The complete guide to media monitoring
Everything you need to know about media monitoring, and how it can help you boost your reputation, avert crises, and outstrip the competition.
Media monitoring: What’s the idea?
There’s nothing new about the concept of media monitoring. Since written newssheets were first produced in 16th century Italy, people have competed to be the first in the know. The earliest clippings services emerged in London in 1852, in response to artists’ demand to read their own reviews. L’Argus de la presse, founded in Paris by Alfred Cherie three decades later, made an industry out of locating newspaper mentions for clients.
Since those days, organisations from businesses and governments to charities have embraced the idea. They use media monitoring to understand what their customers, constituents and donors – past, present and future – think about them. The principle being, if you know what’s being said you can join, and influence, the conversation.
The 21st century has birthed an altogether more sophisticated approach than those early scrap books full of cuttings. Media monitoring software can now deliver a holistic view of media mentions, encompassing artificial intelligence, machine learning and even sentiment and image analysis. All of which makes for a service companies can use to enhance, or defend, their brand reputation.
Media monitoring can achieve this in a number of ways. Better understanding of target audiences enables agile PR solutions and the creation of positive earned media. Identifying each critical mention means these may be diverted or rebutted, and the commentator won over. Social media monitoring flags and maps casual mentions and trending stories. Establishing sympathetic media contacts allows organisations to feed positive stories into the mix.
At its most efficient, media monitoring and analysis helps organisations identify potentially damaging issues. It can predict where and when they might occur, and the length of the negative news cycle. This allows agile businesses to avert, or at least contain, the effects of any bad press. The result: proactive, rather than reactive, communications strategies. The holy grail for any PR professional.
Why is media monitoring important?
Knowledge is power – or at least, influence. Public relations isn’t just about what you are saying to your target audience. The clue’s in the name – it’s a relationship, a two-way street, and any PR pro worth their salary will want to know what is being said about their organisation, by whom, and in what context.
Media monitoring is important because it gives you an ear to listen into the conversation. The most comprehensive monitoring services will also tell you what your competition is doing and saying, and where your sector as a whole is heading. Are there trends you want to tie yourself to, or disasters you’d rather be distanced from? If you don’t know about them, then you can’t react, and will find that industry commentators, rather than your communications team, is setting the agenda for your organisation.
Media monitoring is important because without it, your brand reputation is out of your hands. Media monitoring also has value in measuring the true value of your communications strategy. Without tracking the reactions to their output, the PR team can’t know how effective individual campaigns are. They can’t see where the successes lie, or learn from their mistakes.
Why you need a media monitoring service
In a world where every quote can become a headline in moments, effective media monitoring lets you stay on top of the news cycle, and manage your reaction to it. In a world where your stakeholders are hyper-connected, the number of channels through which they are influenced and their opinions expressed grows with each new blog or Twitter feed. Handling that volume of content would take all – and more – of even the best-staffed communications team’s resources.
Enter media monitoring tools. These can sift through the noise to target relevant content and present it in an easy to digest format. The resulting report can be tailored to departments, and even individuals within your organisation. Media monitoring tools can scan print journalism, from front page news to columnists’ opinions; sift through blogs and online news sites; follow every relevant social media feed, and use voice-to-text applications to turn TV and radio into digestible bullet points.
If you need to know what’s being said about your organisation – and we’ve established that you should do – then you need a media monitoring service. In addition, it will allow you to respond to stakeholders in a considered, authentic way that will connect with their specific priorities. It should, therefore, form part of your reputation management activities.
Media monitoring can also help you mitigate risk by getting in front of a bad news storm before it becomes overwhelming. If you are aware of the media mentions your suppliers, customers and competitors receive, you’re in a better position to mitigate risks relating to them, and understand external perceptions of them too.
In short, media monitoring supports everything from sales to the PR and comms function, risk management and crisis management.
So how does media monitoring work?
Today’s media monitoring software has travelled light years beyond cut-and-paste clip gathering. The ideal is to cut through the noise, discard the irrelevant and retain anything of worth pertaining to your organisation. Most media monitoring tools are based around keywords, making their considered selection central to the effectiveness of the software. Beware unlimited keywords, as the more you have, the wider the net, and the more content there will be to digest.
Another aspect of media monitoring is benchmarking. Tracking media mentions, positive and negative, over time provides a perspective on how well your organisation is doing in the eyes of others. It also plots how effective various communications campaigns have been. Benchmarking can compare, for example, overall coverage, balance of good and bad press, dominance within the space, and influencer mentions.
The most advanced media monitoring services use artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to trawl for and analyse relevant coverage. Semantic analysis and natural language processing pinpoint keywords. Sentiment analysis and machine translation meanwhile, can identify tone of voice. Specific imagery can also be identified. Real-time insight into an organisation’s media coverage, as well as on demand analytics of emerging stories, are the realm of AI.
What should you pay for a media monitoring service?
As with any service in today’s economy, media monitoring comes in a range of, increasingly expensive, options. There are free or low-cost applications that use a broad brush to highlight news stories mentioning your organisation. Then come the paid-for tools which the comms team can use to monitor the news cycle with varying degrees of sophistication and highlight anything you might need to know. And there are premium services, which offer not just media monitoring, but in-depth analysis and real-time reporting, which deliver exactly what you need to know, when you need to know it – and also explain why you need to know it.
It’s not always a case of you get what you pay for, however. We’d strongly recommend a single, negotiated fee for your media monitoring service. Paying by the clip can result in spiralling costs during heavy news days – increasing the pain of every critical mention and taking the shine of all positive reporting. Pay-as-you-clip services also encourage unscrupulous providers to include less relevant mentions in order to charge the client more, even when the story is largely useless from a PR perspective.
Choosing your media monitoring provider: the golden rules
Once you’ve realised that you can’t afford to be without a media monitoring service, aim to engage the best provider you can afford – bearing in mind that ‘best’ doesn’t have to mean ‘most expensive’. Each organisation’s needs are different, but when choosing between media monitoring companies, follow these seven golden rules:
- Make your provider accountable: Your business has KPIs, and so should your media monitoring service. Hold your provider to account on whether the content is delivered on time – and in time, in the case of breaking stories. Make sure important clips aren’t being missed. Quantify the relevance of selected stories and the accuracy of summaries.
- Have a flexible brief: Your monitoring requirements will change depending on given events and coverage, and your brief should be equally flexible. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with your provider on what works for you. And demand a ‘concierge service’ which tailors itself to the demands of the day.
- Fix the fee: Variable pricing is an industry sting, meaning ‘double punishment’ on a bad news day and penalties for positive coverage. Fixed pricing allows you to amend your service without counting the cost.
- Consolidate channels: Don’t view individual channels as content silos and monitor them separately. Digitisation has made monitoring in a single stream easy. It also helps you understand how each channel feeds into the conversation.
- Get real-time alerts: You need the news as it breaks, so ask for more than a daily round-up. Real-time can have a broad definition so be clear on what your provider can actually offer.
- Filter the noise: When the news is always on, content overload is unavoidable. Ask your service provider to surface the fraction that matters to you, and to present it in a digestible format.
- Identify the audience: Use interactive monitoring and content filtering to customise content for departments and individual users. This gives everyone tailored content as they need it.
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