PR TECHNIQUE: RESEARCH & EVALUATION - TV Hits: tracking PR coverage on television. PR pros are using everything from computer chips to ’clipping’ services to monitor their TV coverage. And as Claire Atkinson reports, they don&rsquo

Monitoring TV mentions in a 500-channel universe is no easy task. Corporate communications departments and PR agencies face a daily battle to track the way their companies and clients are represented on television. However, if you’re prepared to spend plenty, there are numerous ways to check who said what and where on a global basis.

Monitoring TV mentions in a 500-channel universe is no easy task. Corporate communications departments and PR agencies face a daily battle to track the way their companies and clients are represented on television. However, if you’re prepared to spend plenty, there are numerous ways to check who said what and where on a global basis.

Monitoring TV mentions in a 500-channel universe is no easy task.

Corporate communications departments and PR agencies face a daily battle

to track the way their companies and clients are represented on

television. However, if you’re prepared to spend plenty, there are

numerous ways to check who said what and where on a global basis.



While it’s relatively easy to track the use of satellite media tours

through media bookings, it is more difficult to find out who used the

video news release you may have sent months ago. And at the extreme end

of the spectrum, PR pros need to know immediately when someone is

mentioning a company in connection with a crisis situation.



Companies such as Video Monitoring Services and Medialink, in addition

to Nielsen and Lexis-Nexis, are providing those tools. While many

professionals simply view tapes, both Nielsen and Medialink have

developed electronic watermarking techniques that allow them to know

when something has aired; an invisible code is installed on the tape,

and monitoring stations receive a signal when the tape is broadcast.

Medialink’s Teletrax is currently available only in Europe, but the

company is rolling it out in the US this year.



’The market research we’ve done shows a high level of dissatisfaction

with tapes,’ explains Mark Weiner, executive vice president at Delahaye

Medialink, Medialink’s research arm. ’It is very hit-or-miss.’ Weiner

suggests people often forget to set the tape, or they miss important

mentions.



Tapes can also be expensive if your client has appeared on more than a

few shows. Medialink prices tapes at dollars 125 each. The PR services

firm has developed a more sophisticated method of broadcast monitoring.

News IQ is a Web-based system that, for a flat fee of dollars 700 per

month, can track the main broadcast networks and cable services for

mentions of your keywords.



Local news broadcasts in around 50 markets are also monitored.



The system relies on the text obtained through the closed captioning

system. When your client appears or is mentioned, the system will

automatically send out an e-mail alert. According to Medialink,

customers can obtain texts of major domestic newscasts within minutes of

airing.



But Medialink competitor Bob Cohen, CEO of Video Monitoring Services

(VMS), maintains that the system has its drawbacks. ’We don’t believe it

is accurate or gives a full picture,’ he says. ’Closed captioning

doesn’t tell you if there’s great signage behind the person.’ And even

Medialink admits that sometimes transcriptions are not literal

translations of what was said.



VMS monitors all network and local news in major markets within an hour

or two after airing, while remaining local markets are analyzed a week

after the air date. VMS also has an association with Burrelle’s

Information Services, called News Alert, which provides a ’clippings

service’ derived from news broadcasts. The package is delivered every

morning at 8 am and is updated twice a day.



More PR pros are also relying on the increased availability of video

footage on the Internet. Already, news sites such as MSNBC carry live

feeds of select interviews appearing on their cable counterparts.



Ed Harrington, vice president of PR evaluation at Burrelle’s, thinks

that PR companies should invest more time in evaluating their efforts on

television. He suggests that most PR people look for only the number of

hits, rather than the quality of hits in terms of demographics and the

length of the mention. ’They are not as sophisticated as they need to

be,’ he says, adding that better research would lead to increased

productivity.



Indeed, many clients are demanding more rigorous data about the

audiences their executives are reaching.



Porter Novelli linked up with ratings research firm Nielsen late last

year to access ratings and socioeconomic information. While it is pretty

easy to see who’s watching the Super Bowl, it is more difficult to track

some stations whose audiences are so tiny they register as a fraction or

- even worse - a zero.



Geri Mazur, senior vice president of strategic planning and research at

Porter Novelli, admits that ratings do not provide everything she

needs.



’The Nielsen system is very passive,’ she says, explaining that the

small numbers make it difficult to know who’s watching. Mazur adds that,

beyond pure statistics, ’We also look at the content. Was the right

message there? Did the reporter say what we wanted him to say?’



Burson-Marsteller’s chief knowledge officer, Leslie Gaines-Ross, says

there are Internet research firms such as Harris Interactive, Greenfield

Online and Cyber Dialogue that poll subscribers to find out what they

thought of your TV campaign. ’You can do anything if you want to pay for

it,’ says Gaines-Ross. ’We find out what’s been said all over the

world.’ CARMA International has a rating system for TV and print

coverage that ranks items on a scale of zero to 100 on the basis of

certain criteria, such as how many positive sources were used.



Ogilvy is trying to take it one step further and remove the guess

work.



According to David Michaelson, managing director and head of research,

the agency is market-testing broadcast stories by doing mock-ups made to

look like real pieces and running them past news consumers before taking

its chances with real journalists.





DOs AND DON’Ts



DO



1. Spend some time comparing the separate offerings of monitoring

services.



How important is speed of notification? Do you need the context of a

tape, or can you live with text-only?



2. Explain to the client that a bigger budget will enable you to provide

more detail about the effectiveness of the campaign.



3. Look at using online research firms to give you added

information.



4. Talk with your client between a series of TV interviews to suggest

improvements or changes of emphasis.





DON’T



1. Forget that broadcast is a highly perishable medium. Follow up as

quickly as possible to get tapes or transcripts.



2. Assume that your message was effective. Test to see what people

think.



3. Rely on ratings information to tell you much about cable

viewership.



The sample size is sometimes too small to know who’s been watching.



4. Forget to set the video.



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