How governments can get a pulse of the people amidst trends and crises

By Isentia

Public sentiment can escalate in light of a local incident or geopolitical event, such as controversies and wars. To track such sentiment, governments can turn to data-driven tools, says Raushida Vasaiwala, Vice President of Sales, APAC, for media intelligence firm Isentia.

Out of hundreds, thousands or even millions of conversations that take place every day, public sentiment could turn a local or geopolitical issue into a crisis, something governments can track using media intelligence. Image: Canva

Sometimes, it just takes a spark to turn an issue into a crisis.


And that “spark” could arise out of hundreds, thousands or even millions of conversations that take place in responses to a local incident or a geopolitical event.


“Public conversations can evolve rapidly, sometimes reaching intense peaks before fading just as quickly. Staying attuned to this ever-changing ‘pulse of public chatter’ is crucial for governments seeking to understand public opinion with nuance,” says Raushida Vasaiwala, Vice President of Sales, APAC, for media intelligence firm Isentia.


Citing the Russia-Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas armed conflict as recent examples that could divide communities, Vasaiwala highlights that media intelligence solutions can help the authorities react promptly if they see an issue escalating into a crisis.


“When you spot some sort of crisis escalating rapidly, then as public sector communicator, you need to determine the appropriate course of action.” Vasaiwala adds.


By tapping into media intelligence, authorities would not only be able to monitor public sentiment but can also correlate a rising sentiment with the influencers that have contributed to that trend.

Hot-button sentiments are important - and imported


The need to understand the multilateral issues impacting the region makes media intelligence a powerful tool for governments, says Syaz Yusof, Client Solutions Director - Regional for Isentia.


“In Singapore, we need to understand how issues trend, where key opinions are being expressed, be it by our own citizens, our own demographics, versus other foreign thought leaders, through many different media, such as mainstream and social media,” she says.

A summarisation on the Pulsar platform's TRAC Narratives, powered by GPT-4. Image: Isentia

Media intelligence involves monitoring conversations and deriving real-time insights on their “temperature” across a broad spectrum of channels. These insights can help the public sector to understand local public sentiments around policy, positioning, and government bodies.


"This could help shape communications policies, manage risks and connect the issues to areas the public cares about,” she adds.


Highlighting the growing interconnectedness of our world, Vasaiwala emphasises that even seemingly distant issues can rapidly evolve into domestic concerns.


In this dynamic landscape, media intelligence serves as a vital and multifaceted early-warning system, enabling governments to proactively anticipate and address emerging trends and potential crises, regardless of their geographic origin.


Recognising the sensitivities unique to Singapore and the broader region, crafting narratives requires a carefully balanced approach.


“While swift and effective communication is paramount in crises, striking the right equilibrium between transparency and responsible messaging is crucial. This intricate terrain demands a nuanced understanding of both local contexts and broader regional dynamics,” she says.

Tracing the source of misinformation and disinformation


One of the most important aspects of media intelligence is to be able to discern the truth from misinformation and disinformation, says Vasaiwala.


Disinformation (false information spread intentionally) and misinformation (unintentional spread of inaccurate information) are major challenges.


Pulsar’s audience intelligence platform can use keyword filters to identify potential misinformation and analyse sentiment to understand how different audiences are reacting. This empowers communicators to assess information credibility and prioritise what to address as it tracks the source of conversations and how they spread, revealing key influencers.

Pulsar's Influencer Network Graph, which maps the way profiles engage with one another, across any data source. Image: Isentia

By understanding information flow, governments can tailor messages to specific audiences and address concerns before they escalate.


Pulsar helps governments move from reactive communication to proactive engagement in shaping public discourse.

Is the message getting through?


Anyone who has ever played a pass-the-message game would know that a certain message could change considerably after it’s been communicated through intermediaries.


When a narrative deviates from its original meaning, say from a press release to a mainstream media report to conversations about it within social media, this is where Isentia helps clients identify message gaps.


For example, a story about a government scheme to promote adoption of artificial intelligence and automation in the workplace could turn into a conversation about job insecurity and loss of income, attributed back to government policy.


"We help clients, including public-sector agencies, to understand how their key messages have been portrayed via the news and media. Based on policies or certain initiatives where we then identify based on [conversations] how that is being translated and received online,” says Yusof.


“Either you’re on point, and the message is getting through, or there is a message gap that needs to be addressed. Message gap analysis has been quite critical in some of the insights-led work that we do for our government agency clients.”

Broader and more granular public opinion  


According to Vasaiwala, Isentia's media intelligence platform captures a broader and more granular view of public opinion that goes beyond traditional and social media engagement.


This deeper understanding of audience sentiment stems from deciphering even the most subtle online elements, including specific acronyms, hashtags, imagery, and even multilingual content.


"The in-built vertical AI within Pulsar and our dedicated insights team, empowers governments to decode these implicitly expressed opinions," she explains. "This translates to a significantly enhanced understanding of public sentiment and diverse perspectives, going beyond the surface level."


Yusof adds that the platform’s sentiment analysis can deliver granular insights.


“We don’t just look at the positive and negative sentiments, but we also look at emotional analysis, such as what within the positive makes it actually positive.


“Is it happy or is it more neutral? Or if it’s sad, is it more of anger or frustration or sadness? These analyses give a much better view and an idea in terms of how to strategise your communications and policies.”

Deriving actionable insights on public sentiment is not just data for data’s sake. In good times and bad, they could help you snuff out a spark before a crisis spreads like wildfire.