“The need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than ever”

Martin Lyster

Interview with Martin Lyster, CEO of Agility PR Solutions, a media intelligence and solutions company based in Ottawa, Canada

Hi, Martin. What is your background and what are your duties at Agility PR?

My background is originally in finance and accounting. I’m a data junkie at heart. In 2003, I co-founded a media analysis firm in Ottawa, Canada, and built that business into the country’s leading media intelligence company. We sold the company in 2014 to Innodata, which remains Agility PR’s parent company. Following the sale, we made a series of acquisitions that built Agility PR’s capabilities for the full PR lifecycle.

My daily focus is on taking our product to the market. Agility PR punches above its weight in terms of our capabilities for our size. We receive superb feedback from clients on websites like G2 and have a growing reselling business.

Today, Agility PR has an enviable platform and suite of workflows and tools across our product range. We have several thousand clients around the world and now employ hundreds of people globally.

What is the added value that Agility PR provides its clients in the PR and marketing sectors?

On the media targeting side, Agility PR is one of the very few companies in the industry with a global media database that is fully integrated with a Big Data media intelligence platform. Our AI-powered technology gives us the ability to make the connection between journalists and the content they publish in real time, so that we can identify emerging trends to put PR and marketing teams in contact with them. This precise approach is the most effective way to target the media but is only possible via the application of our media monitoring solution together with our media database.

Which services propel the growth of Agility PR?

Agility PR covers the entire suite of the PR lifecycle. This includes media outreach, whereby we identify the key journalists covering a particular industry and set a workflow on how to engage with them, share content, and amplify the client’s content with that media. Content is then published, which requires media monitoring.

We divide the company into two main areas: outreach on one side, monitoring, analysis, and intelligence on the other. These two sides are split evenly in terms of business activity and complement each other well.

In what ways has COVID-19 demanded adaptation from Agility PR?

COVID-19 has had a serious economic impact globally. Yet it has presented Agility PR with a tremendous opportunity and we have seen our metrics grow. On the media intelligence side of the business, some of our largest clients have become very proactive around how their business is reflected in the media. Some of these businesses have been deemed ‘essential services’ during the crisis and therefore have an increased need to understand how their business is seen. In parallel to this is the public’s opinion and concerns.

On the outreach side, we have never been busier. Our clients are sending a significant number of news releases through Agility. Month after month we have seen increasing utilization of our tools. Between March and April, the number of press releases sent out via Agility PR Solutions’ tools grew by over 30 percent, while the outreach via the Agility platform has increased 60 percent since January.

What are the challenges that confront the industry today?

The print media industry is going through a lot of changes but the COVID-19 crisis has sped this change. But the need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than it ever has been. The public is consuming – depending on the metrics you’re looking at – between 60 and 300 percent more media than at any earlier time. We deliver vital insights from that consumption and turn it into intelligence for clients.

Agility PR’s media database is the premier database in the industry and this is because of the workflows we have in place. Our team is working flat out because, with the pandemic, journalists’ contact details have changed. Maintaining that communication bridge is important for everyone.

What are the technology-based services that Agility PR hopes to bring to market, and what is the problem being solved?

One of the main themes in our sector is PR attribution, but as of today, there is no real PR attribution method that provides clients with a clear understanding of how content drives business. This is an area we are looking at, and while there are quick wins to be had, that is not the direction Agility PR will move in. Instead, we will look to generate insights from our client suite intelligence to help clients understand the impact of content in measurable terms. These terms differ: for one client it may be revenue, for another, blood donation. Through our data-rich approach and analysis, we can build the whole picture for our clients.

How can Agility PR increase the quality of the insights its services already offer clients?

We feel we are just scratching the surface in terms of the audience intelligence and targeting intelligence can provide. We have already brought these two ends together, but adding a level of predictive analytics will give our clients the opportunity to target the media more accurately, in scalable and precise ways, compared to the traditional approach. We have our database ready, but by linking it to client-side data, we can truly create a predictive solution. We have an exciting roadmap for these developments.

By Peter Appleby

“The biggest challenge is to master both the AI technologies and the processes of valorizing them”

Viet Yen Nguyen

Interview with Viet Yen Nguyen, CTO of Hypefactors, a PR automation software company in Copenhagen

Hi Viet, what is your background, and what is your current role at Hypefactors?

My academic background includes a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Computer Science from the University of Twente, and a PhD in Computer Science from the RWTH Aachen University.

I started my career in R&D for the European space industry. I took part in technology transfer projects where we applied recent theoretical advances from academia and demonstrated their applicability to upcoming spacecraft missions. Later on, I joined Fraunhofer, a German research organization where I participated in projects of similar nature in automotive, autonomous farming and the energy sector until I moved to the private sector.

Today I’m the CTO of Hypefactors, a SaaS doing reputation and media tech and helping brands and companies do that more effectively. H&M, parts of the United Nations, Volkwagen, Stark Group (a construction industry) and Sampension (pension funds) are some of the clients in our portfolio.

What responsibilities does your role carry with it?

Our company centers on four segments: data, AI, web and mobile. I drive all four from an engineering and product development perspective end to end. This includes day-to-day operations, as well as new business strategy planning and alignment.

What differs Hypefactors from other reputation & media automation software companies?

Hypefactors is a simple all-in-one solution for reputation and media management. This is incredibly important because many competitors are only point-solutions. We see that prospective users are dissatisfied with using dozens of different tools. They prefer to use only one that allows all aspects of their workflow to be simple and integrated.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Hyperfactors when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

Throughout the years, we have become strong in multilingual and global analysis using machine learning and big data. We are extremely pragmatic in tackling those challenges, and we are used to making tough choices. Therefore, like academia, the majority of our effort goes into supporting significant use cases. Improved support for low-resource languages like Dzongkha or Welsh has shifted to the future.

What are the best applications of AI for the PR industry, and how does it benefit your customers?

We have over a dozen AIs in production, seeing a million requests per day for various purposes. Our reputation in AI is very user-visible; we assess whether the client’s brand, product or spokesperson is perceived as positive, neutral or negative within the context of a text. It’s trained to not only recognize sentiment, but also facts and cultural aspects that impact reputation. This is a step up from commonly deployed generic sentiment AIs.

The reputation is one single dimension that impacts all other parts of the business. A reputation peak is typically paired with supercharged KPIs on marketing, sales, financial and recruiting.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions?

We’re constantly improving the integration between our product features, as well as adding more media data and machine-learned information enrichments.

Our systems are on continuous deployment; our roll out strategy is to release incremental changes at least once a day. When you compare the changes on a day-to-day basis, the impact is minor. However, when you consider the accumulation and compounding of these benefits over a longer duration, let’s say months, the difference is night and day.

How do you think AI will change the PR industry in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges?

I find it incredibly exciting to be in this industry at this time as there’s so much ground to cover. Take for example language — it’s been a fundamental barrier between people and cultures. AI and big data are breaking these barriers down. Today, thanks to ML translation, we can instantaneously read and understand the gist of articles posted in countries whose languages are completely foreign to us. This is especially important for multinationals, like H&M and Volkswagen. The same result was not tractable two decades ago.

In general, I think there’s a lot of time saving ahead for us by automating repetitive aspects of the work, like reporting and data curation. This enables our clients to spend more on the creative and strategic aspects of reputation and media management.

The biggest challenge is to master both the AI technologies and the processes of valorizing them: the execution. This is not the kind of execution traditionally seen in most businesses because you cannot apply tactics from engineering, financial, sales, and marketing management nor principles from any other business dimension to implement and apply AI in a successful way. In fact, it’s closer to attaining scientific excellence than to driving business ROI. The people mastering this holistically will make waves in the years to come. At Hypefactors, we are heading this wave with our talented team.

By Renata Ilitsky

“With increasing volume, listening and analytics will be all the more important”

Sameer Narkar

Interview with Sameer Narkar, Founder of Prudence Analytics, with the social listening and analytics platform, Konnect Insights.

Hi Sameer, what is your background, and what is your current role at Prudence Analytics?

I started as a software developer about 15 years ago, and now lead the team at Prudence. Everyone knows us as Konnect Insights – a social listening and analytics platform. My role at Konnect Insights is head of product, and as founder, I oversee other functions, such as Marketing and Sales.

As the founder of a growing company like Prudence Analytics, what are you most proud of thus far in the journey?

We are happy with the fact that Konnect Insights is the leading product in the social listening space in India, and we are slowly entering other markets. Our users love our data, the user experience and the great dashboards. Nothing makes me more proud than seeing a happy customer.

What differs Konnect Insights from other social listening platforms?

We offer an all-in-one tool that allows our customers’ marketing, customer support, analytics and PR teams to all use one software. The unified dashboards make life a lot easier for the whole organization. Apart from this, our dashboards and BI tools are the best in the industry.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Konnect Insights when it comes to offering your customer analysis and developing your offer?

I won’t really call them challenges, we see them as opportunities. We know it is a fast changing world of social media and analytics with new changes happening at the social platform level as well as API changes. We have to keep abreast of them, and, at the same time, update our users on the changes.

The other important aspect is to keep innovating and bringing in new features and improvements in the current offering. We love to do that, and we are always excited about achieving excellence in our offerings.

Have you recently released any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve your services?

The Business Intelligence (BI) solution that we launched offers the capability of creating charts with any combination of columns and filters, which is one of the most advanced solutions that we offer in addition to our dashboard’s functionality. We are thinking beyond social listening tools and making them a complete digital marketing suite with all possible integrations, and then offering the power of dashboards and Business Intelligence tools.

Which of your current products do you believe has a lot of potential, but hasn’t been adapted at the same rate as your other offerings by your clients?

We offer integrations with many CRM systems, such as Freshdesk, Zendesk and Microsoft Dynamics, as well as chat applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams. This has only been adapted by a few of our customers. We offer APIs for various integrations and would love to have a lot more use cases.

Which social platforms do you see as having the most potential in the future?

Instagram is the present as well as the future. I know a lot of marketers believe TikTok is the next big platform, but I still want to wait and see.

How do you think the media monitoring and social media analytics industry will change in the next 5 years?

The need for monitoring and listening will keep on growing. There is a gold mine of information available on the web and social media. You get your customers’ feedback with so much ease with tools like Konnect Insights, and you can respond to them within minutes. You can make data driven decisions, change your offerings and know what is working for you and what’s working for your competitors with ready-made dashboards, while performing industry analysis at the same time.

With increasing volume, listening and analytics will be all the more important. We are talking about this at a time when the world is witnessing a pandemic like never before in 100 years, and what we have seen is brands using analytics and social listening to make informed decisions. Big data and allied technologies such as NLP, Machine Learning and AI are going to play a major role.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The need of identifying automated content will become pressing”

Tom Avramis

Interview with Tom Avramis, co-founder and Managing Partner of DataScouting, a software company that provides solutions in media monitoring.

Hi Tom, what is your background and what is included in your current role at DataScouting?

I have worked as a programmer and project manager for over 15 years on various projects and for the last 10 years on media monitoring software. At that point, I decided to found DataScouting with my partner to promote our software to a broader part of the market. Currently, I am the Managing Partner of DataScouting and I overlook most operations in the company, but my passion is to advance our research division to utilize cutting edge technologies in our software solutions.

What differs DataScouting from other technology companies that focus on media monitoring?

DataScouting is a software company that provides intelligent software solutions to media monitoring companies and organizations. We offer our clients cloud and on-premise software solutions for monitoring news and advertisements in broadcast, online/social and print media, including a reporting and delivery dashboard. Our MediaScouting suite is a turnkey solution that fosters the daily production of media monitoring companies of any size.

We are not data aggregators and we do not provide media monitoring services. All our software solutions are built for the cloud, but, depending on the customer use case, they can also be installed on the customers’ premises. We follow an open architecture paradigm, providing our customers with access to APIs, file structure, and the database.

Our software streamlines the daily workflow of all media monitoring companies by allowing companies to minimize the use of human resources typically involved in repetitive tasks that use technologies, such as speech recognition, audio matching, optical character recognition, face/logo detection, text analytics, machine translation, etc.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

One of the latest additions to our software suite is a completely new module for advertisement monitoring in broadcast and print.

We are currently working on a major update to our user interfaces with new functionalities, such as dynamic updates, extensive audit and logging dashboards, machine learning enabled visualizations, and new multimodal clip browsing interfaces.

You have done some work with image and video analysis; how far have you come in that area in terms of research and what are you aiming to achieve?

We have created several modules related to image and video analysis that have been integrated into our systems. Examples of these include face, logo, object recognition, and news ticker extraction. One thing that these technologies have in common is the use of machine learning, and, specifically, deep learning and convolutional neural networks, which have revolutionized the field of artificial intelligence in the last few years.

Our face and logo recognition models provide results similar to human accuracy, solving problems that would otherwise be impossible to solve, or, at the very least, require significant human effort. Our goal is to finetune our existing machine learning models using knowledge transfer and minimal human feedback, making them easier to use and more adaptable to changes.

You provide media intelligence software solutions to government bodies. Do they require different solutions than other clients; and if so, how do you work with them to provide that?

Government organizations have similar needs to media monitoring companies, but the solutions we offer them are somewhat unique. For example, media monitoring for government bodies usually focuses on a narrower scope of topics than other companies; additionally they operate in smaller teams and need to work in real time, which requires more software automation. Government organizations have strict security and integration requirements, which other companies typically don’t. Finally, government bodies are interested in compliance monitoring, usually for broadcast media, to check for things like quality compliance with regulations of the aired content.

What type of data or media not currently used for media monitoring today could be interesting to utilize in the future?

Media monitoring started as a service-based on-resource scarcity because it was impossible to read and assess news in all the newspapers and magazines in a given country. Today, media monitoring is based on identifying relevant data as quickly as possible and providing actionable information that allows clients to make knowledgeable decisions.

In the near future, automation, cloud, and machine learning adoption will definitely increase. Additionally, the media intelligence industry will face new challenges as new media formats will appear and automatic content generation will become more common; thus the need of identifying automated content will become pressing.

By Renata Ilitsky

“As more sources become available, the need for professional media monitoring will increase”

Mark Reisz

Interview with Mark Reisz, CEO of Media Info Groep, a Dutch media monitoring company.

Hi Mark, what is your background, and what is your current role at Media Info Groep?

I joined Media Info Groep as a full-time employee right after getting my degree in Business Economics from Erasmus University. I was a second-generation employee in our family business, of which I took full control in the late 90’s.

Currently, I am responsible for all the companies in the group in Almere and Jakarta, especially making sure that all short and long term goals are met. Together with the managers of the various departments, I set the strategic goals. I also take part in the development process of various software solutions.

Having served as CEO for Media Info Groep for over 20 years, what are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our transition from a traditional MMO where everything was done manually to a fully automated production process where people are still important for selection.

The acquisition of three competitors in the Dutch market is another proud moment that proved that our decision to focus on our quality of services was the right choice. Ever since that moment, focusing on quality has been one of our top priorities.

Additionally, our ability to adapt to the ever-changing market needs and requirements makes us proud.

What has been the most challenging time for Media Info Groep, and why?

We have faced and continue to face many challenges in our history, which spans over 100 years. Recent economic crises were challenging, and the current COVID-19 crisis put additional strain on the production process. However, due to our established processes, we were able to let all our employees in Almere and Jakarta work from home without any disruptions.

Another challenging time we faced was the introduction of copyright fees in the early 2000’s. Customers were reluctant to adhere to the new situation, and we were faced with a high decline in our customer base. Over the years, clients have come to understand the reasons for copyright fees, and the situation is back to normal.

In conclusion, we can say that this millennium has brought with it the greatest challenges so far. Keeping up with all the technological challenges makes life very interesting.

What differs Media Info Groep from other media monitoring companies in the Netherlands?

Media Info Groep is the only true MMO in the Netherlands. We have all the sources in house – we process all the papers (PDFs), gather web content, monitor radio and television, and do our own social media monitoring. Other MMOs only focus on web or social and buy the other sources from us.

Furthermore, we differ from other MMOs because we have actual people choosing the final selections for articles. The search engine does the initial selection, but those results are narrowed down by people before being shown to the customer. Therefore, we can make much better selections than those done automatically; even using sophisticated search engines can’t beat the human mind at this time.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Media Info Groep when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

The main challenge is getting the customers to understand their own needs and requirements. Media analysis is not an on the shelf product, it’s custom made for every individual customer. AMEC’s frameworks help guide the customer in this journey and quickly sets the requirements. In the end, there is the final challenge to match the offer to the budget, which is probably the biggest challenge in the process.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We are constantly introducing new offers for our customers. Recently, we added logo detection and voice recognition to our portfolio of solutions.

Although our customers don’t always actually see the work we do to improve our offerings, they certainly notice our constant progress and appreciate the improvements in our processes, which allows us to provide better services in less time.

From your experience, is there a particular case you can share where media intelligence truly made a crucial difference for a client’s business?

I cannot get into specifics on an individual client basis, but we know that media intelligence has made significant differences for customers’ businesses many times over.

For example, a car manufacturer was promoting a particular model as the ideal car for women; however, after the analysis of all the media coverage, it turned out that there was only attention focused on performance and handling aspects in the media, which are typically topics not interesting to most women.

Media intelligence has also led a major bank to reconsider its position as a sponsor of a major sports team as a result of the findings of our analysis. It turned out that there was a mismatch between the values of the bank and the values of the sport.

With the current situation regarding the coronavirus, what would you advise your clients in regards to getting the most benefit from media monitoring?

The pandemic doesn’t change a thing about getting the most out of media monitoring. The most noticeable change is the way people get their news – Dutch publishers currently see a spike in the number of online subscribers.

In what ways has the coronavirus affected your business?

Our top priority was to keep all our employees safe and healthy. Without any disruption to our production process, we managed to get our entire team to work from home within a few days.

Unfortunately, several customers needed to terminate our services because they faced turnovers due to all the restrictive measures in the Netherlands. On the other hand, we have gained new pharmaceutical and medical customers. Overall, we see a decrease in sales, but we are still standing strong and have no need for government support.

Publishers are also hit hard by the crisis, and we see a steady decline in the number of pages and articles disseminated.

How do you think the media monitoring industry will change in the next 5 years; and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Media monitoring will become more and more dependent on new technologies. As more sources become available, the need for professional media monitoring will increase. The next generation of challenges is already looming – face, logo and voice recognition are just a few of them. Google and Apple are already offering services in this field, but to transition this into a viable product for large-scale demand causes many sleepless nights for our developers.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media”

Michalis A. Michael

Interview with Michalis A. Michael, CEO of DigitalMR, a tech company in AI powered data analytics in the UK.

Hi Michalis, what is included in your current role at DigitalMR, and what is your background?

We are a remote first company, so even before the pandemic, we only worked from the office once a week, with the rest of the days spent working from home. I start my mornings dealing with the most pressing tasks. Afterwards, I provide my daily slack update and read everyone else’s, which is followed by two daily stand-up calls with the teams. After that, I focus on my main job responsibilities, sales and fundraising.

My academic background includes a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the TU Berlin, multiple executive education courses/seminars at Harvard Business School and one at LBS.

What makes DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies?

Three things which make DigitalMR different from other social intelligence companies; the first being our higher accuracy for sentiment and topic annotation in any language.

The second feature that sets us apart is our hybrid team, which consists not only of software engineers and data scientists, but also market researchers/insights experts. Our solutions are for the market research industry mainly, which is why we need to have researchers talking to researchers.

Third is our proprietary machine learning model for emotion annotation, and our deep learning capability to analyse images by creating a textual caption, extracting text and identifying logos as a result of a strong R&D DNA.

The most important thing about social intelligence is to know the accuracy of annotation of machine learning algorithms and being able to gauge how to make decisions that will be beneficial as opposed to harmful. After all – garbage in garbage out no matter how beautiful the dashboard for data visualization is.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We have recently developed and released a new composite metric called the Social Brand Performance Evaluation Score (SBPS). This is a metric from zero to one which combines buzz, net sentiment score and engagement metrics among other proprietary metrics. For the first time ever, this enables brands to benchmark their campaigns against any competitor or best in class.

From your experience, is there a particular case you can share where media intelligence truly made a crucial difference for a client’s business?

A telecoms provider was able to find explanations of the Net Promoter Score fluctuations in their monthly tracking survey by correlating it with our trademarked Net Sentiment Score. By doing qualitative analysis of what was actually posted online, the company was able to understand why NPS was fluctuating up or down.

What data or media in regards to consumer insights and social intelligence that is not used today could be interesting to explore in the future?

WhatsApp messages/groups with permissions, other peer to peer communication networks, Snapchat, and in some cases, the Darknet because clients are asking for them.

How do you think the media monitoring industry will change in the next 5 years; and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Social media will become even more prevalent at the expense of offline media. The challenge is the behaviour of data owners, such as Twitter and Facebook.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Tools for voice to text transcription will be more and more indispensable”

Lucie Geislerová

Interview with Lucie Geislerová, Chief Business Development Officer at Newton Media, a media monitoring company with head office in the Czech Republic.

Hi Lucie, what is included in your current role at Newton Media?

I have been with Newton Media altogether for 15 years, and I have to admit that I have one of the most interesting roles in the whole company. I am responsible for international business, which means I get to meet a lot of interesting people from all over the world. It’s not just a brief meeting either, as I focus on establishing new relationships and partnerships for long term cooperation.

How does Newton Media differ from other media monitoring companies in your region?

Newton has the unique advantage of having its own branches in 10 countries across our region. Some of them, like Prague or Zagreb, have their own technological research centres, and all branches can share the newest tools. This allows us to offer our customers tailor-made solutions using top industry features. Also, we can proudly say that we have deep knowledge of the media landscape of 10 European countries, which goes far beyond standard media monitoring services.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Newton Media when it comes to offering your customers analysis and developing your offer?

From an international perspective, it’s definitely data availability and metadata consistency.

Operating in 10 countries; what are the greatest challenges when it comes to offering comprehensive products and services throughout the region in such diverse markets?

It is said that unification brings a synergy with it, which is the truth in our case too, but only up to a certain level. It is my experience that the specifications of each market are very important when offering a comprehensive product. Also, I learned very early on that the diversity in our markets is actually the key to our success.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

I think the current situation shows us that quick help is priceless. We saw many companies doing great things when facing Covid-19’s effect on the whole world, and I’m very proud to say Newton Media did not stay behind the others.

One thing we are very proud of is our creation of a web app for deaf people that puts together the most important information from audiovisual sources and offers automatic subtitles thanks to our very own speech-to-text technology.

As the situation is constantly changing, TV stations do not have the time to provide a sign language translator for all of the news, which means people with a hearing disorder are at a disadvantage. However, our free web app allows them to stay current with the news; plus the service is free.

Currently, copyright and licensing for data used for monitoring differs a lot depending on region and type of media. How do you believe changes regarding copyright will affect data that is used for media monitoring in the future?

I am sure that the journey of finding the balance will continue, and the solution of using premium licenced sources will coexist with the solution of using free data. There is a market for both.

What data or media that is currently not used for monitoring could be interesting in the future?

In my opinion, we are about to see a rise in the importance of consumer data, even in our field. There is huge potential in connecting it with media content analytics. Also, tools for voice to text transcription will be more and more indispensable due to the trend of audiovisual content being published on different platforms. And I cannot forget picture detection, which is evolving rapidly.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5 years?

By coincidence, this interview is held during a very turbulent time when coronavirus is spreading quickly and unpredictably across the world. We face something that has never happened before on such a scale. It is frightening and limiting at the moment, but it is the beginning of a new era in the whole world, including our industry. It is a chance to discover a new way of working, to develop new services, and create new types of analytics. We have to listen carefully to the needs and wishes of our clients and be even more flexible.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Those that focus on providing highly comprehensive and reliable data will excel”

Todd Murphy

Interview with Todd Murphy, CEO of Universal Information Services, a media intelligence company in Omaha.

Hi Todd, what is your background, and what is included in your current role at Universal?

I grew up in the media monitoring industry as my father had purchased a press-clipping bureau in 1959. I started developing broadcast monitoring solutions in 1983 while in junior high school.

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in Communications and minored in Psychology. I didn’t plan to come back to the company business, but I saw an opportunity related to data mining and retrieving information from content databases, aggregators.

I came back in 1991, and started developing solutions for TV, radio and Internet monitoring and measurement; Internet monitoring turned into web monitoring in the late 90’s. I have seen a lot of growth from our company and had a lot of fun creating new solutions for our clients. Although I bought the company from my father a few years ago, he is still involved with our work. I am the CEO, but Jim Murphy retains the President’s title. He still comes in to work every day!

As CEO, I tell most people my current role mostly involves knocking down hurdles for my team. Removing hurdles lets my team move more quickly. I also focus on research and development of new services for our clients, as well as developing strategic partnerships and opportunities.

What differs Universal from other media intelligence companies?

Our two main competitive advantages are content and accuracy. We are the only ones that are comprehensively tracking all media types and using valid analysis methods to create highly reliable measurement data.

In contrast to software as a service vendors (SaaS), we get all the newspapers articles, TV and a large cross section of radio across the country.  Along with the traditional media, we’re also monitoring web and social content. Together this makes us unique because we have the ability to track all the content, and not just a portion of it, then analyze the full sample as needed.

Our analysis team can go in and look at the resulting data and then pull true insights out of it. Our approach follows a methodology that is accurate and replicable. In this way we avoid semantic errors, like those found with automated sentiment analysis, and we can deliver much more reliable insights.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Universal when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

Our biggest challenge has been re-educating customers coming from our competitors. Over the last 4-5 years, we have had to “re-program” customers who have used other services because they have often been mislead about what “complete coverage” means, or what “real PR measurement” includes. Automated measurement tools are very inaccurate. We let our technology do much of the heavy lifting, then our trained analysts provide the reasoned insight needed to fulfill an exacting order.

We have to tell them what it really means—TV monitoring isn’t only monitoring a TV station’s website, but actually monitoring what’s broadcast in addition to the website.

Earlier this year, you released Alpha Clips, a service that tracks article origin of shared news stories. How does that service work, and how have your customers received it?

Alpha Clips identifies the first point of entry for a story, where and how it broke. It tracks feeds from press clipping content and web content on a 24-hour cycle. We can show our subscribers the story’s true origin, and whether it was published or digital.

We are able to pull that information into our system, and, based on timing, identify which story was released first, thus identifying the alpha clip.

For example, if Los Angeles Times released a story to commonly owned outlets, it could appear in dozens of newspapers across the country. Our software will identify it as the same story, and the alpha clip will label it as a +1 or +30 (depending on the quantity of outlets that ran the story). This reduces the text our clients have to read because artificial intelligence uses journalistic rules to pull out the key elements of the story.

The benefits of Alpha Clips is the ability to show the origin of the story, save customers time by summarizing it and reducing content volume our PR and corporate clients have to go through by clustering the same story rather than identifying it as a series of repeated stories in a report.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services for your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

This January, we plan to take a big step in relation to our media measurement services. We have created a more interactive and dynamic process for our customers when it comes to the graphics and insights we offer them.

While I was at the international congress in Copenhagen, FIBEP, I realized that being able to provide our users with more support should be our focus for 2019. In line with that, we’re going to offer additional consultative services with our services. We will provide our customers with strategic insights that will help them move their outcomes in a positive direction in relation to their goals.

We’re not going to offer PR strategy, but we will suggest what customers can do to improve their outcomes based on what we know and can show them.

All clients have different levels of understanding how media can be analyzed; what is the most common misconception that your clients have?

What are valid results?
What is reliable data?

Clients who came from a software as a service (SaaS) environment that didn’t provide a lot of support, but shifted the work to the customer, have the biggest misconceptions about those questions.

Those customers often aren’t prepared to structure a focused search strategy or objectively look at data results according to a sound methodology. They may have invested a lot of personal time and money into a campaign, and subconsciously be “looking” for outcomes that may not exist.

We try to deprogram them, if you will. We provide our clients with complete transparency of our methodology and earned media results. We want our clients to see how we arrived at their insights, rather than hide them behind server code.

With the experience you have in this industry, being with Universal for 27 years, what changes have been the most unexpected over the years?

It’s been most surprising to see the largest organizations moving away from a model that focuses on customer service and support. That has been to our benefit, which is where all our growth comes from these days.

Customers have always needed support because they’re busy and shifting work to them makes their jobs even harder. Why haven’t my peers used technology to make information more easily consumed? That is what we focus on.

With your great experience, is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence has played a crucial role for a client? If so, what case was that?

I’d like to think everything—without mentioning specific clients, certain crisis management clients that would involve mass shooting situations in public places have benefited from our services. We have been able to assist them in real time by tracking and reporting the way news is shared and delivered so that our clients can understand if the media is getting facts out correctly.

We have also helped school districts avoid hiring a new superintendent who should never have been around children. We uncovered media exposure that indicated that the candidate wasn’t a good choice for the position. This information was only found due to media intelligence services—because the person was never prosecuted, a criminal background wouldn’t reveal this information. We saved the district a possible PR nightmare and prevented them from wasting a lot money.

Currently, copyright and licensing for data used for monitoring differs depending on the region and type of media. How do you see changes regarding copyright as affecting the data that is used for media monitoring in the future?

I’m optimistic that in the U.S. we still have the opportunity to do it right. Globally, we have examples all along the continuum—from dysfunctional to fully functional.

The difference in the U.S. is that we have so many more media outlets that it makes it cumbersome. There is opportunity for us to do it right because we haven’t done anything comprehensively, yet we have the chance to.

Content owners and users have to be amicable with each other because they’re in the same boat. There is not one media outlet so valuable that they can charge high licensing fees, because now clients can just get their content elsewhere.

A more common playing field is good; and opportunity to get comprehensive copyright licensing solution for the U.S. is possible. I am optimistic the U.S. can do it right.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media intelligence you do, what kind of data or media not currently used for media intelligence can be interesting in the future?

All types of data. We’re in the early stages of working with previously ignored data to overlay with media intelligence and measurement tools, creating better predictions and outcomes, such as:

● demographic data
● psychographic data
● financial data
● weather statistics
● event and crowd metrics
● behavioral modeling

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Those that focus on providing highly comprehensive and reliable data will excel. Those that are only sampling a small portion of content or those who are solely relying on software as a service will compete at the bottom for low priced clients who may not care how accurate the information is.

Those who can’t afford to miss a story or put an incorrect chart in front of their CEO are my clients, and where the growth is.

By Renata Ilitsky

“Delivering a combination of consultancy and insights is the greatest challenge for the next years”

Rinske Willemsen

Interview with Rinske Willemsen, CEO of Clipit Media Monitoring, the Netherlands.

Hi Rinske, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Clipit?

After getting my master’s degrees in Business Communication and Business Administration, I have been working in the media & publishing business and marketing management for 18 years. Since 2013, I have been the CEO of Clipit in the Netherlands, a media-monitoring agency located at the university campus of Nijmegen.

What differs Clipit from other social media monitoring companies in the Netherlands?

Our aim is to unburden our customers in their goal to make media attention transparent. Therefore, we work closely with PR (and marketing) communication specialists from corporate organizations and PR agencies to make their work easier and more efficient. We are proud to announce that the service and support provided by our media analysts with specialist media intelligence knowledge has been awarded a 9 out of 10 rating by our customers.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Clipit when it comes to serving your customer monitoring and analysis, and developing your offer?

This year we have expanded our portfolio with data-driven insights. Through a more commoditized media monitoring solution, we offer more in-depth analysis and insights to our customers. We have just started this new division, so our main challenge will be to integrate this new solution into the existing business and convince our customers to appreciate the value of (big) data.

Have you recently, or are you planning to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services for your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Clipit is a founding partner of NPSlab, which predicts the net promoter score (NPS) of an organization by combining traditional market research results with media monitoring data as input for an algorithm. NPSlab is a co-creation of market research agencies Etil and Clipit. Machine learning helped us discover a correlation between the results of questionnaires and big data from media monitoring analysis.

Combining the two can generate real time insight into the extent to which customers will recommend the organization and is an indicator of future returns. The resulting real-time NPS enables organizations to make adjustments right away to improve customer loyalty.

All clients have different levels of understanding how media can be analyzed; what is the most common misconception that your clients have?

That PR-value is a metric that registers how much you have earned on a campaign or in brand reputation. It’s not; it’s an indicator to compare different campaigns, periods or to benchmark several brands and learn from these comparisons in order to optimize your campaign or strategy.

With your experience in media intelligence, is there a specific mouthwatering case that you know of where media intelligence has really played a crucial role for a client? If so, what case was that?

We conducted media intelligence analysis for a very successful campaign for Bavaria (part of Swinkels Family Brewers’) #Carnavalvrij (day off for carnival). We integrated and analyzed all paid, earned and owned data streams and cooperated with all agencies involved. We measured to which extent the initial campaign goals were reached and we generated valuable figures and insights for the client and translated them into clear and applicable conclusions and recommendations, which the client will take into account for future campaigns. All analysis results were presented as a management summary in an online one-pager format.

When it comes to the actual data behind the media monitoring you do, what kind of data or media not currently used for monitoring can be interesting in the future?

We have noticed that PR and Communication departments often use media monitoring data only to a limited extent. However, once you understand the potential of combining monitoring data with other data streams, a wealth of possibilities opens up in terms of measuring the effect of your efforts on your business objectives.

We already offer and implement (real-time) dashboard solutions in which different data streams are linked, such as Google Analytics data, customer effectiveness, net promoter scores and sales figures.  We help our customers with the interpretation of these different types of data and offer the correct insights.

Who is your dream client, what would you focus on, how would you like to work together, and what results would you aim for, in the best of worlds?

My BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to deliver overview as well as insights to every impactful brand all over the world, to be their consulting partner in branding strategy and reputation issues. The first step of realizing this dream is within the Netherlands.

You have been invited to speak at the FIBEP World Media Intelligence Congress on October 2nd in Copenhagen. What will be your topic?

I’m very delighted to be invited and within the theme ‘Communicating Media Intelligence,’ I will speak on the importance of data visualization in big, big data analysis.

How do you present such an amount of analysis results in a clear overview to the client? With the media intelligence evaluation of the successful Bavaria Carnival free campaign, we managed to cover the best insights and respond to the main question in an interactive one-pager format.

How do you think the media intelligence industry will change in the next 5 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

Privacy laws will further restrict the availability of social media data; therefore, it will be challenging to offer more than an overview of media mentions. Delivering a combination of consultancy and insights is the greatest challenge for the next years.

By Renata Ilitsky

“The online risk landscape will change beyond recognition in five years”

Adam Hildreth

Interview with Adam Hildreth, CEO of Crisp, an online safety company based in Leeds, UK.

Hi Adam, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Crisp?

Crisp was inspired by the need for better protection for children online. My first company, Dubit Ltd, was a virtual world and chat room for kids, which I started with a group of school friends, aged 14, during the dot com era.

We built Dubit into a successful digital youth marketing platform and had globally recognized brands advertising with us, but keeping young users safe through content moderation was costing a fortune.

In the early 2000s there were no laws to protect children online, so I worked with the UK Home Secretary and the child protection taskforce to establish laws to protect young users from online grooming.

As the amount of user-generated content that posed a risk to young people and brands was increasing, I left Dubit to set up Crisp, so we could create tech that would solve the problem of toxic, illegal and brand-unsafe user-generated content online. Given my experience with Dubit, our first market was protecting children in online games.

Today, Crisp is a global company protecting some of the world’s biggest brands, kids’ games and social platforms from the riskiest of content. As CEO, I’m always looking for new opportunities to grow Crisp further, whether that’s by finding a way to protect our customers from emerging risks or keeping up with world events to spot trends that could become a risk. I tend to split my day between meeting customers or with various parts of the business and working on business strategy, developing opportunities and writing pitches.

What differs Crisp from other social media risk companies?

As social media grows, so does the risk management industry, but what sets Crisp apart is our focus on preventing brand crises.

We don’t simply identify a risk using a keyword filter; instead we use human intelligence to seek out subtle risks and toxic themes in pieces of user-generated content and alert our clients to the high-impact risks that they really care about so that they get the earliest warning possible about an impending PR issue.

We achieve this by continuously innovating and ensuring that whatever we create is produced for good and will ensure we provide our clients with the best-quality service.

Our team of engineers are recruited for their problem solving skills, creative thinking and ability to push technology and AI to its absolute limit.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Crisp when it comes to managing your customers’ risk and developing your offer?

Simply, we have to keep ahead of the risks and stay ahead of the game. Every day, we identify new threats from bad actors, and every day it’s an ongoing battle. The type of risks which we concern our customers with range from inflammatory influencer comments and physical threats to their offices and outlets, to cries for help and identifying child sexual abuse material. This content has real-life impact on people’s jobs, lives and wellbeing, so we can’t let any harmful content through for the public’s view.

To ensure we achieve this, we are always evolving our technology and our capability to protect our customers online, but the risks online are also evolving, as are the impact they can have on a client’s business. This means that one of our biggest challenges at Crisp is innovating fast, without breaking anything!

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services you offer your clients? If so, what solutions, and how will your customers benefit from them?

Whether we’re monitoring for a certain risk or not, unsafe content still exists online somewhere, and our clients can still be hugely impacted by it if we do not identify it. So we are developing our capability to detect new and emerging risks as they happen.

To give you an example, the Shiggy #InMyFeelings challenge that trended on Twitter and Instagram in July encouraging people to get out of a moving car was a dangerous new risk. No brand or platform would have wanted to be seen supporting this challenge by having user-generated content relating to it appearing on their channels. When our AI first started picking up chatter of this trend across dispersed online sources, we investigated this information, understood the impact that such a dangerous challenge could have on a number of our clients’ brand reputations and implemented systems. We did all this to ensure we were able to alert them within minutes of Shiggy-related content appearing on their pages.

As every client is affected to varying degrees by each risk, we believe that uncovering risks that have never been seen before is the most effective way of providing our clients with the very best online protection for their brand.

Can you share a specific story about when you reacted early to a severe risk situation, and the impact it had on your client?

We react in minutes to every piece of risky content. For high priority risks which we know could have serious consequences for our clients, we verify that the threat is credible and alert our customers (by phone, text or email) within minutes – we put a 100% guarantee on this!

Our fast reaction and early warnings give clients the best chance of successfully protecting their brand from a PR issue. This could be activists attacking the brand, executives embroiled in a scandal, or viral complaints about a product defect.

Recently we alerted a fashion brand to the fact that the image on one of their new garments was causing offense to veterans on social media. As soon as we identified complaints about this particular garment, we notified the brand so they could pull the clothing line before it offended more customers and allowed them to implement their crisis communications.

Your business has grown quite rapidly over the last couple of years; what are the greatest challenges for a company when growing at such a pace?

Our company has grown so fast because everyone in the company – from the top down – has an agile mindset. This is what keeps us innovating and turning problems into new opportunities; so one of our challenges has been recruiting people who are comfortable working in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment.

Another challenge we’re facing is one that many high-growth companies suffer, and that is ensuring consistent communication. As priorities and company goals evolve so quickly, keeping every one of our 100+ team members on-message and up-to-speed is a daily challenge.

Is fake news or fake sources a big issue for the social risk management that you do? If so, what are the challenges for the risk management for your customers and how do you cope with it?

Our big-name clients are concerned about their brand being associated with fake news stories and the PR implications of misleading their customers in some way. Despite the topic of fake news actually being discussed less online, it is such a volatile topic that could pull brands into a crisis at any time through no wrongdoing of their own.

Earlier this year I provided evidence to the UK House of Commons Select Committee about how fake news can be solved and for our clients. We are working with the latest technology to help identify possible fake news and alert them to it so they can act quickly to set the record straight.

Social media risk management, compared to, for instance, traditional social media monitoring, demands much higher coverage of sources to detect “flares” that can become a potentially huge risk. How do you make sure that you cover all media sources?

We search for risks which will have an impact on our customers’ brands. To do this, we monitor a wide range of platforms, including all the major social platforms, review sites, forums and news sites.

If a negative piece of content is starting to gain traction, it will appear in our monitoring. This means even if a whistleblowing employee publishes an exposé on a blog with only a handful of subscribers, as it starts being shared and therefore becoming a risk to the implicated brand, we will pick it up in minutes and assess the potential damage it could have on our client’s reputation.

We also monitor the dark web for some clients where counterfeit goods, grooming and abuse are an issue for them. It’s best that our clients do not search the dark web themselves, so we do this for them safely.

When it comes to the actual data behind the social media risk management that you do, what kind of data or media not used for your analysis today may be interesting in the future? 

One area that’s becoming increasingly important is video and the associated speech contained within them. Video is so prolific on social media now that it’s important for technology to be able to identify risks within spoken words.

What new social media threats or risks have started, or are about to emerge that you think can have a great impact in the near future?

Everyday new risks are emerging. One of the most worrying ones we’re seeing at the moment is a surge in challenges, like swallowing Tide washing powder pods. Recently, the Momo challenge which encourages self-harm or suicide, is thought to have claimed two lives. Not only would no brand want to be associated with encouraging these types of challenges, as they started to gain traction, we would alert brands where related content appeared on their channels.

How do you think the industry around social media risk management will change in the next 5 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead?

We’re already seeing some unexpected ramifications of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the UK, like attacks of people requesting their data, and these will continue as companies fall foul of the regulations and users find loopholes to exploit.

There will also be interesting challenges and debates as laws try to keep up with social media evolution. The debate about who is responsible for policing social media is a case in point that is on-going and will be for the foreseeable future.

Another challenge which we are already seeing is consumers expecting faster and faster engagement with brands. If a customer asks a brand about product availability, they expect a response in minutes, otherwise they will open a new tab and shop elsewhere. However many brands congratulate themselves on responding to customers in 24 hours. This demand for social media interaction also means that moderation teams need to react faster to calm disgruntled customers and manage enquiries.

How do you envision Crisp will change and develop over the next 5 years?

Crisp is already growing massively year-to-year, and that is set to continue through substantial organic growth from investments in our sales and marketing efforts. Over the course of five years, the online risk landscape will change beyond recognition from what it is like now, so we will continue our ongoing investment in R&D. We think of ourselves as agile innovators and cannot leave brands, platforms or vulnerable users open to any risk, so as online risk evolves, so does our technology.

By Renata Ilitsky