Public relations media monitoring software has come a long way in the 20-plus years I've been in the business. But it's not perfect. And that's ok. Set your expectations appropriately, and you'll find a system – or combination of systems - that works best for you and your clients.
What is media monitoring software?
Media monitoring software is a tool that PR professionals use to track mentions about their clients in the news or social media.
I can only speak to the systems that I've used (those named above), and here are my tips for deciding which is best.
Sidenote: Google Alerts are fantastic and free, and you should have one set up for every client you work with – monitor their company name, brand names, names of key executives, etc. But Google Alerts are not all-encompassing (no social media, yikes!). And, if you want to provide your clients with additional information like estimated reach or estimated ad value, it helps to use a monitoring tool.
Tip #1: Ask for a coverage list
Every system monitors different outlets. Ask for a list of which publications, online sites, social media platforms, television stations, or radio stations the system monitors. Provide the vendor with a list of publications in which your client frequently appears.
Know if a vendor's monitoring covers the entire online article and the print publication (if there is one). With so much online content behind firewalls, different monitoring systems have paid for varying levels of access to content. For example, some systems can only monitor the lead paragraph, not the article's entire text. And not every system monitors the print versions of publications at all.
Agreements between vendors and publishers change frequently, so it is helpful to re-evaluate media monitoring providers occasionally to ensure you are getting the coverage you need.
Tip #2: Know your limits
Searches are not unlimited with every platform. Users are not infinite on every platform. The number of newsletters or reports you can create and send is not absolute.
Almost everything in your system has a limit to it, so ask a lot of questions.
PR monitoring software vendors have paid to have access to the intellectual property owned by media companies. The fee you pay partially covers these licensing and royalty charges. The more content you want, or the more people you want to have access to the content, the more it will cost you.
There are limits on how long a system will hold onto media coverage if you haven't taken a specific action on it, like saving it into a clips folder. This is especially important with broadcast coverage. Make sure you know how long you have access to a clip and if it can be saved within the system or downloaded for private storage.
Other important questions to ask your vendor:
How far back does the vendor archive media coverage? Does the system have stories or posts from a year ago? Two years ago? Five years ago? Archival can be an important consideration if you want to create comparisons of coverage over time.
Does the system monitor content that is included in photos, videos or comments on articles? What about forums?
Tip #3: Understand that closed captioning isn't perfect
Broadcast monitoring services work by scanning the closed captioning notes of a television broadcast, looking for matching keywords. If closed captioning is not available, some systems use voice recognition software that employs speech to text technology.
But what happens when your client's name is spelled wrong in the closed captioning notes or the voice recognition software doesn't translate your client's name correctly? The hit won't appear in your monitoring system. Unless you or someone else sees or hears the story, you won't know about it.
Options to remedy missed coverage depend on the vendor. With TV Eyes, for example, you can do a date/time search for a particular market or station, find the footage you want, and create a clip. With Meltwater, which has a partnership with TV Eyes, you don't have that level of accessibility to the TV Eyes database. You will need to reach out to your Meltwater rep and ask them to reach out to a TV Eyes rep to find the missed clip and add it into your system. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't.
If you need to monitor broadcasts for your client's ads and logos, there are tools for this as well. Artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible. The tools cost extra, of course.
Sidenote: Setting up keyword searches is an art in and of itself. Most vendors provide a customer service representative to assist you once you purchase a system. Please make time to sit down with the customer service rep for assistance setting up the keywords you want to monitor. Every system is a little different in how its search functionality works.
Tip #4: Find out if you can add media hits/adjust sentiment
If a media hit is missed in your system because it is from an outlet that the vendor does not monitor, what can you do?
Find out if the vendor allows you to add media coverage into the system manually. Some vendors also allow you to pull in RSS feeds from publications for supplemental monitoring. The one problem I've run into with manually added coverage is that it does not appear in the system's built-in reporting and analytics. The added clip also won't have information like audience reach or estimated ad value.
Ensure the vendor allows manual adjustment of the sentiment analysis it assigns to clips and social posts. Sentiment analysis is highly subjective and only you, the PR professional, know if this story was beneficial or detrimental to your client's needs and goals.
Tip #5: Budget time for a monitoring and reporting guru
Monitoring software is a helpful tool for capturing mentions about your clients and researching media outlets and possible contacts. But like everything in life, it isn't perfect. It isn't one size fits all, and it needs an experienced person to manage it.
For my clients, I currently use a combination of three different media monitoring systems, plus Google Alerts and manual searching on social media platforms to put together a complete picture of their public perception. I prefer Microsoft Excel for compiling reports because I can use pivot tables to slice and dice the data practically any way I want.
Don't expect media monitoring software to magically make the process of tracking and reporting media coverage seamless and something you never have to think about. Media monitoring software is a tool, like a CRM or an email marketing provider, that automates some of the processes of collecting and reporting media mentions. There still needs to be a person behind the curtain who makes the magic happen.
What tips and tricks do you use to make media monitoring and reporting easier? What tools do you love? I'd love to hear more.
If you are interested in outsourcing your organization's media monitoring and reporting, please contact me at email@example.com for assistance.
I have an appetite for getting things done. As an advertising and corporate communications leader, I am experienced in bringing people, as well as animals, together. I have led cross-departmental teams and developed trusted relationships with C-Suite executives. I have 20 years of public relations and marketing communications experience, including providing traditional, digital and social media services to billion-dollar brands. I don’t believe in lengthy processes or convoluted platforms. I believe in hard work, empathy and love.