PR TECHNIQUE: PRESS CLIPPINGS - Analyzing press clippings. PRpeople are casting an increasingly analytical eye over their piles ofclippings. Phil Leggiere finds out what services are available to helpyou use all that data

"I don't care what they write about me as long as they spell my

name right," Mae West once said. Until recently, most PR executives

seemed to subscribe to the same philosophy.



No longer. As the relentless expansion of media outlets has made

competition for "share of voice" ever more intense, PR people have begun

to accept that getting clips is just a small step in the publicity

process.



"Standalone clipping services are essentially dinosaurs," argues Katie

Paine, president of Medialink Delahaye. Almost anyone can now get any

clip they want on the Internet. What companies are increasingly

demanding is knowledge and insight about those clips."



To meet this need, a wide array of analytical services and techniques

have been evolved by leading clipping providers. These range from

relatively inexpensive basic quantitative analyses to highly customized

- and usually pricier - qualitative interpretations.



"Quantitative measurement," according to Albert Barr, CEO of CARMA, "can

tell you where - in broad terms - your message has gotten out to. It

takes a more qualitative approach to give you more specific depth

perspective on whether the message being received is the right one and

getting to the right places."



CARMA's "customized analysis" service explores the specific objectives a

customer hopes to achieve in a publicity campaign, the specific messages

they're trying to get across, and the audience they hope to reach. These

may include product or service exposure, brand attributes, brand image,

or other goals. A team of readers reviews clippings with these goals in

mind, gauging particular stories, authors, and publications in terms of

favorable or unfavorable coverage, editorial slant, target audience,

geographic or demographic reach, influence, and any other criteria a

customer chooses.



Medialink Delahaye also selects a team of readers for each client's

clippings.



"Our staff," says Paine, "tries to read the articles from the

perspective of the client's target audience, determining what messages -

favorable, unfavorable, or neutral - are really being communicated, the

tone of particular publications and authors, and how the company and

brand are actually being positioned."



This type of active interpretation, Paine believes, is particularly

critical for companies entering new markets, introducing new brands,

seeking to track individual product or division segments and/or

identifying inconsistencies in coverage between different publications,

geographic areas, or markets.



It is also, she adds, increasingly critical in crisis management

situations.



Hewlett-Packard, for example, found that its traditional method of just

tabulating the number of clips mentioning the HP brand or products was

not sufficient enough to allow the company to differentiate how its

widely varied product lines of printers, computers, and accessories were

being covered.



With the help of Medialink Delahaye, the company tracked 50 technology

trade magazines determined as key influencers on HP's market,

identifying patterns in specific coverage of over two dozen different

products. This analysis, according to Medialink Delahaye, enabled HP to

gauge which publications and particular writers were keeping up with new

products and services, and where lag existed in terms of non-coverage,

inaccurate coverage, or negative or outdated coverage. Armed with that

information, the company could then compare relative coverage and work

to address imbalances.



Bacon's, Burrelle's, and Luce have also introduced an extensive menu of

qualitative customized services incorporating interpretation of

editorial slant, tone, and subject focus.



But even with these services available, PR agencies and in-house

departments still wonder if they should attempt to do their own in-house

analyses.



Casey Kaplan, SAE at Pierpont Communications, believes that decision

depends on the needs of the client.



"We've used many of the major clipping analysis services," says Kaplan,

"and had mixed reactions." Although it can save a lot of labor time to

farm out analysis, he explains, sometimes reports give more information

than the client can really use or need, and they end up missing the

things they really want.



Steve Milton, PR manager at Unilever, says his company generally

conducts analyses in-house for most of its product lines, believing that

most outside services neglect to measure the most important component of

media campaigns: the creation of a dialogue with consumers.



"Most of the analysis services still appear to be overly media-centric,

as opposed to consumer-centric," says Milton. "Measuring media coverage

is only one part of measurement. For us, the critical criterion of a PR

campaign is the rate of 1-800 calls or Web site traffic our messages

generate. Establishing dialogue is the ultimate goal."



All of which confirms the basic truth of clippings analysis: the client

or PR agency must be clear about what they want to measure and what they

want to do with the results.



"The core competency of PR professionals," observes Sam Choy, VP of

marketing at Bacon's, "is developing creative messages. We don't make

recommendations. We're very clear about that. The final determination

about what to do about specific results is up to PR people."



ANALYZING CLIPS: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

CARMA INTERNATIONAL

Yearly contract fee: ranges from $10,000 to $300,000

depending on report frequency

Contact: Elizabeth Smith

202-842-1818

INSIGHT FARM (a division of Burrelle's)

Yearly fee: based on volume of service required

Basic analysis starts at $5,000 per year. More specialized

qualitative analysis: $25,000 and up per year

Contact: Carol Heller

877-839-9770

LUCE PRESS CLIPPINGS

Basic analysis: $75 per month or $0.75 per clip

Qualitative analysis: $230 per month, $350 per quarter or

$1.50 per clip

Contact: Marlene Wainwright

785-232-0200

MEDIALINK DELAHAYE

Annual contract: calculated by number of labor hours

Contact: Katie Paine

603-431-0111



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