An Executive Conversation hosted by Meltwater and produced by Connect Media.

THE ART AND SCIENCE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Jack RiisfeldtNovember 13, 2019

Government has long endured its reputation as a digital laggard and rarely elicits the envy of corporates when it comes to data and technological capability. But now the pendulum is swinging.

Government has reached a data saturation point, crossing a critical mass threshold that affords insights substantial weight. For communication and public affairs professionals, this new found meaning is a deeper understanding of consumer voice, contextualised commentary and the nuanced forces driving consumer sentiment.

Threading this logic and understanding back to critical government decision-makers is changing media intelligence, and by extension, affecting how entire communication and public affairs structures and strategies are conceptualised and executed.

MELTWATER is leading this media intelligence renaissance in New South Wales, rejecting out-of-the-box corporate focus solutions in favour of bespoke government models that empower leaders to absorb and react to media forces with unmatched speed and confidence.

The New South Wales Government isn’t the only institution with a growing appetite for digitization. Hungering to change user behaviour, CONNECT MEDIA and MELTWATER gathered leading Victorian public affairs professionals from across the public sphere to examine how media intelligence and communication strategies are evolving, and how data is opening new doors and informing novel approaches to the news cycle.

Conversation was anchored in the work MELTWATER has done for the New South Wales Government, and by extension, what the future holds for communication in Victoria.

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THE MANDATE AND THE MODEL

Presented with a mandate to innovate and change user behaviour by the New South Wales Government, MELTWATER concentrated their immediate attention on creating mobile applications, setting about to influence the way users consume information to mirror fundamental shifts in the news cycle.

It is not new news to say that the media cycle never sleeps – what is revolutionary is arming leaders with the tools to stay vigilant and informed in this frenetic environment without becoming overwhelmed.

This strategic realignment around mobile was supported by the creation of a command centre, an analytics home-base that not only processes external data siphoned from social media, but which also processes internal data to support a broader transformation agenda.

Under one centralised contract, MELTWATER established an internal command centre and in the place of this umbrella information gatekeeper gave each department autonomy over its own media intelligence.

Naturally, a shift of this magnitude had to be carefully managed – there are always parties that resist change on the grounds of change alone. But by driving adoption at the peak of the department hierarchies – among ministers themselves – MELTWATER was able to create immediate impetus for uptake from the top down:

“WE NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT OUR MINISTERS KNOWING MORE THAN WE KNOW. THAT WAS GREAT FOR ENGAGING.”
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CONSUMER SENTIMENT, CONTEXT AND CRISIS

Consumer sentiment is notoriously difficult to gauge reliably. MELTWATER approached this challenge by deploying a custom sentiment model, manually processing language to train algorithms to read and interpret sentiment.

Interestingly, the utility of sentiment was itself brought into question – when confronted by overwhelming negativity, what is the relevance of sentiment as an analytic?

In this space, MELTWATER is rolling out sentiment drivers, identifying and interpreting the forces shifting beneath sentiment itself, so that Government can more deeply understand consumer reactions and responses to unfolding developments.

Crucial to this pursuit is the contextualisation of social media commentary. In many instances, the social echo of any given issue may not have the pervasive effect that appears on the surface. Communication professionals must be able to balance negative engagement against organic impressions, the perhaps positive, but certainly passive audience.

Leaders can take this analysis further by identifying trends and patterns among particular users, and using this intelligence as a basis for mapping landscape influencers, achieving greater engagement and for crisis aversion. MELTWATER have been proactive in this space, creating an ‘influencers’ function or engagement platform that maps journalists thematically and politically as a basis for relationship building.

Context is particularly important when considering that for many communication professionals, crisis is incessantly top of mind:

“IT’S LIKE YOU’RE ALWAYS ON STANDBY FOR A CRISIS AND WHILE YOU DON’T WANT A CRISIS TO HAPPEN, WHEN A CRISIS DOES HAPPEN, YOU’RE LIKE THE HERO OF THE ORGANISATION.”

A symptom of this constant state of agitation is that sometimes organisations struggle to qualify what a crisis is. The role of communication professionals in this domain is to provide perspective, contextualise the situation, and establish a position that is supported with data.

You must consider your exposure as a percentage of the commentary holistically, but also against competing stories garnering attention in the news cycle:

“IT’S ALL ABOUT CONTEXTUALISING AGAINST THE REST OF THE CONVERSATION.”

The ability to understand your relevant exposure at any given time in a rapidly shifting media environment is an indispensable tool for ministers and the government they represent.

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CONCLUSION

Consumer voices have never been louder, nor has there ever been so much noise. Information spreads like wildfire, and communication professionals must have the right tools to determine which sparks pose a threat, where opportunity exists, and to stay ahead in this fast-changing landscape.

MELTWATER is building these tools from the ground up, embedding leading advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities in applications that empower communication leaders, wherever they are.

Communication professionals understand better than most that the importance of continuous community engagement and dialogue cannot be overstated.

MELTWATER and CONNECT MEDIA will be continuing this series of conversations across Australia, empowering communication professions to find a new height of excellence.