"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
"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
Medialink Delahaye also selects a team of readers for each client's
"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
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
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
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?
Yearly contract fee: ranges from $10,000 to $300,000
depending on report frequency
Contact: Elizabeth Smith
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
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
Annual contract: calculated by number of labor hours
Contact: Katie Paine