This interview originally appeared on Cybernews.com.
The recent rise of fake news and conspiracies serves as a reminder to stay vigilant and critical in this ever-connected world.
Media is an integral part of our everyday life – from social media to news or advertising. While media is potent enough to provide endless amounts of information and spread communication across the world, it can bring a lot of positive outcomes as well as negative ones.
That’s where media analysis comes in handy. It can evaluate media relations effectiveness, and offer organizations not only their strategic insights into media coverage but also competitors. Next to a vast mixture of benefits, it can also save you a lot of time and money.
Recently we reached out to Magnus Hakansson, CEO of Commetric (media analytics and consultancy solutions provider), who kindly educated us on who and how can benefit from media analytic tools and that common sense while browsing, can save you more than even the most robust VPN.
How did Commetric come about? What has the journey been like so far?
Commetric’s history dates back to 2005 when our founders opened an R&D Center in Sofia, Bulgaria, where a bunch of specialists in linguistics, IT, and data analysis began developing Commetric’s proprietary NLP (natural language processing) platform Siera.
Today Commetric is an award-winning independent media intelligence and reputation measurement consultancy working for blue chip companies, non-governmental organizations, and governments across the globe. Until recently the media intelligence industry relied primarily on human analysts to do the job but the exponential growth in media data has introduced new challenges to the way we deliver our products.
Our efforts over the past few years have been focused on scaling our business and optimizing our processes by using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Can you introduce us to what you do? What technology do you use to analyze vast amounts of data?
Commetric delivers media analytics and consultancy solutions for corporate reputation measurement and management – strategic media analysis, media monitoring, influencer network analysis, etc., which enable PR & communications teams to develop and implement successful communications strategies that have a measurable impact on the business.
Our offering is based on the concept of “collaborative intelligence” i.e. it results from the synergistic interplay of three components: human expertise (media analysts); proprietary AI-enabled technology; and strong client focus for high customization and smooth integration of the service into the client’s processes.
Our media analysis technology is developed in-house and is based on the most recent advances in natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU). The value of NLU, the part of NLP that deals with computers’ ability to comprehend the structure and meaning of human language, to our business, lies in its application to automated reasoning, machine translation, news-gathering, text categorization, and large-scale content analysis. In a nutshell, this allows us to perform a granular analysis of textual data faster and more effectively.
In your opinion, what industries and organizations would greatly benefit from the analysis of online conversations?
There is hardly any industry that wouldn’t benefit from the analysis of online conversations. Online conversations, or the media in general, can have a disproportionate impact on an organization’s reputation; in many industries, the media is the primary shaper of public knowledge and opinion, especially in cases when the public does not have any direct experience with those organizations or the issues surrounding them.
The need for companies to establish a strong corporate reputation has never been more important, as a solid reputation strengthens customer trust, facilitates the recruitment and loyalty of capable employees, improves access to the capital markets, reduces the costs of procuring capital, ensures low purchasing prices and reduces the pressure by the authorities to exercise control and regulation.
Lastly, as damaged reputations need to be corrected in the media spotlight, the increased risk of being the object of scandal or crisis has led to organizations themselves having to influence the build-up of their reputations in the media or else concentrate their external communications on the media. In other words, to the degree that the media scrutinize existing reputations and render them fragile ever more frequently and successfully, their significance grows as the primary target of measures for communications teams aiming to maintain and create a reputation.
A good example of an industry that needs to constantly monitor online conversations and proactively manage its reputation is the crypto industry, for which 2021 was a record in terms of media resonance – nearly every major media outlet started to report on crypto developments.
How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Did you notice any new flaws or gaps in your industry?
The global political, economic and social climate has dramatically changed the realities in which our clients operate.
We live in a time of “reputation judgment day” when organizations face scrutiny over all aspects of their ethics, leadership, values, and beyond. This has put the spotlight on reputation measurement and management and how these contribute to the strategic goals of an organization.
Besides having a clear view of the social media landscape, what other measures do you think can enhance business operations?
Business performance can be measured through financial and non-financial measures. Reputation measurement through media data is one example of non-financial measurement.
In this regard, one of the most important measures for businesses today is their ESG performance. ESG stands for Environment, Social and Corporate Governance and it is one of the most radical and transformative business developments within the last 50 years. It will shape the way both organizations and the communications sector evolve and operate for years to come.
At its core, ESG is a call for companies to account for and report on their contribution beyond financial metrics within their scope of operation. Just as the two companies have different goals, they will also have different ESG goals. Measuring these goals and the overall ESG performance can again be done via financial and non-financial measures. Media data provides a solid foundation for measuring non-financial ESG performance, and this is one area in which we are investing significant development resources so that we can help our clients deal with this vital component of their operations.
What threats floating around social media do you find the most concerning at the moment?
Social media is one of the grandest inventions of our time. However, it represents both an opportunity and a threat to mankind depending on the purposes it is used for. Various events and developments around the world over the past years have exposed the dark side of social media, namely its use for manipulation, propaganda, and the dissemination of fake news and disinformation.
The most recent examples include the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-vax movement which was propelled by social media, and currently the war in Ukraine, in which social media serves as the second battleground and is heavily used by Russia for spreading propaganda and alternative ‘facts’, whose aim is to change the narrative surrounding the war and to foster polarization and dissent in public opinion across the world.
What can average Internet users do to protect themselves while browsing? Are there any details one should be vigilant about?
In order to protect themselves from being misled or manipulated by fake news, propaganda, or conspiracies, people should be very critical of the media sources they use to inform themselves, especially if they come across materials published by unknown media outlets.
Very often such materials contain a mix of real and made-up facts, whose aim is not to persuade readers of a certain viewpoint but rather to make them question the true facts surrounding a story. When you find such materials and articles you should try to find corroboration in other media outlets, preferably established ones, or look for fact-checking organizations which work to promote the veracity and correctness of reporting.
Users should be particularly wary of information shared on social media (e.g. Facebook) and pushed forward by the platforms’ algorithms as the latter boost highly divisive content for the users who are most likely to engage with it, putting them in echo chambers.
Can you share some tips for businesses looking to improve their reputation and build stronger relationships with their customers?
In order to improve a company’s reputation, one should first measure it as you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Established reputation measurement models rely mainly on survey methods to collect data about the various dimensions of corporate reputation, which makes their administration and application difficult, if not impossible, for the purposes of ongoing reputation monitoring and analysis.
In this regard, media data offers a good proxy for reputation measurement and businesses should continuously monitor the media, both traditional and social, for news or mentions implicating the company, its competitors, or the wider industry. An important aspect of reputation management is to avoid or manage crises in the best way possible. To this end:
- Always monitor online and social media for early signals of crisis.
- In order to better evaluate the media resonance and magnitude of the crisis, look at the proportion/share of voice of crisis-related media coverage of the total media coverage on a country/industry/sector level. In the case of social media, look at the proportion of crisis-related social media conversations out of all conversations on a platform level (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Develop scenarios of how the crisis might develop in the near future and outline appropriate courses of action, laying the foundations of a crisis communication plan.
- If your company is mentioned or talked about in a positive light, try to amplify the positive coverage.
Share with us, what’s next for Commetric?
Commetric’s short and medium-term objectives include scaling our AI and machine learning capabilities and using them to innovate our current products and services or come up with entirely new products and services.