Canada’s First-Ever Digital Media Workforce Survey: A Digital Call to Arms

I initially came across this survey  via the Canadian Marketing Association, while doing online research to validate a business plan. My objective  was to get a current snapshot of the digital media industry in Québec. I hoped to locate relevant data on the percentage growth, revenues, workforce profile –  including the number of smaller firms and consultants – and compensation.

The time I devoted, the more frustrated I became.  But I am now redirecting my energy, which includes promoting the work done by Justin Kozuch, lead researcher and founder of Pixel to Product. And with the April 15, 2011, survey close fast approaching, I will be calling out to fellow Québec digital media professionals to participate.

Why Justin Kozuch got mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore

Alison Cummings: Justin, I was so happy to learn about this initiative!  I was finding most government research was really outdated – or focused on Internet connectivity and usage. The only digital media research I located dated back to 1999 and 2004 – from two initiatives that have since been abandoned. And while there is an organization called CEFRIO that does really good work, I still never found what I needed.

Justin Kozuch: What you’re saying right now is exactly what inspired this survey. I was looking for market data research in Toronto and the last government research I could find was from 2004, so I wrote a ranty, ragey blog post saying,  ‘Why is it as a community, and as an industry  we talk a good game about being so influential and well-connected? Why is it that we cant get it together to measure our industry?’ And that then turned into ‘Yes! Why is that ?!”

It then turned into this four-month process of putting together a project plan and getting the funding, then executing on that project plan.  And here we are—one week before the survey closes—and we’ve got a ton of valuable data that were going to be releasing to the public in a month and a half. It’s been a long haul since December 2009, I can tell you that!

Ultimately, I want this to be a digital nation call to arms. Just get people behind this thing. Because I think it is so important.  Because we can’t rely on our government to do this anymore, we need to rely on ourselves.

AC: I imagine this must have been quite an effort. What were some of the challenges?

JK: Oh, boy! How much time do you have for that question?! The challenge—and this is an ongoing challenge—is getting people behind the cause.  It’s easy to tell people what it is that we’re doing. But turning that idea into a message that allows them to get behind this effort? That’s very different. People want to get involved, but Ive found that for most people,  saying they want to get involved, and then actually being involved are actually two very different things.

Because this is a Canada-wide research study, as opposed to a research study in a very small,focused geographical area, having insights into our industry in different cities is also a challenge. It’s difficult to know who to get into touch with.  And it requires a great deal of research to find all the companies. There has to be a lot of data mining.

So we looked through Google and we looked at LinkedIn, and we mined Facebook and Twitter, for all the agencies operating through our industry. And I think we’ve got a great list.  Is it all-inclusive? Is it complete? Absolutely not.  It’s what we could find.  There are probably a lot more agencies out there that we never got in touch with. But that’s OK.  I’m perfectly fine with that.

Another issue—and this isn’t an operational issue on our side, but more of a public interaction thing—it’s very hard to realize just how difficult it is to get people to return a phone call or an e-mail. That’s been our biggest challenge—just hearing back from people.  We would call and call, and call and call, and we’d never get anything back from them.  It’s very hard to conduct a research study if you don’t hear back from people. These are small challenges that we’ll overcome as we move forward. We’ll figure it out.

Massive effort meant 12-hour days with some wins, some lessons-learned

AC: So, did you have to sacrifice your “love of a freshly dry-cleaned dress shirt”?

JK: Ahhh, yes ! (Burst into laughter.) For far too long than is usually acceptable by my standards … that’s a great question! Yes, I had to. Its hard to get down to the laundry room when youre slogging through 12 hours a day.

AC: People may not understand if they have never done a survey, just the magnitude of what you are trying to do. I do, having recently done just a small one, but my god, yours is pretty vast!

JK: I have no fantasies as to how huge this thing is—it’s massive! Nothing like this has been done before, on this scale. So it’s very hard to replicate or try to take inspiration from an existing framework. I think that’s a great thing.

There are so many different things that I did well in the last year.  There are so many different things that I did an OK job, and there are  some things that I failed miserably at.  But this whole thing has been building a framework that we can use next year, and the year after that. And in subsequent years as well.  We’ll keep making this better every single year. And we’ll see where it all nets out.

AC: So give me an example of what you did really well and  what could you have done better.

JK: I think the one thing that I did really well was outreach using Social Media, specifically Twitter and e-mail marketing. Those are the two channels that really helped us a lot, in terms of getting the message out.

The one thing that I wish I would have done differently?  I think we could have used Facebook in a different way. I think we could have been a little bit more present on Facebook. Here’s the problem when it comes to using Facebook as a platform for marketing: It’s a very, very different type of beast.

Social Media-driven campaign brings 52% plus response rate at  $0 marketing spend

AC: What is the current response rate ?

JK: We are coming up on 844 responses Canada-wide. (Note from AC: As Friday April, 8, 2:30 p.m.) Canada-wide.  Were aiming for 1,000 by the end of next week, which is when we close off the research.

JK: Yes, not bad for zero dollars on marketing spent.  All of our outreach was done through Social Media  Twitter, e-mail marketing, a little bit of Facebook, word of mouth.  More than 52% of our survey responses came because people spread it on Twitter.

AC: I have been doing my part here in Québec! We really need the data. And we have a unique market here, with the Anglo-Franco mix. So it is really tough. Along those lines, do you think if the survey had been translated into French, people would have been more responsive here?

JK: Could be. The reason why we did not offer the survey in a second language is cost.  Translation is very expensive and very time-consuming.

AC: Perhaps in the future, people will volunteer to help with that?

JK: One thing I would love to do next year, is put together an advisory  or steering committee of various industry professionals across Canada to help push this thing forward, to help promote it at the local level, and have two to three, maybe more, people in each province to be part of this committee and help push it forward and give it some direction. Hopefully find some funding for this thing.  It would be really nice to have a network of people that we could rely on.

AC: Yes, makes perfect sense.  For example, here you could get an Anglophone and a Francophone, one coming from an agency, the other a consultant, since you are addressing that mix in the survey.

JK: Its important to have that, and it is the one thing I wish we’d had this year.  This whole project has been about building a framework that we can  expand on and improve next year.  Now that we understand what we did right, and what we did  wrong, and what other layers of efficiency we can add to this, we can take this back and say,  “Here’s everything we did right.  Let’s continue that. Here’s how we found that the data was collected.  Here are the areas in which we didn’t get a lot of data, so let’s figure out what we need to do around that.”

AC: What do you hope people will do with this data?

JK: Use it, read it, spread it.  Tell their friends about it. Hopefully this survey, the report that we will put out, will be an impetus for filling out the survey next year. Or rather, later on this year, when we re-release it.

Ultimately, I want this to be a digital nation call to arms. Just get people behind this thing. Because I think it is so important.  Because we can’t rely on our government to do this anymore, we need to rely on ourselves.