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Competitive analysis in communications: benefits for the brand and specifics of conducting

The modern world is changing very quickly. This applies to literally everything - events, technologies, products, companies. In order not to get lost in these changes, it is important for companies to notice them in time and "keep their finger on the pulse" of the market. In communications, the analysis of the competitive field in mass media and social networks is best suited for this.

Competitive analysis is an important tool for making managerial decisions in the field of marketing and promotion. Competitive analysis is no less important in the field of communications and PR, as it helps to form an understanding of the brand's place among other market players and to make decisions based on this understanding and the data of the companies' media presence.

Analysis of the competitive field in terms of communications is a comparative analysis of competitors' PR activity based on media analytics.

When should you do a competitive analysis? Analysis of competitor communications will be especially useful if you are going to enter a new market, launch new products and services (or adjust existing ones), form (or adjust) a communication strategy, rebrand and increase the share of the company's presence (or a specific product brand) in the media space.

"Reconnaissance" in the competitive field is needed to:

  • compare data on competitors with data on your company, identify your strengths and weaknesses - in which positions you are already "on par" with the objects of the study, where you have "surpassed" and where you are still "lagging behind";

  • identify a must-have – the thing in the communication of the market players, which is so expected and widespread that it is impossible to do without it;

  • identify and subsequently track benchmarks; Benchmarks are average industry values of various indicators of media activity, which serve as a sample for comparing the performance of market players; it is recommended to use it to form your own KPIs (indicators for measuring the effectiveness of communications).

  • gain insights into various communication strategies in your market info field – for example, in which media competitors are mentioned more often, which types of media bring the greatest coverage, which speakers competitors use to promote their messages, etc.;

  • understand the communication strategies of competitors - how they position themselves, what key message they focus on, how they differentiate themselves from other market players.

As a result of the analysis, most likely, you will not only identify the strengths of your brand or company, but also see the weaknesses, lagging behind the leaders in certain indicators, etc. Weaknesses should be viewed as key areas of brand development, that is, opportunities that have not yet been used to the benefit of the brand. Areas of Brand Development – opportunities not covered by the current communications strategy: what communications can be changed or added to impact metrics and achieve goals.

How to perform a competitive analysis? The best thing is to break it down into stages, so to speak, "eat an elephant piece by piece."

Stages of competitive analysis:

  • form the goals of the analysis,

  • highlight competitors,

  • create a list of criteria (metrics) for comparison in the competitive field,

  • collect mentions and analyze selected criteria for comparing competitors,

  • create a final report based on the results of the analysis,

  • expert level - set up a process of continuous analysis of the competitive field to be able to refer to it as needed. If you've reached this point, congratulations, you're a pro!

The first stage: formulation of the goals and main emphasis of the analysis of the competitive field

Emphasis and focus of attention when conducting a competitive analysis may change depending on the situation.

If you plan to enter a new market, you should focus on how this market functions, which players are represented and what their current indicators are (brand performance, potential awareness of market brands, share of voice, dynamics). It is also important to investigate the communication strategies of competitors: their main communication channels (in terms of the number of publications and/or potential audience coverage), types of content, thematic context and main messages.

Before introducing a new product/service to the market, we recommend doing a detailed comparative analysis not of the competing companies, but of their products. That is, to investigate what products are already on the market, choose relevant ones (those that are competitive for your new product) and analyze them according to the criteria of representation in the media. It is also worth paying attention to the main indicators of the media presence of competing companies: to study the dynamics in terms of number and coverage, the share of the voice, the ratio of positive to negative, the main communication channels. This will give you the context to compare selected competitor products.

If your priority is the formation/adjustment of a communication strategy, as well as increasing the communication influence of the brand, we recommend that you research the strategies of the competitors in detail: what key messages do they form, through which channels and speakers do they convey them, what methods do they use for this (writing press releases, interviews with business representatives, comments on television, special events to attract media attention, etc.), which topics have the most attention in the media and social networks. Combine this information with quantitative analysis (number of posts, calculated coverage, PR metrics) to understand which strategies are more successful in promoting and building a positive image.

With a planned competitive analysis, i.e. a periodic section of the industry info field, which we recommend to be conducted every six months to a year, it is worth forming stable KPIs, i.e. indicators for measuring the effectiveness of communications. By comparing these KPIs in dynamics, you will see how the communication situation of the market is changing and the place of your company in it.

The second stage: selection of competitors

An important stage in conducting a competitive analysis is the selection of competitors. The larger your market, the more competitors you should add to the comparison. However, highlighting too many competitors is also not recommended: it will be difficult for you to follow all their activities at the same time. The most optimal number will be about 10 key market players: 3 industry leaders, 5-6 - your "weight" category, all others - new or small players. In this way, you will see a wider picture than if you only investigated your close competitors: from newcomers - non-standard solutions and practices, from industry leaders - successful strategies and development directions. Please note that competitors in the info field can be not only companies that directly generate products that compete with yours, but also those organizations that promote messages similar to yours and compete with you for a certain reputational status (the main hub of volunteers, the most responsible business in a certain field, etc.).

To distinguish competitors, marketers offer to survey customers through mailings and questionnaires. In addition, we recommend using industry ratings of companies' media activity.

When the main competitors are defined, it is possible to proceed to the selection of evaluation criteria.

The third stage: formation of criteria for comparison

Criteria for comparison and indicators for analysis can be divided into quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative indicators are easier to track, but you should not stop only at them, because they give only a basic understanding of the infofield.

Quantitative analysis

  • Brand performance – the number of mentions of your company and competitors' companies in dynamics. It will help to assess how often you and your competitors are written about in the media and social networks.

  • Potential brand awareness - the forecasted number of contacts with the audience in the media and social networks of your company and competitors' companies. It will help to evaluate the effectiveness of communications in the context of impact on the audience.

  • Share of voice – visibility of the company compared to selected market players. With the help of Share of voice, you will get a representative picture about the competitiveness of the market and will be able to identify the dominant players in the industry.

  • Main communication channels – comparison of representation in different types of mass media and social networks. We recommend looking not only at the number of publications, but also analyzing how the number correlates with the coverage of the audience. In this way, you will single out the most effective channels of communication with the audience.

  • Share of publications in large and influential mass media - visibility of your company compared to competing companies in leading mass media with the largest audience coverage. This metric will show how visible you and your competitors are in key media.

  • Owned media - in addition to analyzing mentions in the media, it is worth paying attention to the audience of competitors' own communication channels (website, pages in various social networks), and also monitor the dynamics of this indicator.

Qualitative analysis

  • Tonality – the emotional color of the message, it can be positive, neutral and negative. This is one of the key qualitative indicators that allows you to evaluate trust and commitment to companies in the mass media and social networks. We recommend that you pay attention not only to the absolute indicators of tonality, but also to relative (percentages). So you can compare the level of positivity of competitors with different total number of mentions.

  • Media Favorability Index – the ratio of the number of positive and negative mentions. The media favorability index, in contrast to a simple analysis of the number of positive and negative, will help to compare objects with different media representation.

  • Post role determination - percentage of posts in which your company and competitors' companies appear in main/secondary/episode roles. Thanks to the indicator of the percentage of publications in the main role, you will see how interesting you and your competitors are in the media. If you analyze this indicator and pay attention to the representation of competitors in large media, we advise you to also use the Media Visibility Index. This index takes into account the role in the publication, the type of media and the weight of the source (attendance and importance). Thus, in one indicator, you will combine the analysis of how visible mentions of you and competitors are in the information field.

  • Subjectivity (initiative) – the percentage of publications that shows how often you and your competitors are the initiators of information submission, i.e. the mass media refer to you/competitors, using a position from corporate social networks, the website, comments from brand representatives, press releases. The subjectivity indicator for all mentions will show how much you and your competitors control the information field about yourself.

  • Media representation of speakers/key persons – analysis of the number and reach of publications mentioning key persons of your company and competing companies. You can understand how interesting your speakers and competitors' speakers are to the media.

  • Zones of brand recognition by publication topics - the number of publications and their coverage by topics in the context of which your company and competitors are mentioned. It will help to understand which thematic blocks prevail in yours and which in competitors.

  • Key messages - the number of publications and their coverage in the context of the key messages of your company and competing companies. Messages are important characteristics of a company/organization that it seeks to establish for itself in the media space and in the perception of readers. Researching this parameter can be based on identifying the key messages of each competitor, on the search for mentions of certain key messages common to you and the competitors, in order to compare the representation of certain statements in the communication of each competitor, or on a combination of both these approaches.

Depending on the goals of the analysis, you can pay more attention to certain indicators, conduct analysis in terms of a specific topic, event, speakers or products.

The fourth stage: data collection and analysis of selected criteria for comparing competitors

So, the goals are defined, the list of competitors for analysis is collected, the main indicators for comparison are selected - it's time to move on to monitoring and analyzing the competitive field. It is most convenient to do this with the help of media monitoring systems. Such systems will save you time and increase work efficiency.

In order to start the process of monitoring with the help of automatic systems, you need to create keywords for collecting mentions of your company and selected competing companies, as well as decide on the types of media and social networks on which this collection will take place. If you plan to analyze your competitors' products, personas, and messages, you should also create keywords for them. We recommend setting up separate topics for each company selected for analysis.

The next stage of data preparation is the segmentation of existing publications according to the characteristics you have chosen. Most parameters are tracked automatically by modern systems – for example, source names, media types, source size, publication reach, etc. For other options, you may need to configure tagging.

A tag is a classification feature, a label on a post, which is usually formed using keywords and allows you to filter posts by topic.

In most monitoring systems, you will be able to set up automatic tagging of posts for certain keywords. Agree, it's convenient 😊 In addition, you can also group tags so that each group refers to a certain block of tracked keywords. Yes, in Semantrum you can set up groups of autotags to separately receive statistics by products, separately -- by company speakers. Thanks to tagging, you can also set up tracking of publication topics and availability of messages. If you're unsure about what topics to track, look at your competitors' posts, especially those that mention several or all of your competitors at once. This way you will understand the main contexts in which your market players are mentioned in the media. In Semantrum, this can be done thanks to the functionality of viewing topics in merging or intersecting modes.

At the stage of data preparation, pay attention also to the correctness of the system's determination of the tonality of publications. Different systems use different algorithms for working with texts, and they can give results of different accuracy. Semantrum uses ML algorithms to determine the tone of voice of posts.

Also, find out if the monitoring system you choose can automatically calculate the metrics you need. For example, in Semantrum, the role in the publication is automatically determined, the Media Visibility Index and the Media favorability index are calculated.

After the topics for all market players and autotags are configured and publications from mass media and social networks are collected, you can proceed to the analysis of the selected indicators. Each media monitoring system has built-in data visualization units and automatic reports. Semantrum has several tools for competitive analysis: topic comparison in "Charts" mode, a special automatic topic comparison report, as well as interactive dashboards.

With the help of the "Charts" mode, you will be able to see the dynamics of mentions and the number of publications by competitors, relative indicators of tonality, the distribution of mentions of competitors by types of media and regions, as well as the share of voice. Using Semantrum's filters, you can see these metrics by different types of media and social networks, automatic subjectivity, role in posts, source size, and more.

With the help of the topic comparison report, in addition to the above-mentioned indicators from the "Graphics" mode, you will receive data on audience coverage and the dynamics of this coverage, the media loyalty index, the distribution of sources by media holdings and by weight.

Interactive dashboards provide the most opportunities for competitive "reconnaisance" and comparison of your indicators with those of other market players - comparison of the number of publications and audience coverage, dynamics of mentions and coverage, media loyalty index, actual and relative tonality indicators, share of voice, distribution by automatic role parameters in publications and subjectivity, comparison of thematic blocks, speakers and messages, ratings of sources by competitors, etc. The undoubted advantage of dashboards is that they can be fully customized to your needs in terms of content and visual content (using your corporate colors, adding company logos and personal photos). Analytics with the help of dashboards will allow you to quickly and at the same time fully and qualitatively evaluate the quantity and quality of communications of your company and competitor companies.

When analyzing data, we advise you to first of all pay attention to relative indicators, with the help of which you can form benchmarks, i.e., industry average values. This is important because averages within different industries can vary greatly. For example, the average industry indicator of relative tonality in the field of communal services will tend to be negative, but in the field of public charitable organizations, the average indicator of positivity will be much higher. The initial analysis and further tracking of benchmarks will allow you to understand the communication "temperature" of the market and plan your desired indicators in relation to this "temperature".

The fifth stage: formation of the final report based on the results of the analysis

The main and most interesting part of competitive analysis is the creation of a report and final conclusions.

At this stage, it is worth finalizing:

  • must-have indicators present in all market players;

  • "points of growth" – indicators in which you lag behind other companies;

  • "strengthening points" - characteristics that can be improved with relatively little effort, and in return receive a significant strengthening of your position in the industry;

  • formation of benchmarks and planned indicators (KPI) based on them;

  • insights - what you discovered for yourself as a result of the analysis. For example, the types of media with the greatest coverage, market experts with whom it is worth establishing cooperation, social networks not yet covered by your attention, etc.;

  • main topics and messages of competitors' publications, the context of their communication.

Be sure to use data visualization to create the final report: it will be easier for your audience to perceive statistical indicators in the form of graphs and other graphic materials. In most systems, the data for the graphs and the graphs themselves can be downloaded or copied in a variety of formats. If the budget allows, find out if you can order the creation of a report from a media monitoring company - it can significantly simplify your work, especially in conditions of tight deadlines.

Expert Level: setting up continuous analysis of the competitive field

After the report on the results of the analysis of the competitive field has been created and the conclusions have been drawn, we recommend that you continue to monitor your competitors in the future. This will help to constantly "keep your finger on the pulse" of the market, monitor the main average industry indicators in dynamics, as well as have retrospective statistics on competitors, which you can refer to as needed.

For constant monitoring of the competitive field and formation of planned indicators compared to competitors, we recommend choosing the most important metrics for you. If you choose them all, your analytics will be like a baobab - massive and informative, but bulky and difficult to perceive and draw conclusions. The choice of planned indicators should be based on your starting point (what needs to be improved, and where to consolidate the already existing result), average industry indicators and the specifics of the market.

For continuous tracking of the competitive field, a personalized interactive dashboard from Semantrum is best suited. With its help, you will be able to get a complete informational picture of the market at any time. Competitive analysis is a rather large-scale and voluminous type of analysis of the information space, but the results it brings are definitely worth the effort. It will have its own accents for each company, but we hope that the general principles outlined will be useful to you in your work 😊

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