How it started
Media Prominence Score
Montreal, as seen from the US
The crystal ball
Ten years of Influence
Most people remember where they were when the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Jean-François Dumas remembers it very well, because he was busy laying the groundwork for Influence Communication.
"That first year, we did everything, from consulting to marketing, just to survive...", recalls Jean-François.
Just a few days later, he met Daniel Gagné in a restaurant to draft out – on a simple paper napkin – their idea for an ICE (Interactive Communication Environment). This simple sketch would become the platform that Influence still uses today to analyze media content, both printed and electronic, in 22 languages from 160 countries, and to give that content a score. That's when Influence Communication was born.
The co-founders worked tooth and nail to help Influence become the company that it is today. "That first year, we did everything, from consulting to marketing, just to survive," recalls Jean-François. "Even though we didn't have clients at the time, we began developing our main expertise by approaching various suppliers around the world."
"Even though we didn't have clients at the time, we began developing our main expertise by approaching various suppliers around the world."
Jean-François Dumas, President
Back then, companies purchased press review services from individual suppliers who specialized in, for example, Quebec-based newspapers or digital media. And if a company wanted to know what was being said about them abroad, they had to hire as many suppliers as there were countries.
Influence came forward to offer clients an all-in-one service, comprising all the services above, as well as analysis of that content. "The goal is not to know everything – it's knowing the right things," explains Jean-François. "At Influence, we set out to sell this very ambitious information brokerage service to the world's biggest corporations."
In 2002, Daniel Gagné had to be laid off.
"But to prove our approach, we had to find a client that could help us set the standard. That's when we knocked on the door at Bombardier and offered this leader of the Quebec economy our services – absolutely free – for a six-month trial period," recalls Jean-François. "They were satisfied with the trial, but they still wanted a call for tenders process afterwards."
At that time, Influence was not yet profitable, accumulating total revenues of only $17,000 in 2002. Daniel Gagné had to be laid off. Even if Influence did finally win the Bombardier bid, creating the agency's first regular client, the two founders still thought about selling their business to another Montreal firm for the modest sum of $100,000. Thankfully, the offer was refused!
The birth of the media prominence score
The notion of a media prominence score, which is still at the heart of Influence's reputation, was first used in 2004 for a quantitative analysis. "At the beginning, we kept our cards close to the chest, because we knew we were on to something good and that others might copy it," explains Jean-François Dumas. "But in 2005, we felt confident enough to approach Charles Grandmont at Infopresse Magazine with our idea. Subsequently, the magazine published the first article describing the measurement tool that Influence now uses across all platforms."
Although the formula they use is kept under tight wraps – much like the recipe for Big Mac secret sauce – the media prominence score has literally travelled around the world; from Montreal to Abu Dhabi, with stops in Berlin and California too. In fact, for the last three years, Influence has contributed to Al Jazeera's year-end review.
A little closer to home, Quebecers have also become more familiar with the concept of the media prominence score. Each week, Influence publishes a list of the top five news stories, in order of popularity, that have most captured the media's attention. Various television and radio programs also regularly call upon Jean-François to comment on different data presented.
For example, after the 2011 federal elections, Influence indicated a strong correlation between election results and media prominence – stronger even than various election polls. In fact, Influence's projected margins of error for the last three Quebec provincial elections have been narrower than those of pollsters. "Although we are not pollsters, we can analyze the sources that most influence public opinion. Is there anyone who still doubts the impact of media on voter intention? I don't think so."
The technician behind the scenes
Thanks to numerous media appearances, Jean-François Dumas is more readily recognizable, but Daniel Gagné is the top man behind the scenes. Daniel has created all the technology that drives Influence, including everything from the delivery platform and news-sorting system to Scolarius, a software solution that evaluates how degree of education impacts an individual's ability to read and understand text. The co-founders are especially proud of this last achievement.
Daniel has created all the technology that drives Influence.
Service is as key to the success of Influence as technology. Clients can choose from various levels of media monitoring services, depending on individual needs. For example, during a crisis, publicly-traded clients may choose "911 service", which reports everything being said about the company within minutes of publication. If a radio station in Marrakesh is talking about your company – you'll know about it.
"Many companies come to us during troubled times," reports Jean-François. "When I read a newspaper, it's always fascinating for me to evaluate what percentage of page space is being dedicated to our clients."
It's equally fascinating to note how much time Jean-François Dumas spends following the media – that is to say, quite a lot. But this is not surprising, given how profoundly involved this man is with the media. "When my son was in elementary school, all the kids were asked to talk about what their parents did. My son explained that I watched a lot of television and read many newspapers. One of his friends asked if I was unemployed!"
On September 11, 2001, the average citizen watched the hijacked planes crash into New York City's Twin Towers at least 18 times. In the meantime, thanks to the "peoplisation" of the media, Nicolas Sarkozy has become the world's most-watched personality – and for reasons other than his politics. And fifty seconds in the life of Carey Price has accumulated more media attention than all cultural coverage (across all disciplines) combined.
To date, hundreds of millions of news items have been filtered through Influence's watchful gaze – some of which were unable to hold the media's attention for more than two hours. Ten years ago, we witnessed a media event that would define everything that came after. And Influence was founded to make sure that we don't miss anything ever again.Visit Influence's Website
"Bombardier is proud to have been Influence Communication's first client."
Bombardier wishes to congratulate Influence Communication on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. In addition to the daily support we receive from Influence Communication, the staff is responsive to our special requests and helps ensure that we have the necessary tools to execute our work.
Bombardier is proud to have been Influence Communication's first client, and we extend our best wishes for the future.
Manager and Senior Spokeperson,
Public Affairs and Communications, Bombardier Aerospace
"Everything you need in one email."
Since Verbatim, the world of news monitoring, media and communications has greatly changed. A change that can be summarized in one word: Internet. And that includes social media and all the tweets that go with it too. The advantage of getting your news monitoring services from Influence is that you'll receive everything you need in one email, including radio and TV mentions, a press review written up in your preferred format and news being broadcast on the Web.
Vice President, Media Relations
National Public Relations
"The Influence Communication team uses an exacting scalpel in its post-mortem of the media."
Jean-Francois Dumas embodies the essence of Influence Communication. His analysis helps to put news into context and it's helped me to better understand the Quebec context. What do Quebecers love other than the Montreal Canadiens? Are we too egocentric? Our disinterest in world affairs left me speechless. And here I thought that Quebecers were open to the world… What a wake-up call!
In short, the Influence Communications team uses an exacting scalpel to post-mortem traditional media and to dissect information shared through new media.
Animateur, 98,5 FM
"A fresh and unadulterated perspective on media and society – an impossibility before Influence Communication."
journalist 93 FM
"Influence Communication offers relevant, thorough, reliable and accurate information."
As someone who oversees economic reporting for a number of Quebec media platforms, I have noticed that Influence Communication always delivers the goods. That is, they offer information that is relevant, thorough, reliable and accurate from both a journalistic and scientific point of view. This is what the media needs in order to continually offer readers and listeners credible and verified news content. Furthermore, while I was preparing my master's thesis on the quality of economic journalism in Quebec, the Influence Communication team offered me strategic information that confirmed many of the theories I was proposing about reading habits and attitudes held by Quebecers when faced with broadcast information. It was a huge turning point in my research and their contribution greatly 'influenced' the veracity and content of my thesis. Today, I want to thank them again for this valuable and relevant contribution. Thank you!
Assistant Director, Argent, TVA Nouvelles
"The advertising value of a news item can often be worth several millions of dollars."
Influence Communication knew how to answer my questions about the importance and penetration of news items in the media. We sometimes forget that the advertising value of a new item can often be worth several millions of dollars…
Thank you Influence Communication!
Public security Expert
"In my opinion, Influence Communication is the best invention since TV remote control."
IC keeps a watchful eye on the media and shows us that we are a distinct media society. The weekly top five is an example of that intelligence. Thank you and congratulations on your 10th anniversary!
"An entrepreneur who taught me something."
"Replacing abstract notions with solid numbers."
Influence finally quotes numbers to replace the vague notions that once ruled. What were they really talking about in the media? They offer an expertise that is made all the more valuable now, following the ascent of social media.
Thank you Influence Communication!
Columnist, journalist and blogger
"For a more scientific perspective on media-related news – and for the pleasant commentator."
"The Influence Communication radio capsule is extremely educational."
I am a regular listener of your weekly radio capsule on 98.5 FM.
I had often heard the term 'slow news day', but it wasn't until I heard the Influence Communication capsule on 98.5 FM that I truly understood what it meant. You gave concrete examples of news items – like Bye Bye 2008 – that surprisingly held media attention. Columnists and commentators talk about how newspaper headlines influence the political scene, but only Influence Communication explains how and why certain headlines make the newspaper in the first place. Extremely educational!
Keep up the good work!
"A window on world news."
Influence gives us a window on – and a filter of – world news. Your comments are always relevant, interesting and inspire further reflection. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!