“The market for media intelligence platform solutions is already highly saturated”

Raina Lazarova

Interview with Raina Lazarova, Co-founder and COO of Ruepoint, a global media intelligence company.

Hi Raina, what is your background and what is included in your role at Ruepoint?

I have spent the last 10 years in the media intelligence space, first at Precise Media Group (UK) followed by a stint as Global Services Director at Kantar Media’s Reputation Intelligence business in the UK where I oversaw international customers and key vendors.

Prior to joining Precise, I was involved in the Business Information and Knowledge Process Outsourcing sectors, working with global companies such as Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones Factiva, LexisNexis, EBSCO.

In 2017, I became one of the founding members and COO of Ruepoint, a global media intelligence business with offices in Ireland, the UK and Bulgaria.

What differentiates Ruepoint from other media intelligence companies?

Undoubtedly, our biggest asset and differentiator is our team. We are very fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with skilled, motivated and passionate people who continue to surprise us every day with their creativity and exceptional effort.

Ruepoint caters for the needs of those customers in the market who need a “white-glove”, fully managed media intelligence service, typically combining media content from a variety of geographies and languages, and therefore requiring a blend of high-touch, multilingual skills, strong domain expertise and capable technology. The services we deliver are typically used by PR and communications teams, the C-suite and other key business stakeholders.

Increasingly, Ruepoint is working on cross-functional requirements, integrating data and seeking to draw insights from a wide variety of data sets from paid, earned, social and owned media, through market research and consumer insights, point-of-sale, and other business data. Customer expectations are constantly rising, and in all fairness, we are deliberately driving this change, as it gives us the opportunity to differentiate ourselves as thought leaders and drivers of change, delivering true value to our customers.

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

Historically, one of the biggest challenges in our industry has been the commoditisation of the media monitoring market. It is the part of the business that is typically characterised by higher margins, which have been eroded in recent years due to pressure from SaaS providers, promising to deliver the same value at a fraction of the price.

Ruepoint’s response to this trend has been to focus on what we are best at – delivering a high-touch editorial and analysis service, leveraging domain expertise in key industries, coupled with a consultative approach to media measurement.

Do you plan to release any new solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer clients?

We constantly strive to improve the services we offer to customers by listening to what they tell us every day. Often, that involves very specific problems that require custom solutions. We bring in experts from across the organisations, from source management, through editors and analysts, to account managers to build a multi-faceted solution that answers those needs.

All customers come with different levels of knowledge. What are the most common misconceptions that your current and potential clients have regarding what media intelligence can give them?

We treat each customer with full respect, constantly trying to provide thought leadership and best practice to help PR and communications teams excel in their job and deliver demonstrable results to their organisations. We recognise businesses operate in wildly different competitive environments that largely define their communications objectives.

At the same time, I believe that demand is a function of supply and in markets where we see misconceptions about the value of media intelligence it is largely due to the services available to that market. To address a common misconception about media measurement specifically in our home market of Ireland, for example, we have invested heavily in educating the market about the value of integrated measurement in the last four years.

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

As a sector, we need to constantly keep our finger on the pulse of any emerging media and data sources. I expect that private, subscription-based networks and formats such as Patreon and Substack will present the biggest challenge to the industry in the near future. Increasingly, content creators are looking for revenue generating models by publishing their work – podcasts, newsletters etc – to a very targeted audience prepared to pay for this content. How we as an industry go about monitoring these networks will be very interesting to see.

What in this industry has surprised you the most over the years?

It has been fascinating to watch the industry move from a largely “scissors and glue” operating model 10-15 years ago to a technology-driven sector using the latest cloud native infrastructure and AI technology. At the same time, customer requirements, very much helped by the efforts of industry thought leaders and AMEC, have evolved from number crunching to seeking to prove true business value. This has been an incredible journey to take part in for Ruepoint and me personally.

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

If you had asked the same question 10 years ago, the biggest fear of the industry was the “inevitable” demise of print media with the rise of digital and social. That clearly didn’t happen, which only comes to prove how wrong we can be in our predictions.

I think AI will be increasingly used to aid the human analysis of big data sets, but without replacing the need for cognitive intervention.

A challenge the industry is already facing is the pressure to deliver revenue growth at healthy margins from managed monitoring and evaluation services. I understand why the SaaS model is attractive to shareholders, but I think the market for platform solutions is already highly saturated. Ruepoint is focused on leveraging a mix of high-skilled editorial resources and proprietary tech to deliver the best value-for-money services to customers where and when they matter.

By Peter Appleby

“The anonymity of social data is a debate that’s not going away”

Ryszard Bublik

Interview with Ryszard Bublik, CEO of Social360, a media monitoring company in the UK.

Hi Ryszard, what is your background, and what is included in your current role at Social360?

I started my career in investment banking before moving into the communications industry, learning my trade at global critical issues management firm Brunswick Group. From there, I co-founded the boutique tech PR agency Parys Communications with business partner Patrick Herridge. While at Parys, we recognised a lack of quality social media listening tools for corporate communications teams, so we set out to build our own, and Social360 was born. That was more than a decade ago.

As I look back on it, the most rewarding and exciting part was building our technology platform from the ground up and applying the product to help industry professionals strengthen their craft – many of whom I knew personally from my days as a PR practitioner.

Now we have a successful business with a highly-experienced team based around the world, from Rio de Janeiro to New York to London to Melbourne – even Oakhampton in Devon, the home of our main tech hub. My role is to ensure the business moves forward, understanding our client’s issues and how we can help solve them. I have a senior management team around me who makes sure the company is running efficiently. The issues and requirements of our clients are constantly changing; our mission is to stay ahead of them and be a partner in their success.

What differentiates Social360 from other media monitoring companies?

We approach client relationships as a partnership and work from the belief that one size does not fit all. The needs and issues of our clients can be different each time. We work with our clients to develop and understand what they’re facing and deliver a solution that works for them. We do the heavy lifting and deliver relevant, actionable results.

We have been looking at social data for a very long time, and so our machine learning algorithms are based on more than a decade’s worth of human analysed data. That means that our models are based on one of the largest historical data sets available, which is the secret (not-so-secret) sauce from which our clients benefit.

The social media universe is vast and constantly growing; finding what you need to know from a reputational perspective is a mighty challenge. Brand trend data is the easy part, but finding information that would impact a company’s reputation is a different issue. That’s where we step in – we are the first and probably only social media listening business that focuses on reputation and risk management. With our powerful machine learning algorithms combined with our human analysts, we can deliver output that our customers can put to work immediately. We do the searching and data synthesis using human analysis so our clients can focus on the outcomes needed, not on getting the right data.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Social 360, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your service offering?

Access to high-quality data is always supercritical. Our clients don’t ever want to be caught on the back foot, so we strive to be an early warning system, spotting the reputational issues before they emerge. We work very hard to ensure that the raw uncategorised data we collect is as complete as possible but, more importantly, as relevant as possible. We believe our search and categorisation technology sets us apart.

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?

Social360 was built on our own technology platforms – back end to front end. That was primarily because off-the-shelf products were fixed in format and never had the depth of search we needed. As a result, we have always been able to stay ahead of the market and adapt to our customers’ needs by developing and implementing technology improvements as needed. We are now moving to deliver bespoke Enterprise solutions that in some cases include data beyond social data, such as regulatory data. Our search and categorisation technology can be applied to many different types of data sets, which means we can offer a bespoke solution to corporates. Rather than a corporate buying multiple other platforms to look at different data sets and then only using 10% of the functionality of each platform, we can build a bespoke platform that has the right functionality the business needs.

The other big technology rollout we are planning is using our machine learning algorithms to automate risk identification on social media. We have seen tremendous growth for our social due diligence product, where we look at the social media footprint of organisations and individuals. We believe our algorithms will allow some automation of that process and, as such, become a true risk identification engine.

All customers come with a different level of knowledge. What are the most common misconceptions your current and potential clients have regarding what media monitoring can give them?

With the proliferation of monitoring businesses banging the AI drum, some clients are led to believe that AI-led companies can somehow predict the future! Perhaps one day, but the technology isn’t there yet. AI engines definitely help dramatically filter down data; however, the last mile still requires human interpretation of that data. We focus on delivering the output that matters to our clients, not necessarily the latest technology buzzword.

Talking to one of our clients recently, they believe that no system, dashboard, or AI is 100% right all of the time. While that may be true, we think that we can significantly reduce the error rate with augmented human input and thus, in turn, train the machines to be more accurate in the future. This is a process, and we are at the beginning of it, not the end.

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

The platforms we are always asked about are peer-to-peer chat applications like Whatsapp or Snapchat. By its very nature, that data is encrypted and only available to those who are part of the conversation. Those data sources would be interesting for our clients; however, they are private conversations, so I don’t expect access to that data any time soon. It would be like placing a listening device at a dinner party in someone’s home – not a path any company should be going down.

Privacy around the use of social data is an emerging challenge. How do you think that will affect the media intelligence industry?

It is an issue, however, organisations and pressure groups will always want their voices heard, so there will always be an element of social data in the public domain. We as an industry need to ensure we know and understand the boundaries we operate in and, as such, deliver social data that is being shared publicly. The anonymity of social data is a debate that’s not going away. That debate is very mainstream now as questions are continually raised following online abuse on Twitter and other platforms – should that privacy and anonymity now be dropped? It’s a question that raises other questions around controls, freedom of speech and others.

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

I think the convergence of traditional media and social media will only accelerate, and as an industry, we need to be working harder to integrate the two better. For me, it still feels like the two are treated in silos, and that needs to change. It will be challenging,

By Peter Appleby

“Media monitoring is the key to optimizing brand communication”

Robert Stalmach

Interview with Robert Stalmach, CEO of Newspoint, a media monitoring company in Poland.

Hi Robert, how have brands’ media monitoring needs changed since the social media revolution?

Diametrically. Social media has become a key communication channel for brands. Today, the internet is largely user-generated content. 2/3 of internet users consider the opinions of other internet users to be very important and consider them in their purchasing decisions. These phenomena are changing the way brands communicate with their recipients. Users are distrustful of information obtained from brands. They prefer to be guided by the suggestions of people they trust.

Therefore, since marketing budgets are transferred to social platforms, media monitoring must also focus on this area of data. Most companies already know that they cannot afford to ignore opinions about their brands on the internet, especially on social media. It took just a few serious communication crises for brands to realize the need for constant monitoring of social media. The growing popularity of social media translates into a rapid increase in data. This creates new analytical needs. There is a growing need for information analysis – observation and aggregation are not enough.

What are the expectations of Newspoint customers?

Very varied; each has different business needs and goals. We provide comprehensive, global media monitoring and influencer analytics services. We offer data from 75 languages and 170 markets. We structure this information and present it to our clients as a useful source of knowledge. We provide tools that enable clients to gain an information advantage, e.g. in managing communication strategies or responding to image crises. We help our clients to interact with users of various types of media, analyze data and draw conclusions from it.

Therefore, the expectations of our clients are expressed through diversified goals, the achievement of which is possible thanks to the analysis of data from media monitoring. The elements of the process include obtaining information from various sources, structuring the collected data, and drawing management conclusions.

What less obvious new ways are there for brands to use media monitoring data?

New applications go hand in hand with market trends. In the increasingly demanding labor market, using media monitoring in employer branding activities is gaining popularity. Changes in the allocation of marketing budgets thus increase the need to analyze the effectiveness of influencer marketing and the match of opinion leaders in different segments.

Thanks to media monitoring, many brands want to capture information about trends that can be translated into products sold in stores. For example, house developers consider the results of online opinion analysis when making decisions about the location and facilities of housing estates.

In addition, the importance of tools such as ours in capturing sales leads is growing. Companies from industries such as financial, insurance and transport services use media monitoring directly to reach potential customers.

How crucial is fast access to data in media monitoring?

Fast access to data is crucial in a world of incredible growth rates. The current pace of content growth is never seen before in history. When communication gains such a tremendous pace, the timing of data sharing is crucial. This is a huge challenge and task for us as a company whose goal is to provide the most advanced tools for monitoring, research, and media analysis. The speed of reaction to the content appearing on the Internet is a key factor in creating the information advantage of brands, and customers appreciate not only the speed of access to data but also its quick and professional analysis.

One expectation of our clients is to monitor the content in real-time or with a minimum delay concerning the time of publication. Therefore, ensuring the stability, efficiency, and scalability of IT systems in an environment needing to index billions of documents is, on the one hand, a technological challenge and, on the other, a potential competitive advantage of those companies that do it well.

What directions of development for the future do you see for Newspoint?

Above all, continuously developing our automated media monitoring and online analytics tools. Our goal is to ensure the best possible data quality (accuracy and number of results) and provide multi-dimensional analyses useful for marketers, PR, HR, and sales managers. This requires very advanced technology.

Brands, looking for new ways to focus the attention of consumers, focused on communicating with them through network opinion leaders – influencers. Therefore, they need tools that can comprehensively analyze the value of their communication with recipients by influencers on various platforms, in any language, and with the lowest possible delay. They should also support brand communication with potential influencers and facilitate measuring the effects of cooperation between the brand and the person promoting it.

Collecting huge amounts of data is no longer enough today. The challenge is to correctly classify, analyze, process, and interpret. So, more than ever, there is a need for end-to-end analytical solutions to answer the question “why?” And not just “what?”. In influencer marketing – solutions that can compare the impact of influencer cooperation on the perception of the brand in the target group with the costs of such cooperation.

“The concept that we are the product is scary and foreign to most people”

Jim Reynolds

Interview with Jim Reynolds, Senior Director at Pulsar Platform, a social media intelligence company based in the UK.

Hi Jim, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Pulsar Platform?

I currently lead Partnerships and Alliances at Pulsar Platform, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Access Intelligence PLC.

My role focuses on all things that encompass partnerships, from data partnerships overlooking vendors including Twingly and Twitter, to fully understanding how social media can be used and utilised in the social analytics media monitoring and measurement space.

I also look after technology partnerships, focusing my energies around deciding how we interpret and understand data that comes into the Pulsar platform, and how we can create more value from data that has been augmented to our partners. I also look at indirect data, whether that be a reseller, partner or consultancy, and reach an understanding of the business viability of that partnership.

I’m the subject matter expert within the organisation, understanding the grander ecosystem and how social analytics clings with customer care and publishing, or developing a complete ecosystem.

What differentiates Pulsar Platform?

When we look at the rest of the social analytics ecosystem, what really differentiates us is the new, fresh view we have on data. Most of the other companies in this space are ten to 12 years old. Most provide services whereby they count interactions or clicks on a post and provide a basic form of sediment analysis.

Pulsar, in contrast, looks at data from a different cohort. Rather than looking at keywords and counting interactions, we strive to understand the audience or panel that are discussing something. We then start to map out what the behaviour of that something is. We ask about the personas interacting with content and the network that is driving interactions so that we can in turn drive truly valuable insight rather than just being another keyword counter.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Pulsar when it comes to serving customers?

Our customers are inundated with content and information. We strive to explain to our customers that it is beneficial to them to evangelise us rather than consider us as just another social media monitoring company. This is tough to do considering the complexity of the field, and the level of competition found within it.

Ensuring that all users in the space get insights from the datasets they’re contracting is another challenge. We need to make sure our customers have that access to information and that they know we are doing something special with it.

How may changes in privacy law changes impact the industry?

Facebook, the issues that emerged with Cambridge Analytica and Twitter’s varying approaches to privacy, as well as the limited access to its platform, have put a lens on an industry that was already opaque when it comes to privacy.

Compliance is interesting. Press, media and broadcast monitoring have existed, in some form, for hundreds of years at this point. Regulation and compliance will always lag behind market adoption. We’re now at an intersection. We love the simplicity of carrying a cell phone but the concept that we are the product is scary and foreign to most people. Regulation will catch up eventually.

But when we think about the value of this data for the owner of this data and the broadcaster that will share it, we see the increase in privacy laws as part of a natural curve. Markets learn the value of understanding how audiences, peers or constituents think and most people are fine with data collection as long as it is done in an ethical and transparent way. Where it gets creepy is when content is being manipulated or opinions changed. Networks have not done a good enough job at being transparent and we as the vendors need to do a better job of speaking up too.

Does Pulsar Platform have any new technologies it intends to release into the market soon?

We have continued to be an innovator in the market and are very proud of being first to market with datasets like TikTok and Pinterest. We’re going to continue that trend.

Of course I’d love to share sneak peeks of what we’re doing next but I’m sworn to secrecy! But the areas we’re focused on are continuing to share additional network datasets, so that when looking at the core of a problem – like which audiences are sharing which information – those insights can surface faster to drive decisions. Augmenting AI-based analysis to onboard additional partners will also be a focal point.

Which of the services you offer do you think are under-utilised by clients?

Education of users is difficult. I’ve yet to see a product manager in the industry that doesn’t want their data utilised in a better way by their customers.

On our side, the more we can educate our users to understand the intersection of content and the shareability of content, whether that be a network view, data thematics streams or emotional analysis, the better. I understand how difficult it is for users, and every single customer base of every single platform has users underutilising features. If I was to be selfish, I’d like more folks to know about the power of network analysis and how information spreads through nodes.

How do you predict the social media intelligence industry will change in five years time?

Now that I’ve been in the industry for 12 years, the single greatest challenge that I do not see changing is data accessibility. There will always be a new network emerging, or more private networks but data access will vary. Countries that have strong control over data access like in regions in the Pacific – if China does not want a consumer accessing a dataset they just turn it off – will continue to be a challenge. This can be hard to explain to Global 2000 organisation: it isn’t the same as negotiating with a company.

But when we talk about change, the things that get me excited are areas like the consumption of digital assets. We’re on the cusp of something really exciting considering the changes that have occurred during the pandemic. The world is now digital first for all things. Remote work is here to stay and users will continue to share. The more vendors like ourselves expand into digital measurement, digital understanding and looking at the full ecosystem, the more the lens of what we review will expand. As users become more aware that companies are sucking information out of them, we will move further towards observational sciences.

By Peter Appleby

“The real winners will be the companies that not only cope with massive data pools but can also measure the real impact”

Vilūnė Kairienė

Interview with Vilūnė Kairienė, Head of Monitoring and Analysis at Mediaskopas, a media monitoring company in the Baltics.

Hi Vilūnė, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Mediaskopas?

Interestingly, Mediaskopas is my first ever job. Back in 2007, I started to look for some additional work while I was studying Philology (I was a 19 year old student at the time) and found that Mediaskopas was looking for a media intelligence specialist: the role sounded really interesting to me! I passed the tests and there I was, at the beginning of my journey into the media intelligence ocean, which has lasted almost 15 years up to now.

Over time, I’ve been promoted through different roles and now I’m here as Head of Analytics and Data Solutions. It’s a position that is perfect for me, I really cannot imagine a better fit.

My current position includes not only managing a team of data analytics experts, but also ensuring that our managers and team members are working toward a common goal. The most important part of my job is to convert insights into strategic opportunities for our company – I work closely with leaders across departments to support and implement high-quality, data-driven decisions.

What differentiates Mediaskopas from other media intelligence companies?

I think that the Mediaskopas’s primary strength is its people. The company is ready for its clients 24/7, and this is vital because crises never arrive at convenient moments, especially in the PR field. The second thing that makes Mediaskopas a leading media intelligence services choice is our AI-powered system allows us to create different products for each client that are tailored to every need and which makes each and every communication process easier.

Mediaskopas is a part of the Baltic Media Monitoring Group (BMMG), which operates in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. What are the greatest challenges to offer comprehensive products and services throughout the different countries?

The Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) are not big countries, but they are really different. Different markets and varying customers’ needs mean that we always need to be a few steps ahead of our competitors. But this requirement makes us stronger. In most cases, we have the tools and products customers need available before they even ask for them.

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?

Working on new technologies is a never ending process in BMMG companies. While I can’t give any specific details, I can say that up to five new solutions are being developed as we speak and that automated intelligence and machine learning are everyday parts of what we do.

All customers come with different levels of knowledge. What challenges do you face when it comes to onboarding new customers for media intelligence?

As we are working in an environment that changes each and every day, our onboarding and all other customer service processes are based on providing exceptional and appropriate care and assistance. The biggest challenge, I would say, is to prove to every new client that we can indeed provide everything we say we can and that “everything is possible”.

Is there any aspect of your platform that you believe has great potential but has not been fully embraced by your clients yet?

Our platform has allowed our customers to reach back into and use the full media archive for years. I think it’s a real treasure, but it also requires time and effort to dig into. Of course, time is money, so it is usually only our analysts who are digging into the archive.

Privacy around the use of social data is an emerging challenge. How do you think that will affect the media intelligence industry?

We are covering all possible types of media at the moment: print, online, news wires, radio, TV and social.

The biggest challenge these days is indeed social media and its privacy issues. We do see a growing interest in it, but the social media pool is so big that even our customers, who work with social media on a daily basis, are unsure where to start and what the metrics are that they should actually monitor. They ask themselves questions like whether covering Facebook alone is enough, or if they should also be working with TikTok.

The real winners will be the companies that not only cope with massive data pools but can also measure the real impact of each and every post, video, and link.

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

As media is changing really fast – the impact of print is falling drastically while online is increasing – media intelligence companies will need to change as well. I see a big change from where the industry is today compared to 15, 5 or even 2 years ago.

More recently, COVID-19 has had a major impact. Now it seems that everyone and everything is online, so media intelligence companies must be the first ones to gather all that information, digest it and present conclusions in real time. The last quarter is history to learn from, but not to be working with.

By Peter Appleby

“The communication and PR industry stands at a crossroads”

Richard Bagnall

Interview with Richard Bagnall, co-managing partner of CARMA and Chairman of AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication.

Hi Richard, what is your background and what is included in your current roles at CARMA and AMEC?

I began my career as a PR and communications professional and fell into measurement by chance, joining the founder of a new company, Metrica, in the mid ‘90s. I was brought in to grow the business and, over a process of 15 years, it developed into the world’s largest comms measurement business of its day. In 2009, the company was bought by a private equity firm and together with Durrants, Gorkana and Metrica, we merged to form the Gorkana Group. I ran global measurement and evaluation for four years before leaving to become PRIME Research’s UK CEO and SVP of Europe.

Three years ago, I joined long time industry friend and colleague Mazen Nahawi at CARMA as the global co-managing partner and the CEO of our European and Americas business. I have P&L responsibilities for these businesses while also consulting with our clients on tailored evaluation services to provide meaningful PR measurement. Our approach is to attract the world’s most experienced team of measurement and evaluation consultants, which when combined with the great tech on which our services are built, makes CARMA what we believe to be the strongest PR measurement company in the world.

On top of this, I have been the Chair of AMEC for almost six years now. My role at AMEC focuses on industry best practice, ongoing education and ensuring a common and consistent approach all around the world. For education to succeed, it is critical to have a common and consistent voice around the globe all singing from the same hymn sheet.

How does Carma differentiate itself from other media intelligence companies?

First, we are a truly global business and work on all major continents. Second, we are not owned by a private equity firm; we are predominantly privately-owned, including by the management team.

As an industry, there has been a rush driven by the influx of venture capital to focus on software-as-a-service (Saas) and platform-based solutions. This brings with it an emphasis on technology, tools and armies of sales teams. Our view is that PR and comms pros do not need yet more nuisance sales calls, pretty charts and dashboards! They need relevant experience, critical thinking, expertise, and world class service and support to help them make sense of the changing media and comms environment.

Great technology is a critical building block in the offering, but it must be used appropriately for what it is good at: it is excellent for massive number crunching and the lightning-fast heavy lifting of significant data sets, but it is not a solution to PR’s measurement challenges in itself. It has to be the servant, not our master. By their very nature, Saas dashboards tend to count what is easy to count, not measure what actually matters. To measure what matters requires tailoring against organisational and comms objectives, and measuring beyond activity to the actual effects that a communications programme delivered.

Our culture also allows us to stand out. Our teams in each geography are some of the brightest, most hard-working and enthusiastic that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. We support, train and educate our team constantly to ensure that we are all, always learning. This approach attracts the very best talent, and the clients too.

What are the challenges for the market ahead?

The major challenge the market faces is one of education and understanding. For too long, PR and communication evaluation has focused on media content evaluation and ‘output’ metrics. These alone only measure activity, not results, and the number on their own can be pretty meaningless – often the inflated ‘vanity’ metric of which we all hear. Worse than this is the concept of a single number to measure PR and comms. For some this was the appeal of AVEs, and some PRs are hoping that AMEC might create or endorse a new single metric to replace this discredited number. But a single number can never measure all the nuances of communication, nor can it provide relevance, context nor insight.

The global pandemic has accelerated the need for PR and comms pros to professionalise their approach to evaluation. We must point to the value that we create, not just count activity. Activity without benefit is just cost. CFOs across the world are stripping unnecessary costs out of budgets as they look to save money, preserve cash and shore up finances for the uncertainties that lie ahead.

To do this, PR teams must not run the risk of being seen as ‘busy fools’ embroiled only in tactics. It begins with a proper plan, aligning with organisational objectives, setting meaningful targets and KPIs, and then measuring beyond the outputs to showing how opinions have been changed, minds informed and advocacy developed, and then ultimately the organisational impact of the work done.

What are the most important aspects that AMEC provides the industry?

AMEC is the global, single, credible voice of best practice, an organisation that the world of comms can turn to for advice, guidance, case studies and education on all aspects of media intelligence and public relations measurement. Founded 25 years ago as a UK-based media evaluation trade association, it has grown into a global professional body covering all aspects of communication evaluation with almost 200 members in 86+ countries.

Since inception, AMEC has been known for its educational initiatives. The first of these were the Barcelona Principles which we launched in 2010. They are seven broad statements defining what comprises best practice. Think of them as a 30,000-foot view, principles that explain what you should and should not be doing from a measurement perspective. They have been iterated every five years since to make sure they are up to date and reflect latest thinking and media and comms trends.

The Integrated Evaluation Framework then takes the Barcelona Principles one step further by showing the way to operationalise the principles. I led the talented AMEC team that created the Framework. It incorporated experts from all areas of comms and evaluation, PR agencies, in-house practitioners, monitoring/evaluation agencies, and academia. All gave generously of their time and worked collaboratively together, one of AMEC’s core strengths.

The framework is based on something called Process Evaluation which is a standard approach used in other business disciplines to measure effectiveness and efficiency throughout organisations. It was important for AMEC to bring proven management performance measurement approaches to the world of communications evaluation, and not invent something that would lack credibility in the C Suite. It was also important that it would be easy to understand, provide advice and guidance and work for all organisations of whatever size and with whatever budget.

The Framework has been translated into 22 languages, is taught at universities and is globally acknowledged as best practice. Latest AMEC research shows it’s been used at over 2000 organisations around the world.

Where will the Barcelona Principles and Integrated Evaluation Framework be improved upon?

The Barcelona Principles were created in 2010 and have been revised and refreshed since then every five years, the most recent time being in 2020. We believe this to be the right cadence as the comms and media industries continue to evolve to ensure that they are up to date.

The Integrated Evaluation Framework, being based on process evaluation, is an approach or a methodology, not a tool or a metric. As such, there is not a lot within it to iterate, but we are focused on making it more and more accessible and approachable to organisations across the globe. We are focused then on more how-tos, case studies and educational support. This year for example we launched a raft of planning support materials, showing how and why proper PR planning is such a critical and integral part of measurement and evaluation, and where it fits within a measurement framework. For the coming year, our educational focus will be on a free online course showing how to apply the framework to your organisation.

Privacy around the use of social data is an emerging challenge. How do you think that will affect the media intelligence industry?

There will be a further decline in relevance and meaning for many of the old school output metrics that were the primary focus of evaluation for so long. Many of them are now just the vanity metrics of today, the ever-larger numbers that mean very little. Impressions, for example, are impossible to define accurately and cannot be thought of as anything much more than an index.

We have seen some evaluation vendors try to innovate and come up with cookie-based solutions to work out more accurate impression numbers. This sounds great as a concept but relying on cookie and ad-based tracking technologies has been hampered by privacy concerns and cookie and ad blocking software. My personal view is that the search for an ‘accurate’ number of people reached across the diverse media landscape is nigh on impossible. Instead of focusing on that, professionals should be looking to link the output metrics to the outtakes and outcomes that their organisation cares about.

I also see the automation side of the media intelligence sector declining in importance while AI is not yet suitably equipped to provide the insights that the industry requires.

Do you have any final thoughts?

That the communication and PR industry in my mind stands at a crossroads. It has great opportunity but also faces a significant threat. It has to evolve its approach to measurement and evaluation, to focus on demonstrating how we support and drive organisational impact. This involves taking the time to tailor and structure a relevant measurement approach for your own organisation, one that looks across all three dimensions that we have been talking about – outputs, outtakes and outcomes. It involves planning up front and setting targets based around desired outcomes, not just activity. This takes time, and thought and can’t be outsourced to commoditised vendors. It needs relevance, critical thinking and experience.

By Peter Appleby

“Media monitoring has been devalued as a term”

David Mapple

Interview with David Mapple, Director of Outcider, a media intelligence company in the UK.

Hi David, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Outcider?

My background is in marketing and business consultancy. I was working at a marketing consultancy when I met my business partner, and we left to set up Outcider on the basis that the clients we were working for were asking to understand media; what does it mean, what do we need to listen to and what can we do with it?

We went to market utilising just a few pieces of kit to create reports for clients. At that time, clients didn’t want dashboards or to log into platforms, they wanted reports that would explain the media landscape and their position in it. We found that the platforms we were using were not making life easy and from a scalable point of view we would need many more analysts, which was never the premise of the business. So we decided to build one ourselves: not an easy process.

My role today at Outcider is best defined as product manager, but I maintain my media analyst role too. My partner runs the business whereas I build the business. Because I’ve been analysing media for so long, I can give a perspective on what our system should be and how it needs to evolve. I receive feedback from the team and our clients on what they need in terms of output for our system’s analysis.

What differentiates Outcider from other media intelligence companies?

First and foremost, what sets us apart is our background; we find out what the client wants in terms of output and engineer that back into a piece of software. We have a consultative approach.

We found that in the early days of the business, large competitors were producing stats that were then passed to the clients, who often didn’t know what to do with it. It was more of a box ticking exercise for companies than one that added value. Now, we’re able to be part of the team of the client, and we can offer them a closer service beyond the reports.

We’ve been able to do this because we’re a smaller company. As the company grows, this will become harder to maintain and will invariably need more account managers. That’s why we’re reassessing our software, to build in Intercom and other systems that can help with guidelines, while we also change the brief as we go forward.

What are Outcider’s greatest challenges ahead when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offering?

With our decision to sell software, we are making the decision to move away from consultancy work. We want to sell software to agencies, public affairs in particular.

The major challenge for us is data credibility. There are all sorts of data out there – social, traditional, broadcast – everyone has an opinion and is allowed to express it. We need to remember that just because an opinion is published in The Times, does not make it valuable. In fact, if that opinion is in The Times or The Washington Post then it is too late for what we want. We need to look below the surface to find the opinions that will soon find the light. So-called opinion makers are where we’re focusing now, finding out why they think what they think, their agenda and their background. This is a challenge because we deal with a lot of regulated industries – academic or scientific resources are often funded by the people they’re advocating for. This is something that concerns us. That’s why we look for credibility of data and sources prior to producing reports and metrics on them.

Are you about to release any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve services you offer your clients?

We will release a new piece of software – a stakeholder analysis platform – on July 4 this year. The platform will still provide media monitoring and will base its extraction of entities on media data. With the software we can set up a key media topic and bring in a dataset. The software will then extract key people and organisations, connection them, and profile them so that when a client logs into the system they can go into the directory of stakeholders on any given topic to see those that have spoken most frequently on the topic, what they’re saying, why they’re saying it and other similar points. When the client thinks a particular stakeholder is of interest, they can be tagged and monitored before being moved over to a COM system where stakeholder engagement can happen. The impact of that engagement can then be monitored on the system so clients can see why they are speaking to stakeholders and how to influence the influencers.

Media monitoring, we believe, has been devalued as a term. There is now a race to the bottom that we do not want to be involved in. We want high-end credibility in regulated industries; legislation, regulation and the likes, less so in brand reputation.

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

Over the years, social media data has been a bugbear for me. I’ve generally refused to use it because there are so many other systems that do social media analysis. Outcider does traditional media analysis. There’s more content to work with, and we can then find context from that content.

That said, we have finally accepted that with the new architecture of our new software system, which can pull in data from different streams including social, that we will use it. The previous system was built around traditional data whereas this one has a wider net. This will give Outcider further opportunities, but we will always begin from the traditional analysis end, rather than the other way around. We believe this is the most valuable method.

Political, legislative and legal data streams will also be useful within the new system. This is where we see our future.

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

Many people within the industry are talking about AI. The technology we all use and access to servers like Amazon AWS has undoubtedly helped the industry advance and to build software. Collaborative, open share software is improving and will continue growing in popularity, while data visualization is also making major steps.

But there’s a concerning trend of a race to the bottom to reduce costs that is happening. Often, the reality is that upfront costs are reduced but there are additional costs elsewhere in the process. This is something Outcider will not be part of, hence why we’re trying to move away from the media monitoring term.

It’s important for us to continue looking forward to having foresight on opinions rather than reflecting on what has already passed. Media monitoring by its nature looks backwards. Learning from the past is important, but our goal has always been being able to have anticipation.

We’ve always subscribed to augmented intelligence rather than AI. This is in contrast to the general industry opinion. Certainly AI has its place but we have always chosen to augment the best of our human capabilities and those of technology together. If we use technology wisely and appropriately, humans are freed up to do what humans are best at; consultative analysis and speaking to clients directly. We began with an ethos of 80% human and 20% technology use. We’re trying to reverse that so the software is doing the number crunching and that we can then provide our expertise, to turn it into valuable reports.

By Peter Appleby

“Access to new content channels that are relevant to clients continues to be a challenge for the media intelligence industry”

John Croll

Interview with John Croll, CEO of Truescope, a media intelligence/CommTech company based in Australia.

Hi John, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Truescope?

I have been in the media intelligence industry for a very long time and the reason I get tagged as an industry “veteran”. For almost two decades I was the CEO of Media Monitors, later named Isentia, and led the growth of that business from a press clippings agency in Australia to an integrated media intelligence business operating in 11 international markets, with 1,200 employees and 5,000 clients by the time I resigned in 2018.

As the CEO of Truescope, which I co-founded two years ago with Truescope CTO Michael Bade, I’m working with some of the smartest, most experienced people to build a communications technology business across three countries focused on bringing new data and new services to the market.

At Truescope, the greatest challenges have been to manage our growth, launch in a number of countries in the middle of a pandemic, and prioritise which innovations and features to develop on the platform.

What differentiates Truescope from other media intelligence companies at the national and international level?

I believe that from the get-go, Truescope has been uniquely positioned due to the fact that we have people that are both technologically super-smart and who also really understand the communications technology and media intelligence industries.

We have been able to build a platform that is truly the next generation in our industry. We have our ear to the ground, listening to what communicators expect from a platform to be more efficient in their jobs now, but also further ahead, to bring them access to services and data they might not have even thought possible. So, we’re talking real-time insights, not just real-time information.

Being cloud-based, our technology architecture also means we can build new features quickly, based on client feedback, and deliver them every month, so speed is another key differentiator.

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

Access to new content channels that are relevant to clients has always, and continues to be, a challenge for the media intelligence industry.

Since we started two years ago, we have experienced rapid growth – particularly in the Singapore market where we were recently appointed to the panel for the whole of government contract and are rapidly picking up more new business – and enjoyed an excellent client response. Supporting that growth whilst continuing to maintain the highest service standards as we grow is always at the forefront of our minds.

Truescope is a fairly young company. From where do you see that your future growth will come and what is needed to succeed?

We are very young; Michael Bade and I joined together almost two and a half years ago and it was just us. Now there are 30 of us in the Truescope group working across three countries.

Our future growth will come as we expand into new markets and continue to focus on product development, delivering cutting-edge products that differentiate us from the legacy players and giving proof that media intelligence is developing into communications technology. Truescope is at the forefront of this.

Do you have any plans to release, or have recently released, any new technology-based solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

When it comes to technology, Truescope believes that AI will continue to be the key to making meaning and predictions of huge volumes of data. We’re able to provide fast sentiment analysis on whole articles as well as entities within articles, to identify influencers relevant to a client, and to recommend relevant content to a client based on viewing and engagement behaviour.

In the near future, improvements in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and further, achieving Natural Language Understanding (NLU), will lead to faster and more accurate insights for clients. Bringing AI based new products, as well as regular platform improvements based on client feedback, will be our continued focus.

Privacy around the use of social data is an emerging challenge. How do you think that will affect the media intelligence industry?

We all have to be responsible users of people’s data. Content owners are ensuring that we manage and work with their data in a compliant way; there are rigorous renewal processes to ensure we adhere to these conditions. If we continue to be good corporate citizens and respect data and content then I think we will continue to be trusted.

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

Technology is going to change the industry from confirming-something-happened information, to data models that can predict the evolution of a story. This will become an expectation of businesses in the media intelligence and communications technology industries. Clients are going to look for real-time information on the PESO model so integrated communications measurement is going to evolve and AI will play an important part in delivering these insights in real-time.

By Peter Appleby

“Enriching your communication with neutral third-party sources is a successful way to increase your trust”

Reto Kleeb

Interview with Reto Kleeb, CTO of Scope, a SaaS platform for digital communication based in Switzerland.

Hi Reto, what is your background and what is included in your CTO role at Scope Content?

I started my journey in the software field around the year 2000. Back then the term cloud didn’t exist, internet access was still expensive and slow, or almost nonexistent on mobile devices. Separate office sites that our team was managing were connected via proprietary, private data lines and the core data was stored in our basement on servers that the size of a large fridges. A lot of the fundamental building blocks we take for granted today were simply out of reach or didn’t exist at all.

In my role at Scope I work with our distributed product team on making the most out of the ever-scarce development resources. The joy of this role comes from juggling many hats: discussing product strategy in the morning, chats with our developers, talking to clients about potential integration scenarios and then, if time permits, an occasional line of code.

What differentiates Scope from other content marketing companies?

Scope has its roots in the idea of content curation. We believe that curated links or reading recommendations that are enriched by personal comments and opinions provide measurable benefits over classical editorial content that is handwritten. I absolutely do not want to belittle proper journalistic content, but if this is the only option you have, you will soon realize that things get expensive quickly and that regardless of the quality of the result, there is a chance that it will leave the impression that is biased. Enriching communication with links to neutral third-party sources is a successful way to position yourself as a thought leader on the relevant industry topics, to increase the trust in your communication and to simply provide a real benefit to the audience. No one needs more sales oriented communication, but if you manage to communicate on a regular basis in a way so that the content is perceived as real, added value, your clients will keep you in mind.

On top of this “curation DNA” that is the fundament of our platform, we also believe that a structured workflow across different platforms does increase productivity significantly. A lot of the communication processes that we see today are fairly scattered and error prone. Word documents and copy/paste still play a significant role and we have all had email-newsletters in our inboxes that contained $FIRSTNAME placeholders and had odd looking font mixes. The workflow support of Scope helps our clients to keep an overview of what content has been used, potentially reused, in a simple and structured manner.

So, summed up, Scope provides a solution that combines inspiration on the content side and workflow support on the side of the actual task execution. This combination isn’t something that is already widely adapted on the market and people tend to compare us with solutions that they are familiar with. But in most cases these aren’t really alternatives to our product, but solutions that we integrate with. We would jokingly say “Think Zapier rather than Mailchimp” to emphasize the fact that we’re agnostic to where the data comes from and where the content is pushed to.

What are the most popular features in your content marketing platform?

It depends on the user’s persona. Some of our clients “live” in the world of their content and are very active on the internet, or in the case of publishers, they produce their content themselves and therefore the question “what to curate?” is easily answered. This persona focuses on the editor and the automations that are offered within it.

On the other hand we have clients that heavily rely on the “Discovery” functionality in Scope. Without a constant flow of article recommendations it would be too time consuming for them to create or discover enough content.

In general, we have seen an uptake in interest in our offering during the pandemic. Existing and newer clients relied, at least partially, on physical events before the outbreak. Finding ways to stay in touch despite these circumstances became more and more important. An important detail, especially in the spring of 2020, was our support to start entire communication projects from scratch within short timeframes. Granted, one could also start with one of the other big platforms to, for example, send emails. But these platforms lack what we call the “individual playbook support”: Where are you today? Where do you want to be tomorrow (we called this the “24 Hour Challenge”)? What are the realistic technical details that need to be taken care of to get there?

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new features in your platform to improve the services you offer your clients?

Besides the continuous improvements that we roll out on a regular basis we are working on a significant next step in our data supply chain. When Scope clients use the “Discovery” feature today, their search-requests are sent to individual third-party search engines. This direct exposure of our users to the individual platforms is something we have always seen as a problem. While for us and our customer success team, it is straightforward to pick the appropriate provider and their specific arguments, an average user shouldn’t have to deal with these choices and details. On top of that there were some underlying technical details that made it hard for us to summarize and enrich the articles we’d found.

With our current efforts in this area we’re going to be able to collect the results from multiple sources and feed them through a pipeline of steps that would increase the quality of the data before we present it to our users. While this already is going to be a big step, we’re not planning on stopping there. This structured storage of all the relevant information will then allow us to build feedback loops and integrate approaches based on machine learning to further improve the quality of our recommendations.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Scope when it comes to serving your customers and developing your service offering?

Scope provides a service that covers both technological and editorial aspects. These two areas are typically owned by different stakeholders or teams within our clients’ organizations. From the vantage point of the providers and tools, these two (or more) parts of an organization typically have their individual, dedicated approaches. When we introduce Scope we literally have to bring everyone to the same table.

When it comes to sales, a constant challenge is definitely the fact that the service bundle offered by Scope isn’t something that is already widely known. The combination is novel and the benefits of integration in an existing landscape of tools and processes require a lot of explanation and endurance.

When it comes to the data in your content platform, what kind of data or media not currently used could be interesting in the future?

I wouldn’t say that it is one particular media or data type, but the possibility to search for specific (media) types. In the last two years we noticed an uptake in the particular interest for content in the form of videos and podcasts. Our current search-approaches work for the basic cases, but we can’t claim that we have full coverage for these types, and the truth is that with the ongoing platform shifts such as the introduction of new video streaming platforms and big corporations making significant investments in the podcast industry, it won’t be easy to keep up. I am personally a big fan of podcasts and it is interesting to witness the transformation from simple MP3 files and open RSS feeds to exclusive content on proprietary platforms, that are then of course harder to index.

By Peter Appleby

“This pandemic has demonstrated that market and competitive intelligence capabilities are more critical than ever”

Jesper Martell

Interview with Jesper Martell, Co-Founder and CEO of Comintelli, a competitive intelligence company based in Sweden.

Hi Jesper, what is included in your current role as CEO at Comintelli?

My day-to-day responsibilities and activities differ greatly depending on what is most prioritized. I try to talk to customers, partners and/or prospects on a daily basis to stay in touch with what the market wants. At the moment I am also deeply involved in digitalizing our marketing and leads generation.

I think it is important that a CEO wears many hats. This is why I am also dedicated to other roles as an international keynote speaker and thought leader. I was also recently inducted as a CI Fellow as one of very few Europeans. I hope to contribute greatly in this role.

What differentiates Comintelli and Intelligence2day from other tools and platforms in the media and competitive intelligence sector?

Intelligence2day is one of the few full service Market & Competitive Intelligence (M&CI) platforms, which means we are a platform that you can grow into. It is a solution that is flexible enough to start you out small and develop as you grow into many thousands of users and articles. The biggest mistake, and the most costly one you can make, is to lock yourself into a system that won’t grow with you.

Intelligence2day has solutions for 4 main applications:

  • Media Monitoring – news from internal, external sources and alerts
  • Intelligence Management – search and classification
  • Insight Generation – sharing lists, reports and curation
  • Early Warning Radar – such as heat maps, trend clusters and signal spotter

Many M&CI platforms focus on monitoring external websites, but this only gives you half the picture if that. We put more emphasis on internally produced content and on ensuring that it is as relevant as possible under the tagline “less is more”.

What are the client behaviour trends you have witnessed as a result of COVID-19?

We’ve seen our clients pivot in the most extraordinary ways during COVID-19. It is clear that many businesses have found themselves in strange situations but in the same breath, the pandemic has helped them to think out of the box and to change behaviors. This crisis has demonstrated that market and competitive intelligence capabilities are more critical than ever.

What we hear now from the market is that there is an increased appetite for CI as a result of COVID-19. This is not just from senior management, but from all parts of organizations such as product development, supply and even customer success departments.

Have you recently, or are you about to, release any new features in your platform to improve the services you offer your clients?

Our latest version of Intelligence2day enhances data analysis capabilities with powerful AI-based features that utilize machine learning and natural language processing technologies. These new AI-based features allow users to discover market insights quicker with AI-based content classification, hashtag based classification, trend clusters, AI-based signal spotter and auto summarization.

Many organisations are being asked to do more with less resources. AI based tools will help customers by removing many manual processes and automating routine tasks like classifying content and creating newsletters.

On your website you ask if clients “have what it takes to be future-proof”. What does being future-proof mean to you, within the scope of your industry?

Being future-proof means that you are ready for any challenge or opportunity that arises because they certainly will. And when you have the right intelligence tools on your side, you can do extraordinary things and make great business decisions.

If you are future proof you will be able to detect signals of change and disruption earlier than your competitors. This gives you time to act and make the necessary decisions needed to take advantage of change.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Comintelli when it comes to serving your customers and developing your service offering?

I think the greatest challenge will always be to grow together with our customers and to make sure that they are getting value from our platform at all stages of their journey.

This means that the information and insights derived from Intelligence2day are actually used for decisions and actions. Even the best insights are useless if no one reads them or acts upon them.

Are there any solutions that you believe offer great potential but have not yet been embraced by clients?

Many M&CI users naturally start with the basics like monitoring the right sources and getting news alerts out to decision makers. This is a great and necessary step to track all competitive forces that you are aware of.

But once you have that foundation in place, there is huge potential to detect early warning signals. For example, you can discover events and occurrences that you didn’t know you were looking for and are not one of your key intelligence topics, but that could potentially disrupt your industry.

This means making more use of visualizations like trend clusters and signal spotters. My favorite would have to be our unique Heat Maps feature. Heat Maps is the perfect combination of visual news monitoring and AI based detection. Just a quick glance at these every week will tell you more than what you can read in any newspaper or website.

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

Finding news and tracking what competitors have done is very easy today. What I think will be more interesting in the future is data that can provide indication on what competitors will do, for example which patents have been filed. This could include data from:

By Peter Appleby