“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

“We need to be faster than editorials and journalists to put our customers ahead of time”

András Szalay-Berzeviczy

Interview with András Szalay-Berzeviczy, CEO of TranzPress, a media intelligence company based in Hungary.

Hi András, what is your personal background and what do you do in your role as CEO of TranzPress?

I look after general management tasks from strategical planning and sales to human and technical resourcing questions. I also lead the product development of our proprietary media intelligence tool, PressMonitor. I co-founded TranzPress 15 years ago and since then have not thought of doing anything other than building the company and its two branches of operation: the translation services and international media monitoring services departments. The two business lines explain our slogan: “TranzPress – Language and media intelligence”.

How does TranzPress differ from other media intelligence companies and how does the company’s language specialization help differentiate it from competitors?

In Hungary, we are swimming in the blue ocean. We are the sole company that provides customized international media intelligence services. Our targets are Hungarian corporates with regional or international presence and national public institutes that operate in the domains of foreign affairs, diplomacy or external economic relations. For the former, our service is focusing on industry watch and reputation management services, while for the latter we provide intelligence.

If our translation department were not one of Hungary’s key market player, we would not be able to meet the needs of our media monitoring customers, because we work exclusively with foreign language data and content. Without linguistic intermediation – such as news summaries, reports, analytic and data mining – the service would be half-dead.

What are the new technology-based solutions you have recently released into the market or are intending to?

PressMonitor is a collaboration between our customers and us. We had a basic concept back 10 years ago when we launched Hungary’s one and only international media monitoring service but if our clients had not given constant feedback the tool would not be where it is today. For instance, we have developed a completely new PR-measurement concept based on the sentiment and reach of media coverage (instead of following the outdated AVE methodology) and our analytics is backed up by PressMonitor’s unique data visualization capabilities: it can visualize where a PR—activity started, how intense coverage it yields, the sentiment it generates, the size of the audience it reaches, the events and interactions influencing the trend – in one single, comprehensible chart. Another example is our quotation text-mining module that extracts quotes along with the names of speakers as entities. This is very handy when dealing with large corpora. It facilitates the comprehension of your media and gives you a powerful tool to interact with the media that pick up your stories and helps them evaluate the efficiency of your communication.

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

Firstly, we need to face the fact that our service is more and more time critical. We are expected to run our service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not just in terms of software accessibility, but in terms of providing around-the-clock living labor services, such as daily reporting and customer service. On the other hand, again and again we come across new demands in terms of online and offline content types or countries to be covered. As for content management there is a growing demand for data granularity, i.e. country-specific classification of sources are no longer enough. We need to dig deeper to regional and local levels. We also need to improve our integrated natural language processing technologies and enable our customers to generate alerts in formats other than e-mail and SMS in order to provide multiplatform compatible solutions.

Please give some examples of clients that have benefitted from your services. What were their needs and how did you meet them?

We aggregate hundreds of thousands of indexed online and offline news and social media sources. The crawlers scan through a huge volumes of content every day. Open source intelligence is searching, collecting and processing information from all public information channels potentially valuable for the customers. It is most rewarding when we see that we supported the client in reaching his goals. We work for organizations like the Hungarian Promotion Agency that aims to attract investments to our country. From the beginning our software and team picked, analyzed and digested information that could support them in their negotiations. Today, the Hungarian media is full of two monumental, milestone investments: a new plant for BMW Group in Debrecen and SK Innovations in Komarom, the latter of which is the largest ever greenfield investment in Hungary. We are proud to have provided the agency with all relating news coverage and publicly available information in the recent years.

One of our key accounts is the European Parliament. We report on Brussels on a daily basis with news summaries from the Hungarian media on European Union affairs, and our monthly qualitative and quantitative analyses reports help them better understand our country’s public opinion and media approach to EU affairs and politics. Our reports are available for all +700 members of the Parliament and their secretariats. Today, PressMonitor is used by the Hungarian Embassies in London and Washington to keep an eye on Hungary-related national coverage in the online, social and broadcast media landscape. We support the international expansion of such Hungarian multinational success stories and flagships like the MET Group – with our report covering 12 countries’ energy markets – or Trigranit Corporation with a real estate industry watch covering Central Europe. Our media intelligence service is used by the Constitutional Court of Hungary, the Hungarian Chamber of Civil Notaries, and Hungarian Association for Innovation just to name a few.

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?

An MMO has to handle more and more content in the age of big data. Because the media space has grown vast over the years the name of the game today is not necessarily to find everything but to identify what is really important. In other words, to find the needle in the haystack. This presupposes good software codes, good content aggregation processes, structured data, big enough disk spaces and talented analysts and language experts. Data is the fuel of the 21st century. My vision is that media intelligence companies will be expected to parse non-media related information assets soon. We already have projects in which we monitor parliamentary diaries, minutes and security alerts. These are examples for what I call pre-media or media related content.

I am convinced that a media intelligence buyer is primary a buyer of information and only secondary buyer of press clippings and traditional media reports. Thus, in certain cases we need to be faster than editorials and journalists to put our customers ahead of time. If something crucial happens that has an impact on our country’s economy or political life, we do not want to wait till editorials pick it up and broadcast it. I believe information is first, source is second. This is to say media intelligence companies will shift to become open source intelligence companies in 5-10 years’ time. The invisible deep web will have more significance in the future as today and processing unstructured data – retrieved from audiovisual and social media content – will mean the biggest challenges for MMOs in the future.

How has COVID-19 impacted the media intelligence industry, and will these effects remain after the virus has disappeared?

On one hand, we experienced some budget cut measures especially for services requiring expensive living labor. On the other hand, life went online, and content generation has increased probably both in the editorial and social media spheres. Demand has therefore risen for media intelligence services: more researches, more languages, wider scope of content to be covered and faster reporting needed. One thing is for sure: data consumption and the need for intelligence services have not plummeted as a result of the pandemic, but on the contrary: with the exponential growth of digital audiences and information space, the need for media and market intelligence will steadily increase.

By Peter Appleby

“Stricter laws are required around data privacy in social media”

Brian Herrera

Interview with Brian Herrera, Managing Director of Media Meter, a media intelligence company in the Philippines.

Hi Brian, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Media Meter?

I’m presently the Managing Director and Co-owner of Media Meter Inc., having joined the company back in 2012. Before Media Meter, I worked at Pfizer and McGraw Hill Asia, both in sales and marketing. I have to wear multiple hats in my key role as the MD at Media Meter. My focus is mainly on operations, sales, marketing finance, and to a lesser degree, I have some administrative responsibility. I help guide employees in the company that is mostly composed of young professionals.

My role allows me to be flexible and understand different business scenarios both within the company and outside of it. I review internal factors like coordination and communication between different business units and how one units’ function supports and interacts with another. Outside of the company, my areas of focus are our clients, government liaison, the economy and family.

What expertise, services and experience differentiate Media Meter from competitors in your region?

Our expertise focuses more on the continuous innovation and development we create to make our products and services stand out from the competition. In an age in which data is on-demand and more and more organizations require more in-depth analysis, it is vital we slice and squeeze insight from our data-rich content. Being in the media intelligence industry means we must stay apace or ahead of the competition in regards to innovation, price, and services. Our culture is based on being unique and the best in class.

What are the greatest challenges ahead for Media Meter when it comes to serving clients and media intelligence services and developing the company’s services?

The challenges always change but the three main focuses remain the people, the technology and cost of infrastructure. The people are the core of the organization. They are required to run the company and it’s important that we hire the right people and retain the best talent. The workforce must nurture prospects and at the same time manage the expectations of clients with whom they can develop long-term relationships. Technology keeps changing and companies must update, upgrade and make its media intelligence software robust and adaptable to current technology trends. Lastly is the infrastructure cost. With more and more data being produced more infrastructure is required to enhance, manage, curate and process it all.

Have you been able to, or will soon, release any new technology-based solutions that will enhance your solutions?

Yes. Our new solution is to improve customer focus loyalty. We are doing this by utilizing a tool to improve data management and better understand client action plans and strategies rather than looking at immense volumes of data that can mislead and do not always provide the right information. What we are looking at now is how consumer online behaviors focus on product reviews, ratings and other assorted data. This is the next step as the market shifts to more online purchasing.

Please give an example of a client that has benefitted from your services. What were their needs and how did you meet them?

One client using our social media listening tool and media monitoring service is the Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry. The department got in touch with us through a web enquiry channel and invited us to bid for a contract in a government public bidding process. They needed a tool to help quickly collate important data and information instead of monitoring data manually or scanning specific newspapers, checking different online news sites, and monitoring broadcast networks and channels. Done manually, these processes are very tedious and require a lot of their time. The Department of Trade and Industry monitors huge amounts of information covering almost all the different industries in the Philippines.

Subscribing to our platform and getting daily email alerts had a big impact on the department’s communications team, helping to increase efficiency in gathering relevant and necessary information. This helped them receive feedback on their stakeholders, know the consumers’ feedback, and manage positive and negative sentiments.

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

The kind of data that is not currently part of our online dashboard tool is the monitoring of TikTok. TikTok is widely used and its popularity has increased due to the pandemic and people being stayed inside their homes. Increased TikTok coverage would help clients track relevant content that mentions the clients’ brand, allow them to understand how netizens perceive their brand and know which influencers they could build relationships with.

How do you see that changes regarding licensing will impact the data that is used for media monitoring in the future?

I believe that stricter laws are required around data privacy in social media. It is also important to understand how social media regulation influences the user. The government may play a role in this.

It seems likely that premium content and providers of news, forums and blogs will impose controls on their data, but for other general content intended for the general public, data control will be more relaxed.

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

As technology keeps on advancing, consumers and corporations will change in terms of how they use online media and how they can reach target audiences. The demand for media intelligence providers will also change. One of the challenges of the service provider will be dealing with copyright issues from online media platforms.

By Peter Appleby

“The main challenge will be the use of data considering privacy rules and terms”

Theofilos Argyriadis

Interview with Theofilos Argyriadis, CEO of Clip News, a media monitoring service based in Greece.

Hi Theofilos, what is your background and what is included in your current role at Clip News?

We established Clip News in 1992, in a time when “monitoring” and “clipping” were almost unknown services in Greece. Of course, back then monitoring and clipping services included only print media. I have worked at every stage and post of a small monitoring business, such as the clipping department, sales, manager. Today, almost 30 years after the establishment of the Clip News SA, my official role is President and CEO. My responsibilities mainly focus on the company’s development in terms of new products, new IT technologies such as the implementation of machine learning solutions and AI, as well as the inter-connection of Clip News with other companies and the participation in European programs.

Having founded Clip News almost 30 years ago, what are you most proud of over the years?

I believe what I am mostly proud of is the people that have grown along with the company all these years. The people are our main asset and we try to give them all the necessary skills to develop and implement their own ideas.

What differs Clip News from other media intelligence companies?

Competition in Greece is not particularly aggressive. We know what our competitors offer and we are well aware of the market conditions. I could maybe say that our high-level services and an excellent customer service department surely differs us from other companies. We take care of our subscribers and we meet all their needs. We foresee and suggest solutions, given our long expertise and familiarity with the publicity of each subscriber. We know how to respond and handle any crisis our subscribers may face.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at Clip News, when it comes to serving your customers media intelligence and develop your offer?

At Clip News we focus and strongly believe in services that add value to the monitoring services, especially with the use of all the metadata available in each piece of information we handle. We strongly feel that the excessive information available nowadays does not make sense and to this end we offer added value services such as analysis services, reports, Executive Reports from specific or all media types. I strongly feel that it is our job to train subscribers in order to better understand how we can help them. It is quite difficult to communicate all of the services we are able to provide to a company fast enough, due to stereotypes in the market. Our services have quickly evolved with the help of technology and the expertise of our employees and we can provide assistance to our clients on multiple levels. As a result, our biggest challenge is to transfer our knowledge and gain the trust of our subscribers. Fortunately, we manage to do so.

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?

We are about to release a clustering feature for media clips from all media sources that will be carried out through machine learning. As a result, our subscribers will really have less clips to go through. Clustering will reduce the cost of other services, such as reports and analysis. We will also focus on tagging the clips, for our subscribers to understand the big picture of their publicity. Furthermore, we are correcting the automated sentiment of clips, which unfortunately in the Greek language has a success rate of up to 80%, compared to the English language (95%).

We are also launching reporting and analysis services based on KPI’s including several metrics, for both print and online monitoring services. To this end, our subscribers can have a complete view of their publicity and track their weaknesses and strengths in each media source. Practically, all these tools can create a publicity strategy based on reliable data.

As active in Fibep, The Media Intelligence Association, what do you think is the most important such an organization can bring to its members?

FIBEP is an association of members with the same principles, services and anxieties. Apart for the obvious (sales between its members) FIBEP is a remarkable association that makes use and communicates the expertise of each member. Keep in mind that FIBEP includes members that have a history of 100 or more years, as well as newly founded companies from across the world. This exchange of knowledge can only benefit each FIBEP member.

I believe that co-operation is the key for the future of media intelligence companies. The volume of data will increase any company, no matter its size, will not be able to respond easily. Media intelligence companies need to find a way to co-operate more substantially towards a greater goal and not based on short-term financial results. We need to claim our place in the future and be ready for in order to evolve to significant market players. FIBEP could design such a prospect and transfer the long-term profit to its members and design tools that will make co-operation easier and faster.

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

The main challenge will be the data and the use of data considering privacy rules and terms. The questions that will be posed in order for the data to be able to provide answers. In the coming years I believe that there will be changes that mainly concern a more structured way to use data. Our services will change and media mentions or clips will no longer be important. The importance will shift towards services that are based on metadata, trends and analysis services. Media intelligence companies ought to quickly adjust to the new reality and provide services with truly added-value.

By Russell Hughes

“Today more than ever it is important we stay in contact with our customers”

Marina Bonomi

Interview with Marina Bonomi, CEO of Mimesi, a media monitoring and intelligence company based in Milan, Italy

Hi, Marina. What is your background and what does your role at Mimesi include?

I’m the CEO and shareholder of Mimesi, a media monitoring and intelligence company based in Italy. My role is in running the company in all aspects and shaping the company’s strategy for future growth via a planned business strategy. Within my remit is a particular focus on copyright issues and relationships with publishers.

All of my previous positions and interests have been based in the digital industry. I graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Milan and have been an Associate Professor of Digital Marketing at the same institution and the CMO VAS at Vodaphone Italy among other roles.

What is Mimesi’s core service offering and what is the company’s differentiator?

Mimesi monitors print, web, social media, radio and TV, and it offers accurate analysis of clients’ media presence and its reputation.

It was founded in 2001 and stood out in the Italian market as it was the only operator offering a media monitoring service entirely based on the digitalization of articles.

The company has introduced various innovative technologies into the Italian market. We have launched website monitoring, introduced a mobile app for the consultation and management of online revenues, created our own Mimesi360 platform for cross-media analysis of company reputations, and more.

What are the challenges Mimesi must overcome to provide sound media intelligence to clients and develop its value proposition?

The Italian scenario is changing rapidly. For example, new regulations on copyright will modify the rules of our market. As a company, we have to show that we are ready to keep offering relevant services to our clients. We believe that although print will remain significant, it will decrease in importance, so our value proposition will have to be more ‘media integration’ based. We will become more focused on media integration with a platform that is able to provide content in the correct manner, giving the proper value to the distinctive features of every media.

How has the arrival of COVID-19 forced Mimesi to adapt, and what are the long-term changes the pandemic will make to the media intelligence industry?

Mimesi has three operational offices on the Italian territory; Milan, Parma and Forli, all areas severely affected by the pandemic. As soon as we understood that there would be restrictions on work and travel we urgently set to work to organize smart working for the entire company.

Our activities concern the daily monitoring of almost 2000 media organizations and as many web sources, plus dozens of television stations. This required sophisticated software and dedicated hardware. We supplied all the necessary hardware to our staff for remote working.

We established two priorities: our employees’ health and the business’ continuity, which have driven our approach during lockdown. Mimesi has efficiently maintained services, commercial and marketing activities. We have provided our media monitoring services without severe activity reduction

I believe that Italy, like other countries, will face economic difficulties, following the pandemic. MMOs will be impacted. Today more than ever it is important we stay in contact with our customers to understand their changing needs and adapt to the new scenario.

What part of your platform has the greatest potential but have yet to be fully embraced by your clients yet?

We think that our social media service has still untapped potential for growth, considering the high usage of social media in Italy. For example, Italians use social media for an average of two hours a day and one out of three Italians has at least seven social media profiles.

We think this because there are few Italian companies that use social media as part of their marketing strategies. More than 80% of companies have at least one social media account but their use is still superficial and sporadic. Less than half of the companies in the study say they use Facebook with a strategic, coordinated and continual approach.

Are there any emerging trends in media intelligence being driven by customer demand?

Research we published in April showed that over 14 million conversations have been generated globally using the hashtag #covid19. Of these, almost 300 thousand happened in Italy alone. Freedom and simplicity in the use of social media have allowed for the creation of huge sheer amounts of indiscriminate, uncontrolled information.

During the first phase of lockdown in Italy, communication from institutions was extremely fragmented and companies were looking for information to understand how to behave and what kind of procedures to apply.

We intercepted this need with a specific monitoring service, which allowed our clients to understand what measures other companies in the same sector were taking, which sectors were most affected, what were the measures put in place by the government to help companies and how customers were reacting on social media channels.

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

We need to be ever more relevant – constantly developing new ideas and adopting technologies to keep our platform evolving. The platform, now an information service in use by the communication or marketing department, must become a support base for our business decisions.

Enriching the knowledge base and extrapolating value from the multitude of data present on all media is our present and future goal.

By Peter Appleby

“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