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While the vast majority of Communications teams in small, medium and large organisations across the world will have some form of media monitoring in place, their actual customer experience is often poor. The service has variously attracted a bad reputation for being expensive, fragmented, inaccurate and slow.
A lot of the reason for this frustration is that the expectations of increasingly technologicallyempowered customers have not been met by the monitoring industry, which tries to impose standardised solutions on the more nuanced needs of the market. This doesn’t have to be the case. Armed with the right questions and knowledge, companies can ensure they get the most value out of their media monitoring service by focusing on the key elements that are going to deliver their desired outcomes.
As part of our series of best practice guides for Communications professionals, we take a look at these important considerations companies should make when selecting a monitoring provider.
The 5 elements explored are:
The advent of digital media caused an exponential increase in the number of channels to monitor. Alongside print and broadcast outlets, organisations now have to take online and social media sources into consideration.
The monitoring industry responded to this development in a largely siloed manner – adding these new channels via separate portals or delivery methods. This typically meant that organisations would have different suppliers for each of these channels.
The challenge with this segregated approach is that it no longer reflects the way in which the media works. Content published in print media is often amplified via social media, while mainstream media will frequently refer to stories or issues that have “broken” in social media. Splitting these channels obscure this amplification effect and makes it harder to spot emerging stories early enough to respond effectively.
Furthermore, separate suppliers often result in higher overall costs for the end customer alongside the resource burden of managing multiple vendors, multiple briefs and multiple deliveries.
A consolidated approach removes these challenges by providing one platform for the delivery of all content in a consistent format. Companies that consolidate are able to realise greater cost efficiencies with a solution that better reflects the increasing interconnectedness of a multi-channel media environment.
The aforementioned big spike in volumes means that it is very easy to become overloaded with content. If left unchecked, this can eat into more and more of the Communications team’s time and energy.
When choosing a monitoring solution, it is therefore vital to ask yourself what you consider to be relevant and important information. Do you need to see every last Tweet about your brand or are you only concerned what trade press thinks? Is every mention, no matter how big or small, of equal importance?
Historically, many of these requirements would have been dealt with at either a source level (by including/excluding certain publications) or at a keyword level (by including/excluding certain mentions)
As data analysis techniques become more sophisticated, there are smarter ways of ensuring relevance. These include tagging content by different areas of interest (department, product, issue, company-specific taxonomy); prioritising content by source influence and/or likely reader recall rate. Not only do these help you target just what you’re interested in, but equally these will significantly reduce the occurrence of the perennial monitoring bugbear – the missing clip.
Your monitoring provider should be invested in you getting this right so should advise clearly as to how you can best achieve your desired outcomes. Lean on them to ensure your solution is fit for purpose – this isn’t your job!
Historically, it was the Communications team’s responsibility to split up and re-send different parts of the monitoring across the business, depending on their requirements. A not inconsiderable additional resource cost for an already stretched department.
Better content filtering now enables greater customisation of monitoring at a department and even a user level. This is a great way of making monitoring work for the whole business.
A common request we receive at alva is for the Communications team to receive all significant coverage as it happens alongside a comprehensive morning round-up. Senior management will often receive a highlights pack, while the wider business may consume its news via the intranet or a weekly round-up.
Within each type of delivery, it is possible to customise the focus by source type, topic area, sentiment and many other permutations. The key is designing the most effective and efficient way for each department to digest just the information it needs.
While Communications needs to retain oversight and ownership of the company’s monitoring, this is a great way of empowering the rest of the business to take control of its monitoring needs. Over time, we’ve seen this approach reduce the burden and responsibility placed on the Communications team to manually provide this service. Again, this is where your monitoring supplier can help.
Real-time alerts have become a staple of Communications’ crisis tool kit, enabling the department to respond swiftly to any emerging issues before they escalate.
However, “real-time” has a very broad definition across media monitoring providers. We tested a number of different real-time alerts and found that notifications took anywhere between 8 minutes and two hours to come through depending on the vendor. For companies facing an emerging crisis, this is a significant variance.
Like all monitoring, it is really important to consider what type of content should trigger a real-time notification. This avoids the risk of you and your team suddenly becoming overwhelmed by notifications and means that when they are triggered, they are taken seriously.
Use your monthly content volumes as a guide to this – anything more than 1,000 pieces of content is likely to be unmanageable for realtime alerting without greater filtering.
As always, consider what you intend to do with the alerts and what scenarios you can envisage occurring. Do you need alerting for all content about a specific issue? Just Twitter users with a certain Klout score? Or looking beyond this, are there specific MPs, journalists or bloggers that you’re interested in tracking?
If you can, give examples of stories that matter to you to your media monitoring provider and let them configure the right analytics to ensure alerting relevance.
Alongside missed clips, the single biggest gripe about media monitoring has to be variable, per clip or per page pricing, still a dominant pricing model for many vendors.
The issue for many resides in the notion of being charged for generating coverage. Under a variable pricing framework, the more coverage a company generates, the more it pays. This means that it receives a “double punishment” should it be on the receiving end of negative coverage, while a successfully-orchestrated campaign will equally result in higher bills.
Variable pricing also makes it difficult to predict expenditure for budgets, causing swinging cuts to the monitoring brief midway through the year due to costs exceeding forecasts. This sees companies removing sources, keywords, competitors and industry issues to avoid overage charges.
As you can probably guess, at alva we’re not too enamoured by variable pricing models as they appear to benefit the vendor much more than they do the customer. The only real argument in their favour is that they can be more flexible in helping companies reduce expenditure through careful management of keywords. This is resource intensive and will only suit those who have the time and inclination to micro-manage their media monitoring, so consider carefully whether you have the bandwidth to take this on.
Having assessed the five elements we feel are most important when choosing a media monitoring provider, we thought we’d summarise some general recommendations when reviewing monitoring solutions.
Start with the end in mind: A good rule for most decisions, but especially so for media monitoring – how do you and your team intend to use the monitoring? What’s working now, what isn’t? What are the desired outcomes you want?
Stating these upfront will help your provider focus on what really matters
Ask your provider for advice: Your vendor should be the expert at designing your brief and ensuring the right balance of comprehensiveness and relevance.
It’s not up to you to think through every restriction to every keyword – let them take the responsibility for solution design.
Don’t put up with second best: While the industry has been slow to evolve, there are smarter, customer-centric solutions now available which empower the end user rather than the supplier.
Unless you have good reasons for doing so, don’t put up with variable pricing, segmented, expensive services or irrelevant/missed content.
At alva, we have developed a better and smarter way of monitoring the media. Our intelligent, technology-led alerting service gives you just the stories that matter to you delivered when you need them
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