Knowing what people are saying about you is square one for a public relations campaign. Instead of going insane trying to monitor every single source in-house many businesses and agencies use a media monitoring service. There are hundreds to choose from; some free, some paid. So before settling on a service, be sure to ask these questions.
1. What exactly do we need monitored?
Magazines? News? Blogs? Social Media? There are more outlets than ever before to keep track of, so it’s important to know how your organization relates to each. For most, news monitoring is the core coverage. Today, most newspapers publish stories on their websites before the traditional print version can be distributed. In addition, online monitoring will catch clips from tons of online news sources that don’t have traditional print versions. Therefore, it’s most efficient to monitor news online. Keep in mind live TV broadcasts are rarely broadcast online, so its good to set up monitoring through closed caption feeds as well.
Most organizations today will also want to monitor social media. No matter what your business, chances are someone is talking about it online. It’s good to monitor as many forms of this type of word-of-mouth media as possible – including forums, groups, message boards, blogs, consumer-reporting type sites, and as many social bookmarking/sharing sites as possible.
2. What is covered in the ’subscription’?
This is an obvious one, but it’s important to ask exactly which sources or websites the service covers. Many services have a pre-built list of sources, but will add any specialty sources upon request. Pay attention to geography as well – if you are a smaller local company you could end up paying for overseas monitoring you don’t need. Conversely, if you do business world-wide make sure to get the details on which foreign sources are monitored and whether the service has multi-language capabilities.
3. Can we customize the service features to fit our specific needs?
Do you want clips from all news sources or only from a list you’ve already decided is most worthwhile? Do you want to know about every single mention of your search terms, or just the ‘important’ stories? Should the clips be delivered to several people? How many copies? How should they be delivered-once a day or as they come up throughout the day? Do you want to see everything or would you rather they be packaged into an edited brief/report?
You get the picture. The better services will take into account your specific wants, needs and budget and customize your account.
4. What is the average ‘turn around time’?
If a story is published in a small neighboring town’s paper today when will we get the clip? Traditionally formatted clips can take up to 3 weeks to deliver from the time of publication. Online clips can be delivered in almost real-time. Depending on the story and source an immediate response might be required.
5. What is the service’s missed clips rate and ‘clip accuracy’?
Screw-ups happen, and no matter which service you use it won’t catch 100% of what is published all the time. Traditional services with human readers will deliver more relevant clippings, but are more likely to miss a story here and there. Automated online monitoring will catch much more, but will be less effective in determining between valid and irrelevant stories. The key is to strike a balance. The good services will have an element of both-perhaps using an automated service to pull stories first and then having human editors quickly sort out the erroneous stories before delivery.