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June 25, 2019

It’s time to jump on that bandwagon

Isentia’s Russ Horell on social media, influencers and the future of journalism.

Gone are the days of media monitors delivering clients a package of newspaper cutouts each morning, but that doesn’t mean monitoring is no longer required.

Rather, it’s as important than ever clients have a pair of eyes on the news gaining attention across the expanding media landscape. 

Russ Horell, Isentia’s New Zealand country manager, has been in the media monitoring world for 11 years and in that time has seen it go from a job of cutting out newspapers and faxing them through to clients, to broadening the view to cover websites and social media, and feeding all the media to clients via an app.

“It seems like a light year ago”, says Horell when thinking about how far news media has come since the morning newspaper was the news breaker, adding that while it can be daunting and tempting for clients to run and hide, it should rather be seen as an amazing opportunity to talk to customers, voters or whoever their audience might be.

“If anyone is not embracing social media then it’s time to jump on that bandwagon.”

And because social media happens in real time, unlike a newspaper going to the printer the night following the news, monitoring social media raises the importance of knowing what is happening in real time.

“If you are just looking at what happened yesterday, you’ve got your eye off the ball.”

Machine learning

In response to these changes, Isentia has jumped on a bandwagon to improve its offer to clients. It’s working with the machine learning aspect of AI to take a wider scope with its monitoring, looking beyond client’s specified search terms that they know they are interested in, in order to create a bigger picture. 

“Growing up and watching Blade Runner and The Terminator, it seemed a bit grim. But we think of machine learning as something that can do those tedious tasks a lot better and quicker so we can do more creative things,” says Horell.

Giving Ford as an example, he says it can cluster stories relating to other automotive brands and industry topics as well as just stories about Ford and its people. It will also look at how important stories are based on how many people are looking at them and whether it’s controversial or positive feedback.

“No longer are clients saying: ‘I’m going tell you what I need to know and then you tell me when it happens’. It’s us saying: ‘Hey, there’s something that’s happening here, it’s getting bigger and you need to be across’.”

And not only can it see what is happening in real time, Horell adds AI is also allowing it to assess and predict the best strategy to moving forward by taking a look at what did and did not work, in past scenarios.

The rise of the influencers

In clustering stories and looking at all forms of media to see what’s earning attention, an unexpected outcome has been going down what Horell calls “the rabbit hole” of influencers.

He says they’ve been popping up alongside stories on the front pages of The New Zealand Herald and questions are being raised about the importance of their influence and monitoring of Instagram and influencers.

Looking at Asian markets as an example of why attention needs to be paid, he says those social influencers can have the same credibility as news media. Tech Wire Asia, elaborates on this point saying influencers are taking off due to Asia Pacific’s highly social populations.

However, the same article questions whether the influencer market bubble is bursting as the audience is becoming hardened to commercially-motivated posts. It suggests digital marketers revise their approach if their messages are not to get dismissed.

Looking closer to home at New Zealand and Australian markets, Horell says while influencers may not take off to the same level here as that in Asian markets, the same fundamentals apply and the early adopters who get it right have a big opportunity to be ahead of the curve.

“We think it’s here to stay and we can look to our Asian brothers and sisters to see what’s it’s going to look like here in few years’ time.”

Homing in on the media

And beyond the innovation taking place in Isentia to monitor media across all media in all places, it’s also looking at location-based monitoring and homing in on an area to see what’s going on there.

Horell gives the example of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, at which Isenta will be analysing and evaluating all media coverage received to up to and during games.

To do that, it’s created ring fencing around stadiums to see what people are talking about within the area. Whether it’s the queues or warm beer, the insights will enable it to identify key markets, customise messaging and track sentiment to ‘Share the Dream’ – the campaign line for the games.

When it was announced that Isentia was the official supplier to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games back in February last year, it was already able to show the mascot—a blue surfing Koala called Borobi—had generated more than 3000 news articles since April 2016.

From letters to comments

Referring back to the days of cutting out newspaper articles, another change in the media landscape is those with opinions to share no longer putting pen to paper in a letter to the editor.

Now, they can comment directly below a social post or a news story, and when Horell put it to clients to identify their most important social media platforms at a recent event, comment sections sat alongside Snapchat and Neighbourly.

“Comment sections give new life and legs to stories,” he explains, adding that it’s only if the website allows.

Some, like RNZ, have disabled comments as well-researched options would descend into a few people bickering among themselves.

“It’s fine for something to go off-topic but not wildly off-topic and frankly between that and moderating comments through Facebook, and we get vastly more comments on Facebook, we thought it better to focus on those areas,” said RNZ community engagement editor Megan Whelan when speaking to StopPress about the decision.

Thinking about the irrelevant and incorrect comments that comment sections can attract, Horell looks at the move to paywalls – pointing out NZME’s announcement earlier this year that it plans to put a one around its premium journalism – and how they may have an impact on the tone of comments.

He says suggestions have been made that the point of view of comments sections may become limited to those who chose to pay to get behind the paywall.

The future of journalism

In the same way Isentia has changed the way it’s monitoring the media for clients, Horell sees the way in which journalists search for stories changing—so much so the days of press releases may be limited.

“There are so many different avenues and ways to get your message out there,” he says, giving the examples of Facebook and Twitter. So rather than sending out a press release to break a story, he sees them needing a rethink to possibly be something that directs people back to a website.

And looking further into the future, Horell says Isentia us looking into how its products will be able to sit within Google Glass or a chip that might integrate news into people’s lives.

“If I’m going to an interview with you, my app will tell me all the news articles you have written over the last 20 days so I can keep up to date with what you are doing and it will show me your LinkedIn profile so I know you connect with people that I also connect with, so we’ll have things to talk about. On top of that, I’ll know on my way there that there will be roadworks.”

It’s an advancement that may have some quiver in fear, but Horell points out it should be seen as something that’s “more exciting than worrying”.

“Our lives will become more customised and things like AI will allow that.”

Originally published at stoppress.co.nz.

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Who will win – journalists, influencers or something else?

Unlike the popular television program, it’s harder to distinguish the ‘voice’ that’s connecting with the most people or generating the most impact. It’s noisy, changing and diverging as new technology and behaviours’ continue to change at rapid pace.

The mixture of voices from traditional journalists and radio jockeys to social influencers and television personalities seems to have grown almost overnight. And while the growth of this noise isn’t new, it’s interesting to watch the overlap that’s happening already – and to question whether it’s one, or a combination of all that will win out in the end.

For those in Communications and Marketing, it’s intriguing to watch the disruption that this is having on the industry. The swell of activity for communicators and marketers to understand (at speed) the integrated approaches and the numerous voices that exist to help get their messages across is exciting to watch, as it also has the potential to be more dynamic.

While traditional journalists experience shifts in their mediums, their roles and core responsibilities have seemingly remained largely unchanged. However, for many social influencers there’s an interesting struggle occurring between creativity and business. Not only do you need to nail your content, you must also have a sound business knowledge to ensure you aren’t caught off guard by the algorithms at play and their potential to harm further growth. 

We’ve seen countless examples of former TV stars turn radio jockeys – some more successful than others – but wouldn’t it be interesting to see the same with journalists turn influencer, or vice versa?

In the example shared by Bottle for Botol below, the argument could be made that this strikes a nice balance between both. Fulfilling the more traditional journalistic needs to find and present information, while leveraging social channels to distribute the message.

We may not know who will win yet, but it’s sure to be an interesting finale.

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Blog
The voice

Unlike the popular television program, it’s harder to distinguish the ‘voice’ that’s connecting with the most people or generating the most impact.

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Alert the media! Audiences are more informed than ever but can there be too much of a good thing? Experts say that the internet has democratised free speech, but when there is too much content to choose from, we're left overwhelmed, trying to escape a boundless house haunted by trolls, clickbait and conspiracy theorists.

 Isentia’s webinar, Misinformation: Stopping the Spread, brought together three expert communicators, journalists, data analysts and fighters of fake news to discuss how PR and comms professionals can best navigate misinformation.   

Follow these tips so your audiences find your communications and social media strategy is informed and reliable.

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1. Conserve public opinion that uses facts 

While the internet, including social media, can be a hub of helpful information from DIY projects, recipes and tips to fight misinformation… It's also an open platform for anyone to post and publicise anything. Pulsar CEO and Cofounder Fran D'Orazio encourages comms professionals to promote public opinion that's built on a contextually rich foundation so that the everyday scroller sees more than a title and a tagline. 

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2. Call out misinformation, even your own

Content creator @sydneyraz, known for his "things to know before you're in your 30s" content, corrected his misinformation post from 2021, where he said you could store your avocados in water to stop them browning. Reputable news outlets, food experts and the FDA responded to his original post, saying this avo hack could actually put you at risk of salmonella and listeria poisoning. Unless misinformation is called out and unreliable content is debunked, media consumers will struggle to know what is correct and who to trust.

3. Seek out the experts

If your misinformation senses are tingling, don't hesitate to send content and questions to groups with expertise in this area. Initiatives like RMIT Factlab and The Disinformation Project investigate misinformation on media platforms. RMIT Factlab takes misinformation Meta has identified, and then fact checks it. They then write an article, post it on their site, and provide it to Meta, who attaches the URL to the original fake news post - offering the opportunity for people to read the truth first. Throughout this process, Meta, using its algorithms, downgrades fake news, so it's not seen as often. "It is better to work with them [Meta], so some misinformation is downgraded, rather than not having a relationship with them," says Sushi Das, Assistant Director of RMIT Factlab. 

4. Share truth

Kate-Hannah of the Disinformation Project recommends equipping people with tools like counterspeech to use in discourse spaces. Think about how stories and fact-checking tools can divert a negative conversation and direct it onto the main issue or reveal more context. Empathy, humour and reminding perpetrators of ill-informed public messaging of the consequences to spreading hate or dangerous speech, are some communication strategies to use.

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5. Ensure a source is reliable 

"Everybody is sort of a publisher now," says Sushi Das. We all deserve to feel like we're in a safe space, but the ungovernable realm of the online world puts safety into question. We are all tapping into our smart devices for news content but the key is having high standards of the publishers and creators whose content you consume. Traditional media is still held to account with regulations to follow and trained journalists on staff - posing a strong force against misinformation. With standards, regulations and trained journalists, their outputs are a strong force against exposure to misinformation. The moment a news story goes online, the context is at risk of being blurred, whether a filter is used or not.

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[embed width="1080" height="450"]https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/10098209[embed]

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6. Bring context into the mix

What does context look like in a world still learning to understand the vague guidelines governing online spaces? The devil truly is in the details or the lack of them. Pulsar's recent partnership with Newsguard, "the Internet's trust tool," helps them rate outlets producing news content based on such specific details: their standards of accountability, do they gather info responsibly, and correct their own errors? The results contribute to a credibility score. Data powered by Pulsar show which brands are most susceptible to having misinformation about them distributed online - showing that every sector is vulnerable.

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7. Consider framing

There are multiple ways to frame a conversation or narrative. Kate-Hannah says, "there is a responsibility to tell the truth, but in ways that help people make good decisions." People need to be reading the news, not switching off. When reading or producing news content consider how you want readers to feel, but also what you want them to do with that information. Hannah during the webinar, referred to an instance in New Zealand where exposure in the city of Whangarei to Covid-19 spurred people to get tested even in the intense heat. Hannah holds journalists to account for their negative framing of that event, and offers an alternative, that those lining up to get tested in those conditions are ensuring the safety of their community.        

8. Prioritise what issues you’re going to speak to 

Fran D'Orazio says there is a big job in predicting what narratives will spin out of control, "if you try and attack all the different fronts that get opened on the web, it's difficult to make an impact." Brands must choose what battles to fight and prioritise who should be answered. Develop a response framework for your brand to use when it’s found to be in the middle of a misinformed online dispute. Answer these questions, who are those agitators that need a response and what should they, along with their followers, take away from your response? 

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9. Anticipate rather than confront 

Anticipate the impact of a narrative on particular audiences. If you confront an audience already exposed to a misinformation narrative, they are unlikely to change their mind. If you anticipate them and introduce that audience to a truthful record, you may manage to immunise them once they encounter the myths. 

10. Improve your media and news literacy

It may be your first impulse to hit that share button but "stop and think before you share anything. That share button is a trigger." Sushi Das says, "everyone needs to be aware of themselves." Question what you see and how the content makes you feel. Don't just read a headline and share it with your communities; use resources like First Draft and NewsWhip to better verify what you and your audiences are consuming online. 

Extensive research into misinformation is showing that people are getting splintered into different realities based on the news they consume and the algorithms that continue the pattern of content. By developing our media literacy and sharing the truth with our communities, experts say we can change people's minds before they engage with falsehoods. It Just goes to show, don't keep an avocado in water…or accept everything you see online as fact.

 If you see something that is mis or disinformation, send them to initiatives like, info@thedisinfoproject.org or RMIT Factlab.

Watch Isentia's webinar, "Misinformation: Stopping the Spread", for more.

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Blog
Building a Communications Strategy in the era of Misinformation
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Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. As time passes by, we can see a definitive shift taking place, with each of these brands increasingly becoming part of conversations taking place around the world.

This Global Report, powered by Isentia and Pulsar's data, analyses international trends and zeroes in how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

Fill up the form below to download the whitepaper and read more.

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Whitepaper
[Pulsar Report] Transactions & Reactions: The Online Credit Card Conversation

Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. This Global report sheds light on international trends and zeroing in on how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

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The social trends and audience behind healthy drinking behaviour

While the pandemic and lockdowns made some people more likely to grab an alcoholic drink, audience interest in low alcohol or no alcohol drinks keeps growing online, both globally and in Australia. 

But what events are driving Australians towards the #sobercurious lifestyle? And which brands are piquing their interest?

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According to data from our sister company Pulsar, social conversation and search interest in low-no-alcohol peaked in April '21-Oct '21 as the press announced a $1 million government grant (as part of the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy) was awarded to Modus Operandi Brewery to manufacture a non-alcoholic ale, NORT. The mentions of low/no-alcohol experienced a peak in June, leading to Dry July and Sober October.

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Mention metrics show that health and socialising are major motivational drivers for Australians when choosing a drink of the low/no-alcohol variety. The two are closely related, as prominent tags associated with low/no-alcohol mentions are #mindfuldrinking, #soberissexy, and #soberdating.

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Meanwhile, popular millennial and gen z media outlets like Fashion Journal and Refinery29 are reporting on how-tos and the benefits of sober dating. Young Australians are reading that by avoiding the booze, their anxiety is reduced, and they are setting themselves up for relationship success.

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Mental health improvements associated with the trend aren’t the only benefits being publicised; the physical gains are too. Australian media personality Erin Holland told Women’s Health Magazine that her preparation for the popular reality series SAS Australia involved a strict no-alcohol rule. Rugby union Wallaby player Radiko Samo credited a no-alcohol stance to his improved performance on the field.

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The data also suggests Australians genuinely enjoy the taste of low/no-alcohol beverages followed by ethical reasons. For centuries, abstinence from alcoholic drinking has been tied to ethical beliefs, but open discussion and acknowledgment of Australia’s amoral history keep this motivator current. Aboriginal-owned and led non-alcoholic craft brewers SOBAH advocate for this and aim to break toxic Indigenous stereotypes by providing “healing opportunities outside the reliance on government funding and control."

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Globally, drinks like beer, vodka, and whiskey tend to be more popular, but Australian consumers are hitting the spirits and mixers. Non-alcoholic cocktail bars were springing up across Australian metropolitan areas like Brunswick Aces in Melbourne, giving non-drinkers a chance to socialise without feeling left out. From hotels to online delivery services, hospitality businesses connect with Aussies’ healthier lifestyle choices. In particular, small-batch distilleries and breweries utilising bush tucker flavours are getting covered in widely read hospitality and entertainment sites like Broadsheet. 

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Australian-made distilleries are also proud to represent the small-batch, independent ethos which aligns with the Aussie tendency to support one-of-kind artisanal producers over big-name brands.

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British and Australian brands Seedlip and Lyre’s appear as the most mentioned across media platforms between July-November 21. In the news, Aussie founded Lyres had taken out best non-alcoholic spirit for their Italian spritz at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Seedlip took out two non-alcoholic spirit awards in the Australian Drinks Awards held in November 2021.

While we might expect fitness enthusiasts to be discussing the benefits of lowering alcohol consumption online, a deep dive into the different audiences talking about low alcohol brands reveals this is a popular conversation amongst more niche subcultures.

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Across twitter, discussions of non-alcohol spirits are popular amongst Australian bookworms. Popular non-alcoholic brands like Lyres and Seadrift use old-fashioned or themed storytelling as part of their branding language—an aesthetic that lets  literary lovers know they ”can enjoy the mirth and merriment of a soiree or shindig” without alcohol. This group is also keen to share with their community the book they are currently reading and a matching mocktail.

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This trend continues to grow as Aussies aspire for optimal performance at work, in their social and romantic lives, and for their overall wellness. The data shows Aussies celebrating and sharing their alcohol-free experiences with their digital communities, and with the backing from the government and smaller brands taking out big awards, this trend continues to offer Australians an opportunity to get on the wagon.

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This blog was produced using data from our sister company 
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Thought Leadership
Australia gets on the wagon: what’s driving low and no alcohol trends

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