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Media analysis helps Expedia monitor pulse of business travel

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Expedia Corporate Travel has a vested interest in knowing what the public thinks about business trips. Air travel in particular is an unpleasant experience for many, and a competitive one for Expedia, with such rivals as Travelocity, Orbitz and AmEx contending for the corporate dollar.

Thus, media research is an essential marketing tool for Dov Schiff, senior manager of marketing communications for the Bellevue, Wash.-based company. On assuming his position last October, Schiff was determined, he said, "to learn from the work we do, find meaningful numbers and figure out where to allocate our resources for the future."

For its media analysis, Expedia uses StrategyOne, a division of public relations agency Edelman. Public perception, Schiff said, helps drive virtually every other marketing outreach.

"Each segment of the market will respond differently to different messages," he said. "So you have to communicate with them differently. The whole idea of key message pull-through to our core demographics is finding the best way to shift perception, aligned with our main business objectives."

For Expedia, measuring perception goes well beyond the traditional method of logging "hits," or company mentions in various media. The automated tools supplied by StrategyOne provide information on the impact of any media mention, based on circulation, reader/viewer demographics, and positive or negative spin. Expedia's program logs in the date of media mentions, the publication, the author, the headline, the topic and the focus, then provides a code for each for an aggregated evaluation.

The codes measure each demographic's perception of Expedia, as well as potential customers' tendency to eventually become long-term corporate customers.

"Aggregating this information across, say, 500 articles allows us to analyze perceptions and compare them to our positioning statements and see if we're communicating in ways that benefit us," Schiff said.

Every six months, StrategyOne provides Expedia with a similar analysis of the company's competitors. With these data, Schiff said, the company can pinpoint public perceptions that differentiate Expedia from its competitors. It also allows Expedia to recognize competitor initiatives it might want to emulate, and shift market positioning quickly. Expedia even might revise its sales collateral or retrain salespeople in response.

Schiff added that the company still has a long way to go to refine the competitor analysis part of the program.

"Our markets are changing so quickly that you need to be on top of it," he said. "Media analysis will inform you of what you're doing in every aspect of marketing, including how the sales team approaches the customer and even which customers you approach. It's surprising that a lot of companies don't invest in this."

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