Tag Archives: media research

Reflections on 25 Years With Coleman Insights

Tuesdays With Coleman

In May, I celebrated 25 years since joining Coleman Insights, providing me with an opportunity to reflect on the last quarter century. When Jon Coleman, one of the smartest—and more importantly, one of the most decent—people I have had the privilege of knowing, offered me the chance to join his company, I was flattered. Sure, the 29-year-old version of me already had more than a decade of experience in radio including six years at Arbitron, but it wasn’t long after I began working for Jon that I realized that I had a tremendous amount to learn.

This photo of me, Jon Coleman and Chris Ackerman was used extensively in Coleman marketing.

So, what have I learned? Far more than I can cover in one blog post, but a few key items stand out.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of collaboration. When clients place their trust in me and my colleagues, it is vital to recognize that we don’t know everything and the best way we can help them is to listen closely when they share their goals and concerns. When we are truly collaborative and exchange ideas with the brilliant programmers, marketers and managers who we are fortunate to have as clients, we achieve even greater outcomes than we would without their input. I am sure I still don’t listen and collaborate as well as I aspire to, but I hope I’m getting better at it!

Another thing that I’ve learned working with clients is how to build brands. Strong, long-lasting brands almost always start with a great idea and then take a long time to build. I find it so gratifying when I can help our clients develop their great ideas into great brands and have seen first-hand the benefits they enjoy when this happens. Great brands allow those who manage them to avoid short-term thinking and chasing the latest “flash in the pan” trend; if they consistently deliver compelling content within the parameters of their brands, these managers win on a consistent basis.

I’ve also learned that doing research the right way is hard and is always evolving. There is a right way to acquire respondents, there is a right way to ask them questions and there is a right way to analyze the data we get from them—all of these elements are required to deliver the insights our clients need. Furthermore, the right ways to do these things in 2020 look a lot different than they did in 1995. I’ve also learned not to get frustrated when low quality research options enter the marketplace; there will always be a market for good work, and if we stay focused on delivering high quality insights, we will be rewarded with the loyalty of our clients and their ability to recognize our value.

Another thing I’ve learned is that a research company is only as good as the people it employs. Products, services, methodologies and technologies are important, but it is the people who design, analyze and deliver research projects and then help clients implement strategies based on them that truly make a difference. This has been driven home to me countless times over the years when clients tell me that they choose to work with us not because we have the best widget; they choose Coleman because they want the best brains on the job. Those brains—including mine, but also those of the many talented people I am fortunate with whom to work—have benefited from years of experience working with a dazzling array of audio brands in almost every situation imaginable and from the expertise that has been passed along by people like Jon Coleman, Chris Ackerman and Pierre Bouvard who built the company.

Obviously, I owe a great debt to Jon for the opportunity he gave me 25 years ago. I also want to thank my colleagues—past and present—for all they have taught me. We have an amazing team at Coleman Insights and the fact so many of my colleagues have been with the company for a decade or more is a testament to Jon’s philosophy of investing in people and giving them opportunities to learn and grow.

Today’s Coleman Insights consultant team (L-R): Me, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell and Jay Nachlis.

All of these things I’ve learned, however, would be relatively meaningless without the tremendous support of our clients. Listing the many clients who have helped make me better at what I do would make this post unreasonably long, but I can say with great confidence that I have learned something from every one of our clients, and for that, I am grateful.

My favorite part of hitting the 25-year milestone is that it is just a stop along the way. I intend to keep getting better at doing this for many years to come. That will only happen if I continue to learn from the many smart people with whom I interact, which leads me to one piece of advice—make a lifelong commitment to learning. If you are as fortunate as I have been to have clients, colleagues and other mentors as your teachers, you will be as rewarded as I have been and continue to be.

The Great Data Quality Summit

Tuesdays With Coleman

Recently a great, long-time client of ours disclosed to me that they fielded a research project with another company. This is not unusual; we often encourage our clients to get other perspectives on challenging situations.

In this case, however, the client told me that they were no more than two or three PowerPoint slides into the presentation when they realized something was amiss. There were numerous red flags in the data the other company began presenting that made our client question the credibility of the entire study. Before the presentation was even over, our client decided to set aside the research project.

I must admit that a part of me was pleased that this experience provided our client with a strong reaffirmation of the quality of the data they receive from us. As an advocate for research in the designing of strategies for media properties, however, I was angered that our client was so badly let down and how such an experience could taint the reputation of the research industry field in general. In addition, I was reminded how important it is that media companies understand as much as possible about what goes into producing high quality data for use in making decisions about branding, positioning, marketing and content execution.

At the heart of a good research study is that the respondents who participate in it appropriately represent the population you are trying to measure. In the “old days” this was relatively simple because we could easily reach virtually the entire population by conducting interviews on the phone. Today, when we conduct most of our interviewing online (although continue to conduct telephone interviews to reach some segments of the population), the process has become vastly more complicated.

This is why nine of my Coleman Insights colleagues—including representatives from our Integr8 Research subsidiary—and I spent three days north of the border a few weeks ago. The headquarters of our primary fielding partner is in Canada and we visited with their staff for what I like to think of as The Great Data Quality Summit.

Great Data Quality Summit

The Coleman Insights and Integr8 Research teams with our fielding partners in Canada

We tackled important issues with our fielding partner, including improving security to prevent hackers from infiltrating our surveys, enhancing analysis tools to identify and remove respondents who are not who they say they are and steps to improve the survey experience for respondents. Our meetings were an important reminder for our staff and our fielding partner that the process of collecting research data online—and correctly integrating it with telephone survey data—is a challenging and evolving one and only by staying on top of developments in internet-based research can we ensure that we continue to deliver high quality data to our clients.

Conducting research online requires more than buying access to an online panel—even a so-called “A”-graded panel—and sending survey invitations to its members. Getting the “right” people in surveys who represent the population you are trying to measure requires knowledge about the panel assets being used, extensive experience in survey design, advanced analytical tools and dedication to doing the work required to produce high quality data.

We had nearly half of our staff spend three days in Canada to make sure we are on top of our game. If you are a Coleman Insights or Integr8 Research client, I am confident that you will see the benefits of our ongoing efforts to do things the right way. If you work with another research company, I urge you to learn as much as possible about how they gather, analyze and tabulate the data they deliver to you.

While we don’t foresee challenges getting any easier, we do feel accountability is imperative to ensure your study accurately guides your brand’s strategy, now and in the future.