Don’t be fooled: Curing the fake news epidemic, one story at a time



Over the past two years, the world has succumbed to an epidemic of fake news. While disinformation has circulated for as long as people have created news, the internet, social media and changes in the way in which we consume information have turned fake news into an uncontrollable global virus with massive repercussions across politics, business and society.

Stories that on the surface may seem accurate but instead are misleading or downright false can have serious consequences once – to adopt the social media phraseology – they go ‘viral.’

Fake news stories have been absorbed and spread by millions of people, enticed by the click-bait headlines plaguing social media feeds – feeds originally designed to ease the sharing of content rather than to encourage the dissemination of untruth. On occasion, such as in the run-up to the US election or the Brexit referendum, this has resulted in a viral storm of sound bites that can trap people in a ‘filter bubble’ of disinformation, impacting how they vote, who they connect with socially and which companies they buy from.

While the mainstream media is certainly not innocent of embellishing the news to attract readers, of making mistakes or of inaccurate reporting, more alarmingly, the phrase ‘fake news’ is now deliberately being used by politicians and business leaders around the world as a weapon against legitimate news reporting, to mislead their constituencies and as an excuse to censor free speech.

In the business world, being tarnished with fake news that sticks can be disastrous, impacting public sentiment and your brand reputation with after-effects that can be hard – even impossible – to shake off.

No global vaccine exists for inoculating against the fake news epidemic, but VitalBriefing, as specialists in media and brand monitoring, has developed tools and techniques to filter fact from fiction, enhanced by our team of highly skilled and experienced journalists.

Here are six tips and tricks you can apply today when you read the news online or browse your social media feed:

  • Is the publisher credible?

Simply because a website is popular, does not mean it is accurate – especially if it appears on social media or automated news aggregation services where clicks and computer algorithms decide what leads. Be wary, for example, of unusual domain names or websites imitating legitimate news publications. Check the ‘About Us’ section to get an idea of what and who is behind the publication.

  • Is the writer credible? 

Check authors’ by-lines: Have they published anything else? Are they real writers, commentators or experts in their field or – as is often the case with fake news stories – simply a fictitious pseudonym?

  • Is the story credible?

Has the information been published on other websites, especially on authoritative ones such as noted mainstream media publications or specialist news outlets? If there’s no coverage elsewhere, it’s not a certainty that the news is fake, but it’s a strong warning sign that other verification methods need to be applied, especially if it’s not published by a legitimate news organisation.

  • Who’s in the story? 

If a person or organisation is quoted, perform a reverse search to check the original source of the quote. Is the attribution accurate? Is it being taken out of context? If there are no quotes or contributing sources, consider it another red flag.

  • How timely is the information?

Checking other sources can reveal a common indicator of fake news: the recycling of older information, dragged out of context, and made to appear as fresh news.

  • How’s the quality of the writing? 

Poor grammar and spelling is not necessarily indicative of a disreputable publication – automated or poor-quality translations are common on non-native language news sites, for example – but it should be a cause for scepticism, necessitating cross-checking the accuracy of the information. 

VitalBriefing applies all of the above and more when searching, filtering and curating information for your organisation, culling fake news to supply accurate business intelligence with journalistic integrity.

What in the world is a Circular Economy?

The meaning of the circular economy 
For the past decade, the expression ‘circular economy’ – with its promise to generate a more sustainable, equitable and just world – has steadily gained international traction. It actually represents an alternative to an ill-managed, extraction-based global economy generating unprecedented changes in the global climate and depleting the world’s natural resources.

Circular economy is relevant to every element of society, culture and economy. Yet, what does it really mean? What are its implications? How profound is its implementation for your organisation – and personal way of life?

Consider this: A recent study compiled and compared 114 definitions of circular economy in order to provide the first quantitative interpretation. The conclusion: Circular economy “means many different things to different people.”

We have the good fortune to cover the issue for our clients, so before you become discouraged or overwhelmed, we can help with some answers.

 

The meaning of the circular economy 
For the past decade, the expression ‘circular economy’ – with its promise to generate a more sustainable, equitable and just world – has steadily gained international traction. It actually represents an alternative to an ill-managed, extraction-based global economy generating unprecedented changes in the global climate and depleting the world’s natural resources.

Circular economy is relevant to every element of society, culture and economy. Yet, what does it really mean? What are its implications? How profound is its implementation for your organisation – and personal way of life?

Consider this: A recent study compiled and compared 114 definitions of circular economy in order to provide the first quantitative interpretation. The conclusion: Circular economy “means many different things to different people.”

We have the good fortune to cover the issue for our clients, so before you become discouraged or overwhelmed, we can help with some answers.

 

What is the circular economy?
Briefly, the circular economy is “a regenerative economic model.” Its purpose is to examine complex human behaviour and provide insights into a better allocation of resources. It’s holistic, taking into account the energy and materials we use, the ecological limits of our environment, and most important, people’s well-being.

In short, the circular economy seeks to create a system to meet our current needs while respecting the limits of our planet’s resources.

How does the circular economy function?
In this “regenerative system,” consumers and producers work together with policymakers at every level to generate environmental quality, economic prosperity and social equity. How does that happen? With an economic model that aims to retain as much value of products and materials as possible.

To get there involves refurbishing, remanufacturing, best re-use and recycling of the products and materials the world uses. The goal is a world without end-of-life of products and materials, reducing the generation of waste to its absolute minimum.

What does a circular economy strategy look like? We’re glad you asked:

– Waste virtually doesn’t exist. Products are designed to be disassembled and reused or, failing that, recycled. Long-lasting design ensures reduced energy use.
– Products components are categorised either as consumable (returned safely to the biosphere) or durable (designed for reuse and/or recycling).
– The energy required to power industry is renewable.

When is the circular economy arriving? 
It’s already here, permeating all sectors of the economy (which is why we at VitalBriefing cover it for our clients). You can find it in the products you consume, from cheese to smartphone, from clothing to the materials used to build your house.

The circular economy goes beyond strategies for reducing, re-using and recycling. It’s about generating an industrial ecosystem where these and many other strategies infuse every stage of products and services. Every day, we find a new company going circular, reducing the waste from its production, and collaborating with other circular-minded companies to create a healthy environment for their business and the world.

A few examples:

Luxembourg’s ArcelorMittal recognised for circular economy initiatives
ArcelorMittal has been recognised by the World Economic Forum for its ambitious circular economy efforts. The global steel group’s initiatives include paving more than 400 miles of Brazilian roadway with a product consisting mainly of waste steel slag, manufacturing a profitable low-carbon cement also from waste slag and pioneering steel re-use in structures. It has been producing steel in Luxembourg from scrap waste rather than primary raw materials for a quarter-century.

New businesses exploit massive seafood waste 
With about 40% of all seafood going to waste in an industry that has grown enormously over the past 50 years, new companies are starting to exploit seafood waste by-products in unusual ways. Ideas include applying fish skins as a treatment for burns, using fish scales in solar panel cells, and making salmon jerky from discarded fish meat.

IKEA trialling furniture rental and resale schemes 
Having won awards for its efforts to promote circular economy systems, Scandinavian flat-pack furniture giant Ikea is testing rental and buyback schemes in different parts of the world to cut down on waste. In Belgium, customers can re-sell, repair, or return their furniture, while in France and Japan, furniture can be returned to be sold in the store again.

To follow the circular economy more closely, or to have us help you follow the aspects that matter most to you, please contact: David Schrieberg – dschrieberg@vitalbriefing.com
Santiago Perez – sperez@vitalbriefing.com

Focusing fintech: identifying industry-changing innovations

Focusing fintech: identifying industry-changing innovations

“Silicon Valley is coming. There are hundreds of start-ups with a lot of brains and money working on various alternatives to traditional banking.”
Jamie Dimon, CEO J.P. Morgan

It’s been almost three years since J.P. Morgan’s CEO made that prophetic comment. Around the same time, VitalBriefing launched its weekly Global Fintech Briefing to track the trends and innovations driving the growth of a financial technology industry that has since ballooned from hundreds of hot start-ups to thousands.

Yet, it’s a minefield out there. From bankers trying to follow the latest trends to investors hunting for the next opportunity, anyone interested in following the evolution of fintech today is obliged to navigate an increasingly crowded, muddied and fast-changing landscape.

Between the Wild West of virtual currencies where almost anyone with a PC can launch an ICO to the walls and moats being reinforced by established financial institutions and nervous regulators, lies a diverse and dynamic world of technology merging with finance in new and often unexpected ways.

Payments – in stores and between friends – are now instant and contactless from a smartphone. The same technology is enabling the under-banked to gain access to diverse financial services, in the process creating millions of online consumers across emerging and developed markets. Peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding and low-cost remittance services are similarly making banks less relevant for a new generation of consumers around the world.

Crypto-currencies have created crypto-millionaires – and possibly fuelled the biggest investment bubble in history – even as businesses across the financial industry and beyond continue to dig in search of blockchain technology’s killer app. And, on the horizon, robots imbued with rapidly advancing artificial intelligence are charging over the hills with the potential to eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs in banking and beyond.

The rapid evolution of the fintech industry has been advanced by massive amounts of funding – $31 billion last year alone – though there are signs global investors are no longer just getting their feet wet but, rather, trying to make more targeted investments focused on long-term sustainability.

And therein lies the rub.

If history is a guide, then investors might do well to cast their minds back to the last period of significant technological disruption. Many startups that emerged during the dotcom boom have landed in the dust heap of investment-bubble history.

Much has changed since then – smartphones are ubiquitous, millennials are more inclined to embrace technology than previous generations and cloud computing can scale businesses in minutes – but the laws of the market remain the same: only a handful of emerging financial technologies will have a meaningful impact on the future of finance, and even fewer of today’s start-ups will be around to see it.

By filtering the hype and noise today, VitalBriefing is identifying the innovations and innovators that will change the world of finance tomorrow.

The Final Step: Writing The Story That Tells Your Story

“We are, as a species, addicted to a story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” – author Jonathan Gotschall
As we’ve explored in our previous posts on storytelling, a persuasive yarn in any medium can sell your company, brand, product or service better than just about any other sales tactic.

We’ve discussed how to pick the right story, then where to focus your research. Now that you’ve gathered all the relevant information and have the details to hand, what do you do with it all?

In short, what’s the best way to tell the story?

Here’s the key: structure.

Once you’ve got the bare bones of your story down – (translate: the outline) – filling in the gaps will be far easier. In fact, get that outline right, and you’ll find the story will tell itself.

This will help: Incorporate the classic story format known “the hero’s journey.” (We know this format is a home run, because it’s worked for millennia in myths, legends and tales.)

You learned in our previous post that the three key elements driving your story should be the problem, the solution and the success. Breaking this down from the perspective of the hero’s journey will guide your structure:

Beginning: Problem (Call to adventure)

Think about that point in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi in the desert, or when Harry Potter first discovers he’s a wizard and will enroll in Hogwarts. A hero’s journey always starts with that framing moment when the protagonist receives his or her call to action.

This may be the element of your story that requires the most time. It falls into three phases:
– Identity: Who is it about – you or your company? Establish who exactly is starting the journey.
– Challenge: What’s the hero setting out to do?
– Struggle: What are the obstacles that stand in the way?

Middle: Conflict and Solution (Rebirth)

This is the turning point in your story, and where the reader’s interest should intensify.

Remember, nothing of value ever comes easily. This is the moment where the hero faces up to the challenges and experiences a metaphorical rebirth on the way to ultimate victory.

This may sound as though it’s about slaying a dragon or finding the Holy Grail, but it’s no different for a business story – now the hero discovers a unique tool or insight that guarantees the outcome.

End: Success (Resolution)

Finally, the hero returns home – changed, enlightened or with new knowledge.

Your challenge is to show your audience why it should care. Once you’ve pulled them in, they must be able to see why your company, product or service will solve their problem.

Let’s look at a real-world example of effective storytelling that draws on all the elements we’ve discussed in these posts.

Although this isn’t a company “origin” story like Apple’s legend (born in the Jobs family garage), it’s creative storytelling for a business purpose.

In this Google ad for the Nexus 7 tablet, viewers are shown the real-life value of the products. Crucially, however, Google and Samsung together transmit their values, morals and vision to a broad audience through a very human story.

There is a clear beginning, middle and end to this story. Let’s break it down using the structure above:
– Call to adventure: Our hero must give a speech. He uses Google to define his problem.
– Solution: He’s struggling to find his way – a path that becomes clear thanks to his Nexus 7, and Google.
– Resolution: He nails the presentation! And the reward? Applause and romance – with help from his trusty Nexus 7… and Google.

The devil in the details: Google has told a fantastic story, elegant in its simplicity, with a clear structure, emotionally resonant for virtually any audience or demographic (just as Nexus and Google are relevant products for virtually any audience).

Thanks to the twin-product powerhouse, and his own efforts, the protagonist overcomes his fears.

The details – the boy’s voice, his mother’s quiet presence, Franklin Roosevelt’s courage-inspiring message, the presentation and audience applause, the promise of romance – all come together to convey the final message.

Note especially the music and how its arc – starting with a simple guitar, picking up several instruments and voice along the way and ending in the swell of a full orchestra – match, accentuate and imitate the story, reinforcing its emotional impact.

In short, it’s perfect: The right story, founded on well-researched elements, structured to trigger a positive emotional response.

There’s no reason you can’t tell your story just as well. Or call on VitalBriefing to do it for you…and with you.

 

– post by Ethan Schrieberg

Researching the story that tells your story

If content is king, for business content marketing is emperor. And the craft of storytelling sits squarely next to its throne. Research and case studies bear out the truth universally acknowledged that there is no greater power than that of a good story.

As we discussed in our first post in this series, Picking the right story to tell your story is the first step. Now that you have that story in mind, what exactly do you want to say?

How do you ensure it has genuine impact?

And what does that impact look like?

First, just as if you were researching a new product idea, you need to do due diligence. That means you “do your reporting”, as journalists call the act of research. Only when you know your story inside out will you discover the best way to tell it (which we’ll discuss in the third post in this series).

As you launch into reporting, keep in mind where you want the story to go. It’s like following a recipe: you know what you want the dish to look like, and how it should taste. But you need to have the right ingredients in the right combination to get there.

Crucially, during the reporting process, remind yourself that the story isn’t about you – it’s about what you help your customers or clients accomplish.

In fact, the hero of the story should never be you – it should be either the problem you’re solving, or the opportunity you’re creating. After all, no matter how good your story is, it won’t be good for anything if it doesn’t resonate with your audience.

In business, that means your story shows how you can help that audience, either by resolving their problem, answering their needs or fulfilling their dreams.

Consider Airbnb. At its essence, it’s simply about travellers finding a roof over their heads. Explore its website, though, and you’ll find a very different approach: the beauty of being alive, of ‘having experiences’ and revelling in them. An entire section of the website is dedicated to stories from hosts and guests around the world, including blogs and videos.

Stories upon stories. Each one an adventure of its own, “reported” by the traveller to convey the thrill of the trip, in rich detail, illustrating how his or her life has been enhanced – thanks to Airbnb.

Showing, not telling.

In crafting this approach, Airbnb clearly began with a simple question: “Who is the audience and what is our message?”  Once it was decided that its customers are the focus of the story, it became clear that it would be down to these customers to report the story that would perfectly illustrate Airbnb’s value.

The company could talk numbers – the millions of lodgings customers book, the millions of nights reserved via the site, the hundreds of countries, cities and towns in which it operates.

Instead, its focus is to make the story human.

Remember, for you to be successful, your audience must relate to your story, even if that story is highly technical or data-driven. Ultimately, you want to define your value in human terms.

Our brains are far more engaged by powerful images that stay in our minds than by cold, hard facts. A Nielsen study found that consumers want a personal connection when they gather information.

Researchers have amply demonstrated that it’s much easier for our brains to recall stories than data – which means the story should be simple and straightforward, but filled with meaningful detail that relates to the point of the tale. Those are the details you’ll gather as you “report the story.”

In the end, your reporting needs to cover the three key elements driving your story, no matter its length: The problem (the beginning of the story), which leads to the solution (the middle), which drives to your success (the end).

That’s what audiences expect from a good story. That’s what will show them your value.


CASE STUDY: GUINNESS’S “WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL”

In this campaign, Guinness nails successful storytelling to market its
brand. The key factor that made this ad a slam-dunk – amassing three million views within four days of its online release – is that it made drinking Guinness a reflection of some of life’s highest values.

Watching people play wheelchair basketball is inspiring in its own right. But when you get to the ‘twist’ in the story – that all but one of the athletes are playing in wheelchairs so that ‘the court is a level field’ – it’s hard not to be still more inspired, and to admire still more their brew of choice.

Then, the voiceover: “The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”

Great “reporting”, even for a manufactured story: problem (playing an ambulatory sport in wheelchairs), solution (it can be played just as hard, fast and skilfully), success (friendship – and the right beer – overcomes life’s challenges).

Not only is this a powerful, heartfelt story, it relays a surprising and delightful emotional message, promoting loyalty, friendship, resilience and perseverance.

The key elements:

The story is relevant to the target audience: young adults with a focus on maturity, friendship, sports, male bonding and sharing good times.

The message is simple: depicting a group of athletic, beer-drinking men defined as much by their compassion as their physical ability. The slogan seen at the end – “Made of More” – is brief, memorable and resonant.

The focus is on the customers: celebrating the customers (the basketball players), and “what they’re made of.” The product itself, Guinness, has very brief screen time (at the end).

It’s all about people: the product is a supporting character in the story, while the human element is central.

It’s different: not the stereotypical beer ad, Guinness is showing that men can be strong and sensitive.

It’s about the image: creating emotional engagement, Guinness is ensuring that you won’t forget this commercial – or the beer behind it.

Next: Now you’re ready to write the story. Uh, how?

 

– post by Ethan Schrieberg

Picking the right story to tell your story

Stories are primal. That’s why the world runs on them.

As novelist Philip Pullman put it, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

And that’s why in recent years storytelling has become an increasing focus for brands and organizations as they recognize that the emotional wallop of well-told stories translates into long-term relationships…and sales.

VitalBriefing tells stories. That’s what our clients pay us for, whatever the format, whatever the content. In this series about storytelling, we’re going to look at what it takes to do it really, really well. With these basics, you’ll recognize a new and effective form of content marketing to drive your business forward.

First, where you must start: Picking the right story to tell.

the floor of an office is strewn with discarded paper balls signifying bad abandoned ideas as a mature businessman sits at a conference table thinking of more ideas to write down.

While there’s loads of science to this – raking over search results, trending topics and Twitter feeds, for example – we’ll focus on the ‘art’ side of the equation. Because there’s an art, too, to finding and selecting the right story to illustrate your value.

A good story is crucial because not only does it connect you to your audience on an emotional, gut level – which is exactly where you want to land your punch – but it also has the power to create trust between you both.

That said, the science matters. The human brain responds to the descriptive power of stories, influencing both its sensory and motor cortex. Simply put: To read a story is to feel an experience.

Scientists call this ‘neural coupling,’ which Princeton researchers have found leads to greater comprehension, understanding, anticipation and receptivity.

When searching for the right story, always ask first: “What’s the human element that will make people pay attention?”

You know that winning audience attention in a fragmented world overloaded with information is a massive challenge. So consider brands with stories that have resonated for decades now – how Jobs and Wozniak built their first Apple computer in a garage, or how Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop started in a renovated gas station on the back of a $5 correspondence course.

Both these tales focus on heroes’ hard work and perseverance to win in the face of overwhelming odds – a universal narrative we can all relate to.

Successful storytelling for a brand or organization is about showing the story rather than just telling it to your customers. You could analyse the business acumen of Ben and Jerry, but what matters is illustrating how they did it, the challenges they had to overcome, and the results: An excellent product that surprises and delights customers.

Ultimately, customer experience is key in the story selection. Consider that consumers are guided first and foremost by emotions (feeling and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes and data) when they’re making purchasing decisions. In fact, loyalty is influenced more by positive emotions toward a brand than mere trust and other judgements that are based on the brand’s characteristics.

But that doesn’t mean you should treat your story as simple marketing, or as a sales pitch. Instead, it should clearly reflect your organisation’s mission and values in order to resonate with your audience – essentially, get them to believe in your story, and they’ll believe in your brand.

Your story should illustrate the value of your business, but first it needs to connect with your target audience. Do you know who they are, how they think, what drives them and what interests them? You should. Then you can grapple with finding the story that will connect with them emotionally, and intellectually.

To get there, think simple – sincere, honest, personal – and try to be as visual as possible. The story should create mental images: Ben & Jerry’s gas station, the Jobs family’s garage.

However, the story should not necessarily focus on you or your company. Instead, it should appeal to your audience’s problems – the spotlight is on them, not you.

By homing in on the right emotional triggers, the best stories will show how you can solve their problems, satisfy their desires, identify opportunities and even threats to their future (B2C), or their business (B2B).

 In short, the right story is the bridge that creates the relationship. From there, you showcase the expertise that can meet their need, whatever it is.

Like we at VitalBriefing are doing with these blog posts. Right?

 


BONUS: PATAGONIA’S “WORN WEAR”

Patagonia tells the story of how the company’s clothing canbe useful for years through a program called ‘Worn Wear.’ It’s a clothes-recycling program where customers can buy used Patagonia clothes and later trade them back to the store down the road. It’s been so successful that Patagonia even made a movie about it.

For Patagonia, a company that cares strongly about its environmental footprint, this is a powerful story. But why?

  • With the tagline “The stories we wear,” the program plays on sentimentality and nostalgia.
  • It reflects the company’s eco-friendly brand and mission – which matter to its customers.
  • The story is placed directly in the product itself.
  • It incorporates the customer as an element of the story.
  • Trust is created from the moment a customer buys a product and ‘becomes’ the story.
  • The campaign builds and sustains a community and network involving the company and its customers.

– post by Ethan Schrieberg


Next: Now you’ve got the story, how do you research it to get the best material?

Painting the big picture from media monitoring

There are many ways to monitor media, with many possible outcomes. Like the elephant and the blind men in the ancient parable, it’s easy to draw conclusions based on partial results – at the risk of making costly mistakes. So how do you get “the big picture,” complete with the full intelligence on markets, customers and competitors that will really drive your business forward?

In our first post, we focused on the importance of search technology for filtering – or cherry-picking – the world of news and data. We followed with a deeper dive into media monitoring and the importance of sourcing, filtering and analysing data to gather critical business intelligence.

So now we land at the three central takeaways:

  1. How to get what you need from media monitoring
  2. How to fit the activity into your organisation
  3. How to obtain actionable, accurate and comprehensive results that propel your business, sales and marketing.

Let’s use the classic marketing funnel. Your media monitoring needs will likely tie directly to your specific expertise or role. If, for example, you’re in a branding or early lead generation position, you will focus on monitoring and measuring your brand’s market strength and name recognition. That means you need to analyse whether the coverage meets your messaging goals.
If, on the other hand, your responsibility is to generate sales, feed-driven social media channels have created new opportunities for high-speed analytic and sentiment analysis that push existing boundaries by using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As different as these needs are, both operate under the “media monitor umbrella” with the same requirements for identifying media activity around your brand and products. Yet, each has its own, very different “next steps” for how to use this intelligence.

 

Monitoring Brand and Product Coverage

Brand media monitoring, the grandfather of all media services, continues to evolve thanks to technological advances from its early days of cutting-and-pasting news coverage into a clipping notebook (that to our constant surprise we find some companies actually still do – in 2017 – even if few people in those companies tend to use it).

The first big leap of media monitoring’s digital transformation was the introduction of Google Alerts, which gave each everyone the power to monitor media activity via automated emails.  (The convenience factor has only recently been improved by proactive alerts sent directly to computer and mobile screens.)

However, relevancy remains a significant issue as the alerts generate considerable “noise” that derails users with irrelevant term matching, redundancy and – the loudest and most recent challenge – fake news.

Artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine learning lately have led to significant advances in media monitoring services, enhancing their results and the quality of their analysis. Some key players in this area are Critical MentionLexisNexis Newsdesk  and Cision. Each offers full platform monitoring and analysis supported by international teams.

Critical Mention also provides an API that creates the ability to monitor TV and radio broadcasts. LexisNexis Newsdesk is strongly integrated with LexisNexis industry-leading legal and company research and distribution tools that make research easily shared.

Along with its news and social media tools, Cision’s acquisition of PRNewswire, the world’s leading PR distribution network, offers clients new advantages in global content distribution, influencer outreach and monitoring services.

VitalBriefing is a bit of a different animal within this ecosystem, providing a hands-on service that uses human review by subject experts to ensure that monitoring results are not only relevant, but also matter to the client’s business goals. This relevancy reporting includes a handcrafted summary of each news mention, individually tailored and customised to provide the business intelligence each client needs. In that way, we deliver only essential intelligence to inform and drive the decisions you must make.

 

Media Monitoring to Boost Sales

If brand monitoring is the grandfather, social media monitoring – especially with the advancing capabilities of marketing automation and bot capabilities – is the toddler just learning to walk.

Social media monitoring is experiencing the same evolution in search filtering and discovery that’s advancing brand monitoring.  But it has an extra advantage from technology that monitors both high-velocity activities, such as current events, as well as low-speed, 24/7 requests (for example when a client posts a question on a company’s Facebook page) and, finally, crisis communications that can occur at any time.

Regardless of the technology and processes you use, brand and media monitoring will give you insight into what the media and your customers are saying about you. But that’s only the elephant’s trunk. It won’t tell you whether you’re missing coverage of your brand or what’s going on in your markets – or open new sales opportunities.
Nor will it give you the deeper insights you need to analyse the overall health of your business and status of your industry.

Neither robots nor natural language processing nor automation technology can do what human eyes and skills can: Paint the entire elephant.

Media Monitoring: Your recipe for successful sourcing, filtering and processing news

Effective media monitoring requires a mix of ingredients, blending both efficient search technology and hands-on expert human review. As discussed in our last post, this is one part of the “secret sauce” that goes into producing relevant and actionable business intelligence. But what’s the complete recipe for success?


We use the term “search” to describe the overall activity of finding the exact news you need to power media monitoring programmes. Now let’s break it down into three essential steps: sourcing, filtering and processing.

Generally, these steps could fit into any media monitoring programme. But reaching your business goals can get messy if you move ahead without understanding what each process and its underlying technology can – and cannot – do.

While these aren’t the only examples – and it’s important to realise that these systems exist in silos – you need to be certain that the option you choose is relevant to the business intelligence you need.

 

  1. SourcingEvery media-monitoring campaign starts with the need to identify and gather the right results. You’re at the open end of a fat pipe of available media and data, and to manage it, it’s essential that you identify the right data sources to supply your programme.

The criteria? Relevancy. Accuracy.  Trustworthiness. Timeliness.

Via automated crawling and indexing, general search engines such as GoogleBing and DuckDuckGo cast the widest net as they set out to find everything published on the internet. Other “Internal” or “Deep Web” engines focus on internal servers and research databases that fence themselves off from the general search engines.  Other more targeted applications may only focus on postings found in social media feeds like FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn to monitor more conversational social chatter.

 

  1. FilteringNarrowing the data stream to meet the targeted needs of your business intelligence requires a consistent and high level of precise filtering. Those filters need to be updated and maintained according to the changing flow both of daily events and data.

You should strive for results that are consistent each day so that you can follow that evolution of events – yet flexible so that they adjust for changes in the news cycle. You also need to block unwanted repetition, especially when a single outlet may have the same story reposted at multiple URLs – to save yourself from drowning in time-wasting material.

Redundancy, or blocking duplication, depends on your goals. For instance, let’s say you need to track how far a story about a product recall was published. In that case, you want to count all the media outlets that ran an article about the event – even if it’s the exact same story – because you want to calculate overall views. Of course, a human curator would help identify if two stories published on, say, the New York Times website were simply the same or if one is about the product recall announcement and the other a journalist’s first-hand report of the situation.

However, if your media monitoring is designed to focus only on capturing the top news affecting your business or industry, then the filtering needs to remove all those redundant stories. Once you have the story from a verifiably reliable source, the rest are just burning your time and resources.

 

  1. Analysis: Now that you have found and filtered the content, time to analyse. The key goal here is to generate actionable business intelligence.

You can get this done with a system as familiar as Google’s indexing and page ranking algorithm, or with one of many services such as Cision’s media monitoring package that focus on coverage of online media outlets and social media channels.

For now, general search engines, with their ability to rank the most important articles and filter out duplicates, offer the best technology available for monitoring key news developments and identifying the best stories. While you could draw similar analysis from Internal or Deep Web search, you need difficult-to-acquire access to secure servers and the ability to authenticate across firewall security.

If your goal is to gather analytics or measure sentiment, then social media analysis applications like Crimson Hexagon or Adobe Marketing Cloud are the current go-to tools.

 

In the next post, we will look at how you can get the most out of this process by using cross-monitoring and analysis.

How to cherry-pick business intelligence among the “fake news”

To bake the best cherry pie you need the best cherries – but how do you identify them? Two obvious solutions: Ask your grocer or ask Google. Of course, ask Google and you get – literally – three million results.

But what if you could combine the grocer’s knowledge and experience with the best information on the internet?

Search filtration, curation and analysis does just that – whether you’re looking for information about fruit or seeking actionable intelligence for your business.

Creative Commons – Matt McGee

Ask Google about “Global Finance Trends,” for example, and you get three million results. That’s right – 3,000,000. The information you seek is in there somewhere. But where?

Search engines’ algorithms – their “secret sauce” that the rest of us can only guess at – analyse and rank results based on complex calculations related to relevancy, popularity and even your geographic location in order to return the most pertinent information. At least, that’s the theory. The reality is the 3,000,000 results.

How can you be sure that the first link, or even the second or 10th, is the cherry on the cake you need?

At the moment, the success of your search is now fully on your shoulders. You must wade through the list of results, filter for the most relevant – and hope you find the information you want. The clock ticks and your work piles up as you scroll through outdated information and repeated stories, while stumbling across irrelevant articles – and suffering the spreading plague of dreaded “fake news” that has managed to elude the search engine’s filter and ranking algorithms.

Can you afford to waste your time?

 

Why human filters matters

With data being generated at lightning speed across every sector and industry in today’s digital landscape, the need for precise filtration and analysis has never been greater. Efficient search algorithms are a significant foundation, but they must underlie human knowledge and experience – the skilled cherry-picker.

Because technology alone doesn’t solve the problem, we created VitalBriefing, our global network of professional journalists and editors working directly with clients to review and evaluate all digitally-available news and research materials served up by search engines and databases to produce actionable, easy-to-digest, business intelligence on their schedule and to their specifications.

The human layer makes the difference: Our staff know what matters to our clients, reviewing, summarising and fact-checking the information to ensure the veracity of the business intelligence we provide.

We believe the best value is delivered by merging the best technology and journalistic skills. While search-only and artificial intelligence-based solutions get results, they often lack relevance, and leave users wondering if something is missing, either from the overall coverage or within the news itself.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make your own use of search more efficient and useful. In upcoming posts, I will peel back the technology to discuss how our search capabilities work on external sources to pull in the information relevant to your business. I will also address how analysing internal data enables us to refine results and understand the value of news to clients.

In short, I’ll share our “secret sauce” so that you can be more efficient in your work.

 

Content Marketing: If the Crowds Are Engaged, the ROI Will Follow

Content marketing pre-dates the printing press, but in this age of information overload and endless product pitches, it’s never been as important – or as effective – as now. That said, the question on marketers’ minds as they consider their annual budgets is as old as the printing press: What’s the ROI?

At the strategic level, content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain well-defined audiences – and to drive them to a specific action. In practice, it means creating and effectively telling a story to illustrate a product or service, but not as intrusive, distracting or irritating advertising.

In other words, as we define it at VitalBriefing, bringing valuable information that helps guide your clients and customers into the decisions they need to make even if it’s not your product or service they eventually buy.

Sound counter-intuitive? It’s not. The point of the content, as Heidi Cohen, author of the Actionable Marketing Guide puts it, is to give customers and prospects “useful information” before, during or after a purchase. The narrative, in turn, should and will drive business if the customers find it truly useful. (A mistake we see marketers often make: placing their product pitch at the center of the content –reinforcing the notion that the source of the content only wants to ‘sell them, not help them.’). If the content is valuable, showing off your thought leadership, they’ll hold you and your service in high esteem.

I love this pre-Internet example (remember those prehistoric days?): In 1982, Hasbro and Marvel teamed up to create a comic book series called “G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero!” with the goal of selling more action toys. As consultant and tech company co-founder Neil Patel points out, seven years later two of every three American boys from ages 5-12 owned at least one G.I. Joe.

Tough to argue with that ROI.

The digital age has brought content marketing to the fore as a marketer’s principal weapon, as savvy professionals increasingly acknowledge. In 2013, a survey of marketers by Adobe and Econsultancy, cited by Emarketer.com, found nearly 40% naming content marketing as a top priority – up 10 points from the year before. Since then, a 2016 survey of North American B2B marketers finds a full 88% using content marketing – the “most effective” among them allocating 42% of their budgets to it, and more than half planning to increase that spend in 2017.

How do they measure the value? Three ways:

– Higher conversion rates

– Lead generation

– Sales

Reviewing available literature and studies, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) points out that “content marketing ROI is higher than the average marketing ROI in every place” they looked. At the Content Marketing World, Kraft’s former senior director for data, content and media said that content marketing ROI was four times greater than their most targeted advertising.

Think about it and it makes sense.

Source: Content Marketing Institut 

With more than 27 million pieces of content shared every day, according to AOL/Nielsen, people are hungry for good content that helps them understand their world, and make solid decisions. In a 2013 BusinessBolts.com marketing survey, 77% of marketing respondents said their content marketing had increased website traffic, 71% said it pushed up their search engine rankings and 70% reported growing public awareness of their brands. “The more you can publish on your site, the better your rankings will become,” content marketing specialist Deborah Bates writes. “It really is as simple as that.”

These are good metrics to set when thinking about ROI as you craft your content marketing strategy. “Shares” are another one – how often your content is passed along via social media. Time spent on your site is also useful.

Calculators such as this one and other statistical measuring tools track ROI through “increased organic rankings as a direct result of earning a diverse, high-quality link portfolio,” according to SEO consultants Moz. But some experts argue – and I agree with them – that the best ROI metric of all is engagement – how and to what extent your audience is involved with the content you create and promote to them.

Source: Fractl

To develop those metrics, you need to have a clear call-to-action that lets you track the performance. These include conversion, scrolling and comments on the piece.

Effective content marketers by far use blogs, case studies, e-newsletters and articles placed on websites as their preferred formats. Their four favorite distribution channels, unsurprisingly, are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Once you set the metrics and goals, you can start measuring how well your content is performing. If you get it right, you’ll be able to determine the real ROI on the content, as effective content marketers have mastered.


Source: Content Marketing Institute

 

In the 2017 U.K. Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, CMI found 65% of marketers could demonstrate how content marketing had increased the number of their leads, 61% could show how it increased audience engagement, 54% could demonstrate increased sales and one-third said it had decreased their cost of customer acquisition.

So…what are you waiting for? Build it into your thinking and your budget. And start measuring the results.