Intelligence will keep PR’s seat at the table, says Carma Asia co-founder

Intelligence will keep PR’s seat at the table, says Carma Asia co-founder

The proverbial seat at the table has been playing musical chairs in a post-digital world, with chief digital, information and customer officers all swooping in as the music stops. For media monitoring and analysis business Carma, it is hoping to make a chameleon out of public relations (PR) specialists in the Asia Pacific by empowering them with data.

The Carma Asia business launched last October, a joint partnership between Carma and Singapore-based Media Track founders. Starting with existing bases in Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, the business is set to expand into Hong Kong and Indonesia this year.

Andrew Nicholls, Carma Asia’s co-founder and managing director, tells The Drum his mission is to not only grow the business but to extol the concept of intelligence over just monitoring, which is the key to ensuring PR has a continued seat at the table.

“Something I hear a lot from the people in the industry is this question of, ‘Does PR deserve a seat at the table?’ My answer to that is that PR, just like any other function in the business, should align with whatever the business goals are” he says.

“One challenge is that the CEO, or the business leader, will say they know they need to do PR but don't really understand how to measure it or how to set KPI’s . It seems sometimes quite nebulous. When you bring measurement and analysis into play you can actually take certain concepts which seem quite nebulous, perhaps like brand awareness, and then pull that back into the business with very clear and structured analysis. That's the difference between just doing media monitoring and doing media intelligence.”

The role that a business like Carma plays is also changing rapidly, as the digital media and social landscape shifts and grows. However, Nicholls stresses that while technology does the heavy lifting, a lot of human analysis is needed to add value to data still.

He gives an example that links to where the company first started, as a digital form of the clippings book. Technology can tell you how many times you appeared, he explains, or how that compares to a competitor and in what markets. But technology isn’t as strong when it comes to finding the meaning for a question such as “Are these brand values that we spent so much time working on two years ago actually resonating in the media that we are being picked up in, and are they working?”

“We're not just focused on one or two platforms. Anyone that doesn't think that traditional media and social media inform each other is completely under a misapprehension. It's that combination of using the machines for what they do best; staying on top of technical development but not throwing away the idea of human analysis. Machines are fast, humans have the qualitative insight,” he explains.

Keeping on top of technological shifts is key however and, in the field that Carma plays in, major changes have led to problems, such as fake news and misinformation.

For Nicholls, the layering of human and technology is how to win out in detecting and making decisions around fake news and misinformation, but it is an evolution of an age-old PR practice.

“Is it a technology solution or a human solution? I think the answer is yes, the technology would pick up very quickly if a negative story was breaking, but then the human element is the decision making process on if, and how, you should react to that. We have some clients that do that internally and we have other clients in which it's part of their brief," he explains.

"We are monitoring that type of data on stories, but actually, we've been doing that for a while, so even before fake news became so talked about, companies, unfortunately, do sometimes have issues and we provide for a number of our clients. It is basically what's called crisis management support."

While greater data will help PR professionals tie their value to real business objectives, the value of humans in the process is still key for Carma. The business is planning on building out further in APAC and taking its hybrid tech and analysis model out to more marketers in the region.

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