What does analysis of messages mean? The main analytical know-how of the Center for Content Analysis

What does analysis of messages mean? The main analytical know-how of the Center for Content Analysis

PR campaigns are becoming more and more intricate, and decisions are to be made more and more promptly. This is true about PR of both commercial and political brands, and, eventually, strategic communications of states in the midst of information aggression.

Why is it so intricate? First of all, because PR campaigns are targeted at different narrow segments of the audience. The trend reached its climax when companies such as Cambridge Analytica processed the users’ personal data. Communication channels, opinion leaders, as well as messages are selected for small groups of 200-500 people.

What is a PR-message? According to Du.Plessis, this is "information that the organization wants to convey to its target audience by implementing its PR program. Such a message ... should be sufficient to specify all program challenges, but can also be split into a variety of secondary messages" [1].

Intricate campaigns require intricate analysis to enable communication actors to make their decisions more efficient. It should be noted that those who organize and conduct information campaigns distinguish two stages of assessing the effectiveness of communications: the output and the outcome analyses of the information campaign. The first involves evaluating the campaign’s activity, the second - changes in the awareness / behavior of the target audience [2, p.34]. In this research, we will only deal with the output analysis. PR output shows the performance and creativity of PR specialists and is an excellent criterion for assessing their work. [3].

What methods are applied to analyze the output of PR campaigns?

As a rule, they can be classified into one of three categories: content analysis, discourse analysis or narrative analysis. Classic content analysis is the most common, and is best suited for automation. Western sources advise to use it to: examine the tone or the balance of the media coverage of the organization and its competitors, the dynamics of the media coverage over time, or the degree of media reach to different audiences. They recommend using such analysis units as positive, negative or mixed materials about the organization, specific aspects of corporate image mentioned in the publications, mentioning corporate programs in the media, mentioning competitors [2, p.164-166].

As you can see, the tools that PR managers consciously use are not the subject of this analysis.

The effectiveness of communication in Ukraine is usually assessed by calculating the number of messages expressing the customers’ or their opponent's position. But such an approach gives an incomplete picture of the information campaign. After all, it is not only the customer who can share messages of promotion or protection, but also numerous "brand advocates". Similarly, messages of attacks can often come not from a direct opponent, but from a wide range of speakers, some of which were initially involved in the campaign, and some joined the sharing of messages later, deciding that it was beneficial for them. Eventually, both parties can engage social media opinion leaders in their campaigns to write paid posts, and bots that share relevant comments, can buy experts who will submit their biased comments to the media. Consequently, traditional methods of analysis do not provide accurate information about the campaign's progress.

Other methods used by analysts for studying information campaigns usually belong to the domain of discourse analysis or narrative analysis. In Table.1 we compared all relevant methods.

Table 1. Comparison of features and capabilities of various analysis methods for studying information campaigns.


Analysis units

Analysis purpose

Basic analysis categories

Method restrictions

Content analysis

Documents with which the campaign was communicated.

To measure brand mentioning in the media, the number of media that published the company’s position, the tone of brand mentioning in the media based on the campaign.

Names of brands, surnames of speakers, quotes of press service.

The analysis techniques also include the definition of tone, the context of mentioning, etc.


The communication process is outside the scope of the method. Only its outcomes are studied: the specific documents.


Discourse analysis [4, p.68]

Discussion communication in political, worldview and business aspects.

To find out the format of relations between the participants of communication, the context of communication, the reaction of communication consumers and its causes, and hence - the effectiveness of communication.

Value judgments in communication texts, language patterns used, non-verbal communication tools, text metadata.

The tool for quantitative evaluation of PR-communication has not been developed. It cannot be applied to non-discussion communication, in which one party participates.

Linguistic and ideological analysis of political discourse [5]

Discussion communication between carriers of different political and ideological views, for example, during parliamentary debates and information wars.

To identify the ideological attitudes used by communicators.

Lexical constructions used by communicators.

It does not seek to measure the effectiveness of communication. It cannot be applied to non-discussion communication, in which one party participates.

Linguistic theory of arguing [6]

Discussion communication between carriers of different political and ideological views, for example, during parliamentary debates and information wars.

To identify the ideological attitudes used by communicators.

Arguments used by communicators to prove their position.

It does not seek to measure the effectiveness of communication.

Narrative analysis [7]

Texts and other types of communication used in propaganda and PR campaigns.

To identify  key issues raised by communicators in their narratives, images of heroes, communication channels used for narratives, measure of interactivity during the narratives, and the effectiveness of communication through these narratives.

Plot, heroes of the narrative, themes of the narrative, formats of the narrative, narrators.

It does not seek to measure the effectiveness of communication.

Analysis of the political narrative [8]

Texts and other types of communication used in political discussions.

To find out the prospect of building understanding, to create a meta-narrative, which would combine the narratives of the two parties.

Plot, heroes of the narrative, themes of the narrative, communication tools.

It does not seek to measure the effectiveness of communication. It is not suitable for non-political issues.

Proposed quantitative analysis of dissemination of information campaign messages

A set of media messages used in information campaigns.

To find out communication tools and channels, ways to argue the positions of the parties, reaction of the media and the audience to them, peculiarities of behavior of numerous communication actors including the media, attention of the media to the messages and speakers.

PR messages.

The subcategories described in paragraph 3.3 are also used.

Although this method makes it possible to understand which users and how many of them have  had contacts with PR-messages, it  not always can  answer the question of how the news has affected the recipients of media texts.

What innovations are offered by the Center for Content Analysis?

During one and a half year of the analytical work of the Center for Content Analysis, we examined the data on 63 information campaigns and saw the need for developing a new method, specifically for the analysis of this type of communication in the conditions of high complexity. After all, the customers of the analysis must understand what message is best disseminated in the media, that is, which of the messages ensures that the position of the campaign organizer or his opponents can reach the media audience more effectively. None of the above methods answer this question.

That is why the idea of using the PR-message as a category of the analysis has emerged.

How do we distinguish it? With the help of the principles of classical logic. PR-communication experts, as a rule, do not apply a systematic approach to creation of messages, and characterize this process as a "creative". But actually the creation of messages can well be formalized. Any PR message is a judgment. That is, the combination of a subject, predicate and copula. It should be reminded that the subject (S) is what the judgment says, the predicate (P) is a certain statement about the subject of thought, and the copula reflects the connection between S and P.

During coding, we consider all the judgments in the sample of media reports to be messages. The subject or predicate in them are presented by:

  1. a) one of the participants in the conflict or their aspects;
  2. b) the subject of the conflict or its aspects,
  3. c) external circumstances that significantly affect the course of the conflict.

Before the encoding, the experts determine what aspects or external circumstances should be takeninto consideration based on the nature of the campaign, the objectives of the analysis and the necessary accuracy of the measurement.

Let us suppose we have found all important PR messages. What's next?

The campaign can be analyzed deeper. For example, we can divide the analysis category into subcategories, and compare their intensity in general, over time, in different types of media ...

The most important subcategories of the research are messages from different sides of the information campaign: promotion, attacks, defense, counterattacks, expert judgments.

In addition, messages can be classified according to their importance: Primary - messages that are principal for a particular PR campaign, and secondary - messages that are parts of the primary or arguments in their favor.

A lot of brands need to distinguish their active messages, that is, those indicating the company's position, as proactive - messages that originated on the organization's initiative and are presumably spelled in the PR strategy, as well as reactive - messages that appeared as a reaction to external challenges: information attacks, information crises, accidents, natural disasters, unexpected dissimilitudes, etc.

Finally, we often have to distinguish messages according to reputational factors, usually with the reputation matrix RepTrack [9] consisting of seven factors: products and services, innovation, leadership, performance, social position, workplace.


Consequently? Consequently, we have a unique methodology for studying information campaigns, which uses content analysis tools for primary data processing, and the concepts of discourse analysis and narrative analysis for data interpreting.

You can find examples of such studies in numerous presentations of our website. For example, in the research of the communicative case #Turn down from Naftogaz of Ukraine, reputational crises of ”Nova Poshta” and OKKO filling stations network, media portrait of Kyivstar company etc.


  1. References:
  2. Du Plessis, D.F. (2000), Introduction to Public Relations and Advertising, Juta and Company Ltd, Cape Town, 156 p.
  3. Austin, E.W. and Pinkleton, B.E. (2015), Strategic Public Relations Management: Planning and Managing Effective Communication Campaigns Routledge, Routledge, New York and London, 398 p.
  4. Wilcox, D. L., Cameron, G. T., Agee, W. K. and Ault, P. H., (2003). Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. New York: Allyn & Bacon, 584p.
  5. Daymon, C. and Holloway, I. (2011), Qualitative Research Methods in Public Relations and Marketing Communications, Routledge: London, New York, 400 p.
  6. Van Dijк, T. A. (1998), What is political discourse analysis? in Blommaert, J. and Bulcaen C. (Ed.) Political linguistics, Amsterdam, pp. 43-52.
  7. Баранов, А.Н. (2001), Введение в прикладную лингвистику. М., 360 c.
  8. Riessman, C.K. (2005) Narrative Analysis. In: Narrative, Memory & Everyday Life. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 1­7.
  9. Roe, E. (1994). Narrative policy analysis: Theory and practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 240p.
  10. About Reptrak®, The Gold Standard for Reputation Measurement (2018), Reputation Institute, available at : https://www.reputationinstitute.com/reputation-measurement-services/reptrak-framework (accessed 22.02.2018).

Artem Zakharchenko, head of the Analytical department, the Content Analysis Center