Advancing communications measurement and evaluation

7 Habits of the Highly Effective Media Analyst


Steph Bridgeman shared this article at Smoking Gun PR’s event in Manchester, UK, “Garbage in, Gospel out” as part of the recent AMEC Measurement Month. For more from Smoking Gun PR, watch Wilamena the Fluffy PR Killer,” a short animated film.

By Steph Bridgeman, independent evaluation and insight specialist and troubleshooter—Some might call us “stalkers,” because we constantly and willfully follow things, but I prefer the term “media analyst.” Unlike stalkers, the only thing we harass is bad media analysis and measurement.

Which brings me to: “What makes a good media analyst?”

If I can borrow a concept from motivational guru Stephen Covey, I believe it’s down to seven habits. These seven habits of the highly effective media analyst will help you stalk greater success:

1. Start with the right personality type

Yes, anyone can be a media analyst. But my anecdotal experience suggests certain personality profiles lend themselves to our work. We put the “anal” into the word “analyst!”

Using the Myers-Briggs personality profiles, for example, people defined as “Defenders” are characterized by having excellent analytic and judgment skills. “Consuls” are social animals who get on with other people.

These types match the profiles of my media analysis colleagues. A quick-fire evaluation of your team’s personality profiles may back up my theory that it takes a certain type of person to make a great media analyst.

That’s not to say media analysts can only be these profiles, but it does seem to be a good idea to align people’s natural dispositions with the core skills of media analytics.

2. Be more of a librarian

There are some people who discover in the third year of their undergraduate life that the university library has an upstairs. Analyst types are upstairs from day one. They marvel in the ability to find a book so easily in such a huge place. (Especially in the pre-computerised-records days: remember those little wooden drawers and the index cards inside?) Everything was always filed away in the right location, correctly labelled, placed in a logical order.

A successful media analyst understands the important concepts of:

  • Storing data or archiving media coverage data in a way which makes it easy to find in the future,
  • Logical file names or folders for categorising content digitally, and
  • Consistency when classifying or coding media coverage.

3. Don’t be afraid of change

Not that long ago media analysts’ tools consisted of a ruler and scissors. Yes, computing power has brought us great advantages—and also the potential to do away with many of the jobs we are currently doing.

Don’t be afraid. That very dynamic will also open new opportunities and ways of doing. Change is non-negotiable. So don’t fear it. We’ve come a long way in media analytics, and we have much further to go.

4. Respect data quality

Don’t compare apples with pears. Great media analysts develop an intuitive sense of what rings true, the quality of the data, and how it fits into a wider data landscape.

5. Forget Word—learn to love Excel

This might sound nerdy. In fact, it is nerdy: I love Excel.

Imagine having a servant that can do all sorts of extra-complicated stuff, take the grind out of tedious number crunching, and almost make a cup of tea for you. That’s what Excel does.

Use it, play with it, and don’t be afraid to try new things every day. The buttons you never use have a function—they could save you time, money, or worry.

6. Be a data storyteller

Your data are not numbers that exist in isolation. They relate to a wider significance. They have a story to tell. It’s your job to help them explain why they are either unimportant or important. Great media analysts are not number crunchers. They are ace storytellers.

7. Use tools like the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework

You expect James Bond to drive an Aston Martin. Media analysts have their own super tools to enable them to do their jobs to their best ability. No one in media analytics is alone with great tools like the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework alongside them. The whole AMEC website is a wealth of amazing content and professional development, and organisations such as the UK Government Communication Service are open to sharing best practice techniques.

Learn to use, respect and share: the more we can establish these tools in common use, to replace AVEs and other false measures, the more our industry and the role of media analysts grows.


steph-bridgeman  Steph Bridgeman is a media measurement and insight specialist and a self-confessed chart junkie. A “cheerleader” for the PR measurement industry since 1999 and an AMEC Individual Member, she is supported by a team of freelance media evaluation associates. Together they code and summarise hundreds of thousands of articles every year.

Bill Paarlberg
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Bill Paarlberg

Bill Paarlberg co-founded The Measurement Standard in 2002 and was its editor until July 2017. He also edits The Measurement Advisor newsletter. He is editor of the award-winning "Measuring the Networked Nonprofit" by Beth Kanter and Katie Paine, and editor of two other books on measurement by Katie Paine, "Measure What Matters" and "Measuring Public Relationships." Visit Bill Paarlberg's page on LinkedIn.
Bill Paarlberg
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