR
While I've never given it much thought, word anatomy can be
interesting. Take the word "research." Break it up into
syllables and you end up with re-search. Translation: search
all over again. Search once then search again. And,
presumably, again and again.
But there's something I've been noticing during the past year
or so. If we set aside traditional research methods and adapt
some more, less apparent methods, we're able to change that
backward-looking searching to more forward-looking solutions.
Sorry for the jargon. Let me explain.
Using online tools and techniques, we're able to see the
results of our communications programs as they occur. We
don't have to look back to see what happened. We can look at
what's happening and gauge the success or lack of success our
messages are realizing. As one or our Update Reader Poll
respondents wrote, "We are able to launch a campaign (and)
watch it online even though we were scattered all over the
U.S. ... and complete the program within a few weeks. That
would never have happened with a traditional focus group."
Heck, it wouldn't have happened with a traditional anything!
A quantitative survey would only tell you what happened --
past tense. A focus group would tell you what might happen --
conditional future tense. A well-thought out, carefully
deployed online research program will tell you what is
happening -- present tense.
One way this is being accomplished is by monitoring real-time
Web traffic originating from email messages and newsletters.
If my newsletter goes to my customers, my prospects, my
employees, my shareowners, and other groups of my key
influentials, and that newsletter has a summary of a white
paper or news release or other document that's sitting on my
corporate website, I can measure precisely how many people in
each of those groups read that document. What's more, I can
know if they pass my newsletter along to other people and
what those people do in response to the messages contained in
I can do the same thing with websites, newsgroups, chat rooms
and any other form of communications that shows up on my key
influentials' screens. Then, I can take all that data and
compare it with all the forecasts and assumptions I and
others made when planning the communications program and test
the validity of those forecasts and assumptions.
And then I don't have to go searching and re-searching any
more. I'll know. And so will the Update reader who, in
response to one of our Reader Poll questions, wrote, "What
are some simple and easy processes PR people could use to
measure their programs?"
Reach Pete at pete@...
6. WE'D LIKE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT ONLINE MULTIMEDIA
Are you webcasting your quarterly financial analyst
conference calls? When your company or client launches a new
TV advertising campaign, where are you seeing the new ads for
the first time: on TV or on your intranet? And do you still
have to go to some conference or classroom for all your
training or can you just logon to a website for a training
course or a professional development webinar? In other
words, what's going on with multimedia? That's the topic for
next month's Update and we want to know how your companies
and clients' companies are using online multimedia.
Please take a few minutes to share your experience with other
Update readers by filling our our monthly Update Reader Poll.
We'll share the results with you in our October issue.
In the meantime, please share your thoughts about topics
you'd like to see in upcoming issues or anything else you
think NetGain can do to help you and your organization use
online communications more successfully. Just drop us a note
And remember to fill out the monthly Update Reader Poll at
7. WE ASKED AND YOU TOLD US
Last month's Update Reader Poll was about online research. We
wanted to know if you're using it and what you think about
it. What you told us is that online research is pretty good.
It's not great. Just pretty good. Two-thirds of you who
responded said your experience with online research was good
or very good while less than ten percent said it was poor or
On the "plus" side, the overwhelming reasons why you're using
it are that it's cheaper (64%), faster (84%) and more
convenient (88%). One reader wrote, "We get good response
rates. We get them quickly." Another noted, "We were able to
launch a campaign, the management team could easily WATCH
online That would never have happened with a traditional
Despite these reasons to use online research, it was
interesting to see how infrequently it's being used. When
asked how often online research is used to survey employees,
64-percent of you said either "annually" or "never" and more
than half of you said your company never uses online research
to assess customer satisfaction.
In addition, there are many doubts about the validity of
online research results. For some of you, there's the
question of skewing the results to include only those with
online access. For others, there's senior management's lack
of trust in online survey results.
And, finally, the main reasons those of you who do not or
plan to use online research said your research stays offline
is that your target groups weren't online (57%) or that you
don't understand online research (57%). Other reasons most
often cited (43%) were that you either lack the technical
resources for or are simply uncomfortable with online
8. READER FEEDBACK: KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
Last month's topic, Knowledge Management, generated more
email than we have received in a long time. Most of the
messages applauded the columns. Reader Jim Heimberg, however,
had an alternate view. Heimberg is a technical sales
engineer for Conclusive Logic Inc. in Hanover, Maryland. Jim
offered his comments, which follow, under the title
"Knowledge Management and Business Communication -- Is There
Really a Difference?"
After reading the plethora of articles on knowledge
management and being focused on doing that exact function in
a working organization, I feel like the articles were good at
describing KM to someone who did not know what it was, but
found them lacking in providing information to Business
Communicators who should be involved in KM. In fact, I am not
sure that there is a difference. Let me continue.
If asked to define one purpose for performing the KM
function, it has to be the gathering of undocumented data and
information for the purpose of disseminating it as knowledge,
in other words, in a usable form within an organization and
to its various publics. To me, this requires every bit of
skill a professional business communicator can muster all the
way from strategic planning, through presentation, to
measurement of the impact of doing the job. I fully agree
that if we do not become the knowledge managers, we are not
performing in our assigned roles.
Yet there is a certain daring to be able to know when to go
out there and start being an information gatherer rather than
just being a disseminator. Yet, that is in our roots, whether
we start in public relations, journalism, or even in
technical communications. The difference here is that we have
the bent of having been focused in finding the information
that is needed and answering the mail or resolving the
problem: being in the crisis mode. If we are going to move
from reactivity to proactivity in our profession, the next
step is to go out and gather information before there is a
crisis and to determine the dissemination methodology before
it is needed so that when the crisis arrives, we are there to
resolve it and provide the value add from having a team of
professional communicators in an enterprise.
More than 20 years ago at a conference of the International
Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I learned that
if we (communicators) are truly doing our job, we are living
on the edge, doing that which is daring, and taking the risks
of communicating even before there is sufficient cause for us
to be directed to specifically communicate. At that point in
my career, I started to appreciate what has become KM through
the systematic study of how data and information are
disseminated. Now, we are at the beginning edge of a new and
different society in which information flow is faster and
more varied that could be imagined, even those scant 20 years
ago. The former communicators our profession fostered early
on would not have the skills or the ability to deal with this
new world and there could not have been any one there to
We observe dialog, both written and verbal, about information
warfare, information overload, and about knowledge being
power. Yet, some of us do not realize that we are in the
trenches. We are the ones responsible for making sure that
the message is not the media (or at least does not get lost
in the media), that we do not disseminate more than our
publics can accept (or find acceptable), and that our
communications are meaningful to our publics.
Thus, if you try to separate KM from Business Communications,
you get an impractical form of manipulation of data that
allows for misrepresentation, crisis, and general chaos in
business and certainly does not make it a bottom line item
for business. At the same time, if you separate Business
Communications from KM, you have exactly the type of
communicators that I believe each of us does not want to
become or to wear as a label, flacks. The two must merge for
either to succeed in the future.
Jim is available at jimhei@...
7. ABOUT NETGAIN
NetGain is a group of high-end communications
consultants who work with leading companies and
associations to help them achieve strategic communication
objectives using online technology. NetGain delivers
onsite consulting, phone consulting and one-day seminars
at the client's offices. For information, send email to
To find out more about NetGain, send an email message to
1 Auto Club Drive, Dearborn, Mich. 48072
voice 313.336.1513 fax 313.336.0986