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Human vs. automated analysis: Context is king

by | Dec 2, 2015 | Media Monitoring

Why will automated analysis never trump that of humans? Because, in just five words: Machines. Can’t. Tell. Compelling. Stories.

That’s the core of it. Because what is an analyst, if not a good storyteller? When we’re talking about analytics, monitoring, and sheer numbers we’re simply talking about raw data. But without interpretation, manipulation, and explanation, you have only the framework of a good story.

Where monitoring provides volume and numbers, good analysis provides substance and context. Automated analysis allows for duplicate article exclusions and basic sentiment analysis. As a tool to help a human analyst, it can be indispensible.

But where automation falls short is in understanding context. Human analysts, by contrast, are trained to do exactly that.

For example, if a company wants to monitor competitive media data for sentiment, share of voice, and related content, an automated analysis — while being significantly less expensive — will do the job, but usually very inaccurately. What’s the context behind the numbers? What are the key stories?

If Brand A is coming to market with a new product to compete with Brand B’s flagship product, their monitoring and analysis can’t just be about numbers. They also need to know the so-called Five W’s; Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Who: Who is reviewing their product? Who is discussing purchasing it? Who is buying it?
What: What’s is the prevailing sentiment around the release? What is the competition saying?
Where: Where is it being discussed? Where is the release having positive, or negative, reception?
When: When did the most coverage occur? When are most people reviewing, and discussing, the release?

The final W, of course, is Why. And it’s the last one for a reason: Once an analyst compiles results on influencers, opinion, geotargeting, and timing, they can use that data to begin to tell the Why story. Brand A’s product is being discussed by young adults, who think it is superior to Brand B’s product, with a high concentration in urban areas and via posts that often reference high-technology blogs. But why is this? A human can help tell you the whole story — that although Brand B’s product has greater market share, it is with an older demographic who aren’t as social media savvy and are less concerned with early adopter features.

Analysis based on daily monitoring allows an agile marketing team to make adjustments on the fly. It also allows executives to keep a close eye on the pulse of their business, and to be able to do so with context around their numbers.

So why won’t automation, despite its lower price-point, ever overtake human analysis?

Despite the programming and intelligence being poured into automation, it will always be just a tool. But a human, whether an internal analyst or outsourced extension of the team, is a resource. And a resource grows, learns, and adapts. A resource can tell a compelling story.

And something we all know is that a good story inspires new waves of creativity and understanding. Business growth comes from innovation, and innovation is inspired by understanding situations and creatively finding solutions.

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Ira Lacroix
With a background in marketing, sales, and communication, Ira worked closely with clients and staff as the Manager, Inside Sales and has now transitioned into building Agility’s channel division as the Manager, Strategic Partnerships. As a father of 3, Ira spends what little ‘free time’ he has wrenching in the garage on his latest project, or closed off in the home office writing.

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