Today, Boston’s SHIFT Communications told the world that it has been named a Google Analytics Certified Partner. A quick Google news search will tell you that this is not a common occurrence among PR agencies.
We spoke to Christopher Penn, VP of marketing at SHIFT and renowned grammar nerd, for his take on how it all went down — and why more agencies should do the same.
What does this new status mean, and what did you have to do to get it?
It’s an endorsement from Google saying that you have a demonstrated expertise in using Analytics. The process requires each agency to submit three case studies on clients – two of which must utilize “advanced” techniques.
For example, we created a custom dashboard, developed a new attribution model for ROI, and used the Google tag manager product to track conversations about the client across multiple different kinds of websites.
You have to submit the case studies and then get staff members to pass the 70 question, 90-minute GAIQ qualification tests.
It’s a way to advertise our services via a third party endorsement saying that we know how to use these tools in a way that’s meaningful.
We first were contacted by a colleague who works at Google almost two years ago saying we should do it, because we would get more tech support and learning/training opportunities — but we had to get certified.
At the time, we didn’t have any clients who let us manage their Google Analytics accounts.
We had to do the work for them, fly out to Mountain View and meet with the Analytics team, review the case studies, and explain/defend our decisions.
What’s the underlying operational shift?
Todd Deferen has emphasized that we need to become a data-driven PR agency, because mobile changed everything and so much of the world is going digital.
The rallying cry is “we need to demonstrate and improve upon our own capabilities.”
We are training our employees internally — not just as a marketing tech team but as an entire agency.
Last year we embarked on a major initiative for every single member of the agency; this was more like a refresher course.
Why should other agencies do it?
Agencies should do it if they’ve ever been asked the question, “whats the ROI on what you’re doing?”
It will be inevitable to have these kinds of skills on staff, even if you don’t get Google’s approval.
What about smaller agencies?
Google certification is now free for people to take the online courses. It can provide a competitive advantage, but its open to everyone as long as you’re willing to invest the time.
(One person should expect to spend 40-80 hours learning and then take the exam.)
What we’re doing internally is training people in what’s relevant now to their day-to-day jobs.
How should they start?
The best way is start training people. It was all free, but time is a limiting factor.
Google themselves received us very well — they just made sure we were telling the truth and that we had the expertise we claimed.
How will your services change for clients moving forward?
They won’t. This is almost like a graduate degree in that we’ve been doing all along.
I would like to think that more clients would say, “we saw the announcement — now what else can you do for us?”
But we don’t have new, “magical” capabilities today that we didn’t have yesterday. We just have a piece of paper to hang in the lobby saying “we can do that.”