You Need the Chicken and the Egg: Quelling Illusions of Content Analysis

Media content analysis is a popular approach for evaluating PR performance. Key indicators include volume and reach, presence of intended messages and coverage sentiment. It can help communicators prove value and improve PR performance.

For example, a technology company applied media content analysis, which helped it find increased efficiencies and cost savings. The result was that instead of pitching 3,000 media outlets, this company concentrated on roughly 500 targets that mattered most. There was no loss of media coverage.

A trio of factors is involved in media content analysis:

  • Speed: Content and automated analytics are delivered in real-time
  • Accuracy: Captures relevant content only and understands nuance, sarcasm and other figures of speech that technology finds difficult
  • Insights: Someone familiar with your organization studies and interprets the content, providing context and understanding

A dilemma

As with other forms of measurement, media content analysis includes a dilemma for communicators: should we use machines or humans?

Machines and humans provide advantages and disadvantages, of course. With real-time-automated, or machines, we sacrifice  accuracy and  human insight  in exchange for speed.

On the other hand, accurate human-coded content analysis sacrifices speed in favor of increased precision and human insight.

Conventional wisdom says we must choose humans or machines. Like so much conventional wisdom, it’s wrong. The choice is false.

Poultry and PR

As a friend told me, “It doesn't matter whether the chicken or the egg came first. You need both!”

The same is true with media content analysis. You want speed, insight and accuracy. The real dilemma is finding the solution that works best for you.

When seeking the best solution, consider why you are conducting content media analysis and what you hope to achieve.

For instance, when analyzing high-volume/high-velocity Twitter feeds, your need for speed and access may trump a desire for precise coding. Other situations may require greater emphasis on insight.

As such, there is no ideal fix for every situation. Instead, a flexible, integrated solution is the best route.

Root of the myth

So, where did this misleading choice between automated and human-coding originate?  Those with a commercial stake in one approach or the other propagated it. Sadly, the PR pro who needs a flexible combination when measuring loses the most.

The good news is that gaps between speed, accuracy and insight are shrinking. Hybrid approaches now offer PR pros some flexibility.

As such, communicators can choose a mix of speed, accuracy and insight depending on a given situation. Should a scenario require deep-dive, human insight and analysis, it's available. And when necessary, PR pros can also access the speed of real-time analytics.

Accuracy? Insight? Speed? Why choose when you can have them all!

Mark Weiner is chief insights officer at PublicRelay and author of “PR Technology, Data and Insights.”