How to monitor what the press says about your company or client
“All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”
That famous observation, from American humorist Will Rogers, aptly describes the relationship of many people to the media. They believe what they read and they rely on newspapers—and now television and the Internet—to shape their perceptions.
The implications are obvious: It’s imperative that you know what’s being said about your company or your client. That often means tracking media sources and clipping or saving relevant articles.
But a strategy that focuses too heavily on quantity—the number of outlets that cover a story, for instance—could miss the big picture.
Clippings: What are you doing?
Join the MyRagan discussion on how communicators gather press clips.
“The volume of clips is almost irrelevant,” says John Lewis, a PR veteran with firms such as General Electric, who now runs his own communications and marketing firm
in Washington, D.C. “Focus on those that really matter; that will drive sales, influence perception and position your company as a leader. The emphasis should be on important placements, not simply the volume of clips.”
How do you identify relevant publications? Become familiar with the publications that are important in your market and monitor them closely. “These publications should be read, not simply scanned for clips, to the extent that time allows,” Lewis advises.
It’s also crucial that PR professionals are familiar with the trade publications that cover their clients’ industries. “I have found internal surveys to be valuable to discern which publications are read and have the most credibility,” Lewis notes. “Depending on the level of sophistication, the sales force can be a good conduit to reflect the views of your customers and provide feedback on publications. Senior management, with more focus on strategic and investor issues, may place higher value on a different group of publications.”
Melissa Keklak, public relations manager for Casio America, says her company takes a relatively straightforward approach to monitoring publications. “For each division, we have a target publication list we work with and reach out to on a regular basis. That is the list we also target for clips,” she explains.
Casio uses clips in a variety of ways. They are distributed in electronic form (from in-house scans of print documents) to members of upper management and used in pitch books that are given to the company’s sales force, Keklak says. “We also provide them as part of our recap reports to divisions when we work on specific product launches or events,” she adds.
How do you acquire clips? Traditionally, monitoring is a function that many companies have farmed out to clipping services. A number of those still exist, offering services that quantify the impact of media references by analyzing circulation, page placement and article length.
|Tracking made easy
Several quick and dirty media monitoring services exist on the Internet. Both Google and Yahoo!, for instance, offer free alert services that provide registered users with real-time updates whenever new content with specific keywords is posted to Web sites or blogs. In addition, Yahoo! has compiled this list of trade magazine Web sites.
Meanwhile, eReleases, an online press release distribution service, has a detailed list of Internet-based clipping services.
Lewis doesn’t see much value in those scoring models. “A good PR professional should focus on the really important placements and be able to provide their own evaluation," he says. "But scoring may have more value for very large companies that receive extensive coverage and need to be more aware of biases and perception.”
In fact, Lewis believes the old-fashioned paper-clipping shop has largely been displaced by technology, including a new breed of service that uses the Internet and other tools to quickly find and deliver relevant articles—and make archiving and storage easier and more efficient.
“Some of the electronic clip providers are very good and their search functions have become very sophisticated,” he says. “They can essentially provide a mini news digest for a company to track its coverage, monitor its competitors and follow industry trends. This should be viewed as market intelligence, not simply clips.”
The question then becomes one of distribution. Should a company “push” electronic articles to the e-mail boxes of people who need them or is it better to make them broadly available on an intranet? Or is a combination approach the best solution?
The answer depends on three factors: the company’s culture, its size, and how quickly information is needed, Lewis says. As an example, he points to the pharmaceutical industry, where rapid “information about new drug discoveries, clinical trial results and drug approvals are of paramount importance.”
Charlyne McWilliams, an account supervisor at William Mills Agency, said her organization relies heavily on the Internet to identify media sources. “We use several online services to collect stories,” she says. “The different online services give us a variety of locations for possible placements. We send coverage stories to clients and then related news stories as a value added service."
Meanwhile, Casio’s Keklak advises that companies avoid relying too heavily on a single clipping service. “I have yet to find one comprehensive clipping service that does it all,” she says. “Some services are better at monitoring Web hits, while others are stronger in newspaper and some in magazines. Going with one service will never capture all your media monitoring and press clips.”