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26th September 2019
Signal Editors

AI-powered media monitoring vs Boolean search

Need to track your media mentions, and write a search query that will help show your stakeholders how well your campaign has been received?

You’re going to need to use some type of media monitoring tool or tracking process to access that data. (If you don’t already have one in place.) So it’s likely that you’ve used, or at least heard of, Boolean.

Ah, Boolean. Not, in fact, the word for ‘surprise’ in Klingon, but defined in the Signal AI PR & Media Intelligence Glossary as the logic that defines the path a computed expression take. Boolean algebra is a fundamental aspect of searches conducted on search engines such as, Google via Google Alerts. But Boolean is more than that.

Now, ‘a form of algebra’ doesn’t sound that sexy. But Boolean, the logic named after Charles Boole – a 19th century mathematician, no less – facilitates Boolean searches. These are a type of long-tail search used in media monitoring, that in days gone by were an incredible time saver for PRs conducting digital media monitoring.

It can also be classed as an analysis tool, allowing PRs to widen, limit or define their searches. Providing results that would have previously never been able to find without it. But – spoiler alert – there’s a new kid on the block – AI-powered media monitoring – and it’s going to shake up the way you search.

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What is Boolean search?

So, first off, how does Boolean work and how do you use it?

There are four main Boolean ‘operators’ you need to know about: AND, OR, NEAR and NOT (and they must be in block capitals, we aren’t just shouting at you).

By placing any or all of these in a search string, you are able to dig deeper and eliminate results that don’t matter to you and your company. Here’s a handy cut-out-and-keep table:

Boolean OperatorResult
AND (+)All words must be present in the results
ORResults can include any of the words
NOT (-)Results include everything but the term that follows the operator
NEARThe search terms must appear within a certain number of words of each other

Want to search for Apple the company, not apple the fruit? You’d want to exclude mentions that involve anything do with Granny Smiths or Bramleys.

Want to look for mentions of Peugeot pepper grinders? Use Boolean to exclude all mentions of Peugeot cars, and add the word ‘pepper’ so you don’t have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant conversation.

To give extra context, here’s a real world example.

Amadeus…but NOT Mozart

Travel technology company Amadeus shares a name with a lot of other things.

A quick Google search returns 62 million results – we’ve got Mr. A Mozart in there, as well as many other famous people, films, plays, an airline, numerous companies, software, orchestras…the list goes on and on.

So if the PR and comms teams at Amadeus wanted to do some media tracking, they’d be wading through a lot of content that bares no relevance to the brand. This takes time, resources, and – ultimately – money.

But if your teams are using Boolean, this is how they might write a search query in order to slice and dice the data and bring back only the mentions that are of actual use to them.

Body copy image of a complicated Boolean search

Is Boolean search outdated? Yes

But. And this is a big but. That’s a whole lot of search terms, and a whole lot of effort. Boolean language is complex to learn and even more difficult to understand, and it’s not for everyone. Unfortunately it’s just not as simple as using AND in a search.

As you can see in the Amadeus search string above, you’re going to need to be writing in a whole new language, and the parentheses, commas and operators can be impenetrable for some – even for seasoned analysts.

Also, the margin for error with Boolean can be a big one.

To write a Boolean search, you have to copy and paste and manually add new keywords, so a finger slip can cause significant changes in the results, and the volume of those results can be overwhelming.

The output is often hard to decipher, and not ordered in a particularly reader-friendly way.

Consider how long the above query might take someone in your team to create. It’s not light work. This is a problem Amadeus found themselves in.

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The modern alternative? AI-powered media monitoring

Today, AI is making it easier for people to do everyday tasks – for example, finding all of their photos of their pets in their phone’s photo albums (a very important task). But arguably (!) more importantly, it’s also cutting down time wasted in PR and comms teams everywhere.

Here’s where we drop the mic – AI-powered media monitoring is now here to take the baton from Boolean.

What does AI powered search mean? Well, instead of inputting reams and reams of search terms, the AI takes over and applies logic and semantic understanding, and can even disambiguate words that might have different meanings (apple, and apple…).

Tools applying AI technology constantly learn from users, meaning that every time they’re used, they’re getting smarter and more useful.

Choosing a tool like Signal AI means you’ve got millions of dollars of investment into AI technology doing the hard work for you.

Amadeus, for instance, have chosen to leave Boolean behind. After taking a free trial to track industry topics, events and clients as well as their own brand and spokespeople, they haven’t looked back.

“To inform our overall business strategy, we needed a solution to benchmark, sense check and understand how stakeholders and customers are reacting globally to the brand and its products.” Daniel Batchelor, Global Head of Corporate Communications, Amadeus

Here’s what their search looks like now, thanks to AI: Amadeus.

Simple.

Are AI-powered media monitoring the future of PR?

Without being too bold, we are confident that it is, yes. Using AI to power your search means your tool surfaces the most relevant news from around the world, and analyses the results for you in real-time.

You’re left free to focus on optimising your PR campaigns, crisis management, building media relations, performance measurement and your communications strategy.

Find your PR sweet spot and communications success with an AI-powered media monitoring platform. Now that sounds sexy, even if we say so ourselves.