The art and science of media surveillance has been around in one form or another for over a century. While this could have been a nice competitive advantage when practitioners cut and pasted newspaper clippings, today PR agencies and internal PR departments must use sophisticated media monitoring tools and fine-tune strategies. depending on the results provided.
Media monitoring is about listening intently to the conversation about your business as well as your business, collecting information about the industry, and gauging the general mood. Is there a lot of talk about you and your products? What are people saying? Are they saying what you hope they are saying about your brand? Is your marketing in sync with their feelings? What can you learn from what they say? Can you change a strategy based on what you hear? Is there a problem or crisis that needs to be dealt with quickly and thoroughly on the basis of gossip? Look for opportunities.
While there are many intricacies to understanding media monitoring, here are three essential elements of any professional program:
Which tool will you choose for your follow-up? While some companies employ internal staff to manage the media monitoring function, external online monitoring services have become the more favorable approach, depending of course on the size and budget of the company. But the key is to determine the return on investment of a program based on the market information acquired and the number of placements recorded by the PR operation. Online services are generally considered to be more complete, accurate and timely in providing information. There are a variety of free online monitoring tools (as simple as Google Alerts) as well as paid subscription options, all the way to premium tools that do the analysis for you. Make sure you read reviews from trusted sources on the vendors you are considering.
Determine what you want to monitor. It sounds like a pretty straightforward task, but the more you think about it the more complicated it becomes. What types of items do you want to monitor and over what time frame? In news monitoring, you need to choose whether you monitor coverage in all forms of media: online, social, print, and broadcast.
What topics will you be following? Here’s a good place to start: your company name, all of your brands, and key executives. Watch out for all possible derivatives of your business name eg Jones & Jones as well as Jones and Jones. Then add specific keywords and terms, even competitors, relevant to your brand and / or business. Also, check to see if any specific keywords are mentioned in conversations about your business and add them along the way if you don’t already have them.
Respond to what you hear. Media monitoring is not about congratulating yourself on a job well done, it is about learning from and responding to your monitoring activity. It’s also a great way to engage your audience and build community. Depending on the size of your organization and the volume of coverage, a noble goal would be to respond to everyone who has mentioned you and who has something to say about your business, good or bad. You can convert good responders into potential market influencers or ambassadors on your behalf; you can engage in dialogue with neutral stakeholders to learn more about market perceptions and modify product and marketing strategies; or get into crisis management if there is a viral epidemic of bad publicity and misperception about your business.