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The ultimate guide to media analysis

The ultimate guide to media analysis

Everything you need to know about media analysis, and how the right service can give you insight into your corporate communications performance and how to improve your success in landing the right messages with the right audiences.

Media analysis: What’s the idea?

The ability to know what’s being said about your organisation, when, where and by whom, is a useful weapon in the communications team’s arsenal. Turning the results of this media monitoring into actionable data is an even more powerful one.

That, in essence, defines media analysis.

Media monitoring, social listening and news clipping are all useful practices, but without analytics, their value is time limited. Crunching the data of all types of content gathered by media monitoring applications opens up a wealth of insight into how your organisation is viewed, where you sit alongside your competitors, and what the biggest trends affecting your sector are. Author, channel, topic, message and sentiment analysis all form part of the overall solution.

Why is a media analysis solution important?

Media analysis, done well, can support every facet of the communication team’s remit. It applies to image recognition through brand management, content creation, performance monitoring and pitch research, to customer service, reputation tracking and crisis management. All can be better informed, and performed, with effective analysis of the online and offline discussion surrounding your organisation.

With the proliferation of big data, it has become impossible for any organisation to track and analyse its entire media footprint without the use of dedicated technology. With so much information available, tracking specific trends beyond mere media mentions has become increasingly challenging.

A media analysis solution can help you do just that.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse complex data sets, it is able to cut through the ever more deafening noise and pinpoint stories relevant to your organisation.

Plus, it will tell you why they are relevant. For organisations receiving thousands of media mentions, media analysis is invaluable in sifting the meaningful from the momentary. And for those who might get one mention in one thousand, it will find them, however obscure the channel, or atypical the audience. A single post on Instagram can be plucked from the haystack.

In short, while a media monitoring tool tells you what is being said, media analysis is necessary to tell you why it is being said and how you could potentially change this.

Who needs media analysis?

It might be assumed that media analysis is only useful for organisations constantly in the news, or who live and die by social influencers’ good opinions. Not so. Any organisation with the need to understand, and influence, stakeholder opinions can benefit from a media analysis solution.

For communications in any organisation, large or small, media analysis answers two fundamental questions:

  • Are my communications activities achieving their intended goals?
  • How can I optimise these same activities to improve my communications performance?

For B2C businesses, it’s a way to break down how consumers are reacting to your brand, products and services. Instagram and Twitter are fertile sources of data; using social media analytics, post content can be coded for topics, themes and sentiment. Once you have identified what they’re saying, media analytics can help you understand how to better appeal to a target demographic, through advertising and social media marketing, for example.

In the B2B sphere, media analysis comes into its own for benchmarking against competitors. How are their comms campaigns faring compared to yours? Who are they targeting, and how successfully? What messages are they using, how are their spokespeople being deployed, what language or positioning is being used in their announcements?

Governing bodies can benefit hugely from good media analysis, which can suggest when best, and with what messaging, to release new policies. The success of previous campaigns and approval ratings among specific demographics can also boost chances of victory at the polls.

For NGOs and charities, analysis around awareness and fundraising communications lends insight into the most effective ways to convert individuals to your cause. It will show which types of messaging engender the most support.

In short, effective media analysis tells you how you did and how you can improve.

How does a media analysis solution work?

So far, so easy to understand. But how does media analysis actually work?

By implementing a media evaluation solution, organisations can access a picture of their impact across all media sources, whether print news, social networks, online reporting or broadcast media. It also measures the effectiveness of communications across owned, earned and shared media. And it offers direct comparisons to competitors in the same arena.

The best content analysis solution is able to shift from a global, multi-language, multi-source perspective to a hyper-targeted focus on keywords in specific media streams. This will encompass everything from volume of coverage and share of voice to bespoke options such as identifying the engaged audience which is absorbing key messages.

Media analysis is both quantitative and qualitative, with the former grounded in statistics and data, and the latter resting on narratives. Quantitative analysis starts with the number of media mentions, and draws out clip count, media segmentation, circulation, and audience. Using AI to accumulate and analyse the date, this method excludes any human bias, and lays out a purely numerical picture of the situation. It lacks, however, the ability to account for nuance, unexpected omissions, and untruths.

This is where the qualitative, or human, element comes to the fore. The role of the human analyst is to interpret the text, to read the story between the data lines. Taking into account contextual factors such as intended audience, media source, and parallel conversations, qualitative analysis recognises that all media content is subjective, and has to be interpreted as such.

Utilising both quantitative and qualitative functions, a media analysis solution offers the big picture on how effective your communications are, by revealing share of voice, the sentiments evoked, and your position in the media landscape. It can also surface new opportunities to enhance the impact of any campaign by detailing how it could be better targeted.

What should you pay for a media analysis service?

What you need to spend on a media analysis service will depend in part on what you want from it.

The more complex the data you’re using, the more detailed the information you want to draw from it, and the less of the analysis you want to do in house, the more it is likely to cost. Bespoke analysis, personalised dashboards and individual-specific reporting may all cost more, depending on the sophistication of the technology involved.

There are, however, certain givens when agreeing a fee with your service provider that should help to control the costs. In the first instance, the solution you choose should be unlimited – which means complete coverage of and subsequent analysis of all agreed media channels, without a cost per clip, or any restriction on the number of clips harvested.

The pay-per-clip model is counterintuitive, because is penalises organisations at times when there are more news streams affecting them. It has the effect of making negative news days worse, and also takes the shine off positive stories, because you are paying more to have sight of them.

In addition, it drives the temptation to analyse inconsequential stories that provide little or no useful insight. All the relevant coverage, from all the sources, should automatically be included in your media analysis solution.

Similarly, content sampling is as much a bane of media analysis as it is in polling and primary research. While it may seem like an economical way to approach media analysis, it provides at best a rough approximation of the real story.

The sample could easily miss the damning post which goes viral, or the obscure news story that results in increased sales, and either omission will throw out the conclusions of any analysis. Don’t limit your service with sampling.

Choosing your media analysis service: the golden rules

When establishing the parameters for any media analysis solution, you need to make sure it works for your organisation – and that you’re getting your money’s worth. Focusing on these seven elements when you commission a media analysis solution will improve its effectiveness, and ensure it’s doing the job you need it to do.

1. Link to your business goals

Directly tracking your media analysis process to your business needs or specific communications goals means you are more likely to achieve them. Identify the aim of your communications, who you are trying to reach, and how you want them to respond to your organisation. This will determine whether the key metrics will be volume, reader recall rate, spokesperson penetration, key message success, sentiment, source split or any combination of the above.

2. Cover all sources

Media evaluation needs to encompass all the channels where your organisation, competitors and industry are mentioned, and which your target audiences access. Traditional print, online, social and broadcast media may all play a role in shaping perceptions, so make sure you’re having a sensible conversation about which types of media are needed, linked to your business and communication goals.

3. Be quick

We’re all aware that speed is of the essence in today’s hyperconnected, digital world and this applies to analysis too. While periodic reporting is very valuable to signpost shifts in performance and emerging trends, this really needs to be delivered in a matter of hours at most after the analysis period has concluded. Likewise, any periodic analysis must be supplemented with a real-time, on-demand media analytics capability via a platform.

4. Use credible metrics

To demonstrate the value of the communications team’s work, you need a robust means of measurement. Meaningful metrics must be statistically valid and intuitive. They could include share of voice and volume of content, plus sentiment analytics and audience engagement figures for key messages. They should not include Advertising Value Equivalent or Opportunities to See, both of which have been repeatedly discredited by countless media studies and which have in no small part undermined the credibility of communications reporting over the years.

5. Benchmark results

Effective benchmarking means analysing the previously identified performance metrics, and tracking them over a meaningful time period, and against your competitors. This will give you a translatable overview of how your communications strategy is performing and will be able to give you the context for this week’s or month’s results and provide the basis for the “so what” aspect of any meaningful piece of analysis.

6. Use tech and human analysts

New technologies have given media analysis solutions unprecedented power to process huge volumes of content, but the human element is still vital. By removing human inconsistencies, AI applications ensure more reliable trend data, greater consistency and enormous quantities of data to be analysed. Humans then bring the qualitative perspective to bear, using the data to tell the story. The combination of technology and human expertise, the quantitative and the qualitative, is what allows this type of analysis to bring meaningful, actionable results.

7. Enable unlimited scope

Insightful media analysis is agile, able to shift focus and reach in response to events and the news cycle. For this, it has to be unlimited in scope, with no restrictions on the number of clips coded or stories pursued. Beware the creep of confirmation bias inherent in narrowing the research scope to focus on “known-knowns”.