Is All News Good News?

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Media monitoring is often overlooked, but it can be a powerful tool if implemented correctly. Before I got a job helping businesses tell their stories, I had a job evaluating how good those businesses were at telling those stories. If your company is ready to graduate from Google News Alerts to something more sophisticated, here are a few common mistakes I’d recommend avoiding:

Episodic tracking. A crisis, a campaign launch, a new CEO—yes, you want to find out what the media is saying about you then. But compared to what? A baseline is important. Even if it’s quiet, key insights—like who the media considers your industry’s thought leaders—can still be found.

Ignoring your competitors. Great, you’re getting coverage. Is your competitor getting more—or more favorable—coverage?

Conflating press releases and earned media. When I was a media analyst, PR Newswire—or rather, the companies that insisted on counting PR Newswire as a byline—were the bane of my existence. Yes, your press release appeared on 50 sites—buried on the fifth page of the “Press Releases” section where only search engines could find it.

Collecting everything.  The larger your company gets, the more irrelevant and passing mentions you’ll get. Take McDonald’s, for example. Just because I’m mentioning them, doesn’t mean this blog post is at all relevant. They were just the first company that came to mind.

Not collecting enough. If you’d looked only at the newspaper coverage for a local electrical utility I used to cover, you would have seen mainly positive mentions of their community foundation and the occasional boring regulatory filing announcement. What you wouldn’t see was the almost weekly TV news stories on minor power outages that weren’t big enough to make the next day’s paper but were big enough to cause their clients considerable frustration.

Letting algorithms do all the work. There are dozens of media monitoring services now (probably hundreds if we’re talking social media), but all are not created equal. Computer algorithms and analytics can tell you the what, but they often can’t tell you the why. A service that offers human analysts who can dive into the details and determine the tone (was that customer being sarcastic or genuine?), find trends and adjust searches to eliminate irrelevant (and potentially costly) clips.

Not taking the time to get your issue matrix right. There’s the topics you want to track, and the topics that are talked about alongside your products…whether or not you want them to be. You need to track both. For instance, the beef industry monitored media mentions of beef’s nutrition, but they also monitored the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets—and whether those mentions were positive or negative for the industry. Was the article about the health benefits of vegan diets? Or the lack of certain nutrients in a vegan diet? It takes time to determine the granularity with which you want to look at the data.