How to Conduct a Media Impact Analysis

A device screen floats against a blue background surrounded by speech bubbles and notification icons
A device screen floats against a blue background surrounded by speech bubbles and notification icons

The media impacts virtually everyone. From news stories to social media platforms, what we see in the media helps to shape our views of the world. Even if you’re not a big consumer of media, the people around you might be. And media’s influence on their beliefs, ideas, decision-making, and conversations can make its way to you in your face-to-face interactions.

How exactly does media impact us? And what effect does it have on your business or brand? That’s where a media impact data analysis comes in handy. Here’s what media impact means for businesses, along with tips on how to measure it.

Table of Contents:

What Is Media Impact?

Using a megaphone.

Let’s start with a definition: Media impact is the effect certain stories or mentions in the media have on audiences. This effect includes consumer sentiment, the perceived value of a product, and even product sales.

Impact also goes beyond whether the beliefs, ideas, or attitudes of individuals have been affected. We can look at impact on a more “macro” level to see how entire organizations, companies, or institutions have generated systematic changes.

The media (and journalism in general) is designed to have an effect on its audience. It’s supposed to inform the public, but it can also shape our perceptions of issues and events. When it’s your business being featured by news organizations, you need to understand the impact your media appearance has on the public and how it will ultimately affect your brand.

What Is a Media Impact Analysis?

Typing on a laptop.

If impact is the byproduct of mass communication, then a media impact analysis is the act of understanding that byproduct. By definition, it’s the formal assessment of the media’s impact on an audience, business, or brand.

Getting mentioned by media organizations is an impressive feat. But brands shouldn’t stop there. They need to take the next step to understand what this publicity means for them, for better or for worse.

Some questions a media impact analysis might ask and answer are:

  • Did publicity directly influence sales and revenue increases?
  • Did the media coverage increase traffic to my website?
  • Did media coverage ultimately change how consumers feel about my brand or company?
  • Have I taken any business away from my direct competitors?
  • Has the mass media generated greater customer loyalty?

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. But it does demonstrate the scope and depth of a media impact analysis and how it can give you a better understanding of whether or not your advertising and PR are working.

Why Is Media Impact Analysis Important for Businesses?

Picture this: You spend $10,000 on a marketing campaign for your food security non-profit. Several news outlets and digital media publish the story about your new initiative to feed local communities. You track clicks from each source, see spikes in website traffic, and notice an uptick in donations to fund your project — all helpful quantitative data. But many dots still need to be connected.

Connecting dots.

For instance, all the activity you’re seeing now could be the direct result of your campaign and will cease as soon as your campaign ends. There may be no ongoing conversations about reducing food insecurity, no systemic changes, or no action taken by local governments to address the cause in other ways. Public opinion might remain stagnant.

If your goal was to create a larger conversation around hunger, a media impact analysis can help you see how you’re moving the needle. It adds in-depth context to quantitative data so you can see where your numbers are coming from and why they matter.

Media impact analyses work for for-profit businesses, too. Take Google, for instance. Meltwater enables Google to make sense of conversations beyond basic social analytics. It looks at consumer sentiment (the meaning behind the message) to understand the company's global footprint. It helps Google understand how campaigns perform in relation to each other, assess whether they reached key demographics, and dissect the relationship between the data they collect and their product objectives.

Making an impact that emphasizes a deep-rooted change in sentiment and social norms can be a long, slow process. Changes aren’t always immediately apparent. But tracking conversations over time can show you the overall impact of your media at every level — local, regional, national, and even international.

How to Do a Media Impact Analysis

Historically, media impact has been measured through lab studies. Doing so through other channels has proved challenging due to potential selection bias. Today’s technology enables a better path to analysis with artificial intelligence tools like natural language processing and machine learning or image recognition software. It eliminates the risks of selection bias because it takes into account everyone in the new media ecosystem.

AI collects and analyzes millions of data points in real-time and turns them into usable insights. A similar feat would typically take entire teams of human analysts and countless weeks or months to produce somewhat similar outcomes.

Here's what a modern media impact analysis looks like:

1. Start with an impact goal

Newton's cradle.

We’re advocates of starting with the end in mind and working backward. When you know the impact you’d like to make, you can better tailor your content and campaigns to produce the desired outcome.

Having an impact goal gives you something to compare the results of your campaign to. Later, when you start analyzing the conversations people are having based on your campaign, you can see whether those conversations align with your original intentions.

2. Define your media metrics

There are many ways you can measure media effects. Some of the most common metrics include:

Reach

Stanford Social Innovation Review reminds us that there’s no guarantee that a story that reached millions of readers will have a greater, real-world impact than one that reached thousands of readers. Clicks also only tell part of a story, especially since bots can be deployed to increase clicks and make it look like your content is getting traction.

Rather, reach isn’t so much about the size of the audience as it is about the substance of the audience. One way to get a better idea of reach is to look at how long a person engaged with your content. Someone who spent more time reading an article is likely to be more impacted by it than someone who bounced after a few seconds.

AI can help fill in the knowledge gaps by looking beyond clicks and getting a better idea of how people felt about your content.

Influence

Media can play a powerful role in shaping individual attitudes, thoughts, and opinions. And in some cases, it can shape the public’s perceptions as a whole. Media coverage can influence how other individuals and organizations approach certain issues.

Measuring the influence of your content is a big part of impact analysis. AI reduces the need to collect influence-related data through focus groups and interviews by analyzing online conversations and the context behind them.

When combined with other metrics, organizations can get a better sense of just how influential their content is to their audience and their own goals.

Engagement

Social media marketing tends to emphasize vanity metrics such as likes, shares, and follows. These are often mistaken for engagement.

In reality, they mean very little in the grand scheme of things because they don’t indicate any level of commitment or understanding.

However, AI technology can bring more insights to engagement activities through social media listening and monitoring. Discover what else people are talking about on social networks beyond your brand. Learn what’s driving conversations, discover relevant topics, and become a more impactful part of your audiences’ lives.

Traffic

Bar graphs.

Website traffic is a big part of engagement. It demonstrates that your content wasn’t just enticing to read, but it also encouraged the reader to take additional action. AI can bring greater context to traffic by showing you exactly what sources your traffic is coming from and which content drove the action.

3. Deploy a media monitoring and analysis solution

Media monitoring platforms do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when you're conducting a media impact analysis. Once you deploy your solution, AI tools go to work discovering and analyzing conversations, tracking metrics like the ones listed above, and turning information into insights.

From there, it’s a matter of looking at each resource and report with spelled-out data so you can get a better understanding of your impact.

How Meltwater Can Help

Understanding the impact of your public relations, media use, and media mentions is a critical step in any PR strategy. It removes any guesswork of whether you’re making a difference, both in your company and in the lives of your audience.

Our media monitoring and social media management platforms put AI to work in continuously generating these insights on your behalf - for example by using image recognition. We scour more than 270,000 global new sources and bring in more than 500 million pieces of content to our clients every day. Get a deeper understanding of your audience, track topics that matter, and watch your impact evolve over time.

Schedule a demo to see how we can simplify your media initiatives.

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