What Is Media Intelligence and Why Does It Matter?

Listen smarter, not harder

Brian Hubbard
Digital Diplomacy
5 min readSep 13, 2020


A blue and black background of many small lights with several people darkened out in the foreground.
Photo by Robynne Hu on Unsplash

That ringing in your ears is the sound of people talking about your brand. You can’t see them, but they’re out there, gossiping about who you are and what you do.

Although tinnitus may or may not be an underlying symptom — the science is inconclusive — most savvy organizations already possess some awareness of the conversation surrounding their brands. How could they not? In 2020, the world is at home and everyone is online. Or at least 59% of everyone is, and a 6% growth from last year is huge when you consider the dizzying amount of data being passed between millions of devices.

To keep up with the rapid growth of online activity, companies are turning to quicker, more comprehensive tools to measure the returns on their PR, Communications, and Marketing efforts in that space. These tools generate a variety of insights and together are known as media intelligence.

But What Exactly Is Media Intelligence?

To get at a more grounded definition of this nebulous concept of media intelligence, we first need to identify all the moving parts. Much like we understand basic intelligence as the ability to collect and apply general knowledge and skills, media intelligence is defined in a similar way, incorporating different methods of gathering information from the media into a cohesive whole.

As the technology matures, so too does the official nomenclature of the different tools used to pull insights from across the media spectrum. To keep it simple, here we’ll only break down into three main areas of media monitoring, social listening, and data analysis.

Media Monitoring

Dating back to the bygone days of newspapers, press clippings services were the premier way to scour the media for mentions of your brand. Media monitoring agencies specialized in targeting and collecting copies of media content relevant to your business, filtering it to your liking according to industry, geography, or subject.

Fast forward through time and media monitoring has developed alongside advancements in technology, altering its method of digging up content with the evolution of radio, television, and the internet. With the recent induction of data mining and machine learning, some of this process has even become automated where it isn’t still accomplished with a set of good eyes.

Social Listening

Much like the above-mentioned media monitoring, social listening requires a steady finger on the pulse of the conversations relevant to your brand. However, where media monitoring has a wider aperture of coverage, social listening is mostly limited to the realm of social media: Twitter, Facebook, reddit, etc.

It’s easy to confuse social listening with media monitoring because the two are essentially the same means to the same end, but one way to think of social listening is in terms of metrics. What metrics do you use to measure how your brand is being talked about? You can begin with things like mentions, hashtags, SOV, and industry trends.

Where social listening also differs is in how it uses those metrics to determine concepts that are harder to quantify, like how customers feel through a sentiment score. With social listening, you move beyond mere data collection to dive into numbers that reflect the breadth of your reputation online and the positive, negative, or neutral feeling behind it.

Data Analysis

With such a staggering wealth of data out there, having a platform or tool in place is essential to understanding how it connects, and what business you can make from it. You may begin with a careful look at an increase in your brand’s SOV within a specific niche, say FinTech, but how you aggregate that data into a more digestible solution is where data analysis comes in.

It’s this stage where business KPI’s become important. What are your goals? Are you trying to respond quickly to a crisis? Or do you want to benchmark what you see happening with the competition? Having a framework in place of how you want to filter the data obtained from media monitoring and social listening tools is paramount to understanding what value it brings to your organization.

Say for example you want to measure the success of a recent social media marketing campaign. In connecting with your social team, you take a look at the sentiment and number of mentions. Data analysis is when you look at the hard numbers and organize them according to how they best align with the vision of what you’ve set out to accomplish. Here dashboards, graphs, and other visual tools come in handy to separate the vanity metrics from the more actionable ones.

So, Why Does Media Intelligence Matter?

We’ve already covered what media intelligence is, and how it gathers the important data on the narrative of your brand, but why does it matter?

Well, people like to be heard.

Knowing your audience has always been a hallmark of traditional marketing. There are a number of ways teams have gathered information about their customer base in the past, but how many have been able to dial into the organic conversations about your brand as they happen in real-time? With the onset of social media, the right tools can turn the media landscape into live focus groups you track according to the trend or topic of the day.

Media intelligence matters because it gives you incredible insight into the behavior of your audience. The right media intelligence platform can reveal pain points in the conversations of your customers, as people are more willing to speak their mind from behind an avatar. Who’s the loudest in the room? The right solution can also identify influencers who promote your brand to their thousands of followers.

As the ground shifts with political movements and greater social responsibility, corporate reputation is constantly at the mercy of hourly events. With early warning and alert systems of the right media intelligence solution, you can address a communications crisis the moment bad news strikes. Just as well, media intelligence not only prepares you with insight into what’s happening right now but allows you to see future trends with predictive analytics based on the data you’ve accumulated.

None of this, however, will move the needle on ROI unless you act with the data. Interested people (and brands) are interesting people (and brands). It’s one thing to pay close attention to what your audience is saying, it’s another entirely to engage. With valuable data in hand, media intelligence gives you an edge in producing bespoke content for your consumers based on the tastes and needs you’ve already seen.

The exponential growth in people logging on in 2020 has only amplified the need for the comprehensive service of media intelligence. Traditional reactive ways of gathering information from your audience are being surpassed by more proactive ones. So unless you want to miss the good word on your brand, you need media intelligence to tune that ringing in your ear to the right frequency.



Brian Hubbard
Digital Diplomacy

Writer. US ex-pat living in Buenos Aires. Fascinated by tech, games, art, and how they intersect.