Call it clip sorting. Call it media content analysis. Call it what you want, but please call the intern.
Call it clip sorting. Call it media content analysis. Call it what
you want, but please call the intern.
Sitting before a desk piled high with newspaper clippings can leave your
fingers black and your mind numb. Is this really what I went to college
for, PR pros often ask themselves? So the person assigned to conquer
that mountain of newsprint becomes the summer intern who hasn’t yet
questioned his career choice or the new hire expected to pay her
Clip analysis may not get the respect afforded other forms of
But with only 3% of corporate PR budgets devoted to research (see
PRWeek, Feb. 28), news measurement is the only tool many companies use
to gauge how well their messages are communicated. Even those that do
use more advanced methods include clip analysis in the mix. Surveying
consumers to find out if your message affected buying habits is useless
unless you know they saw it in the first place.
Despite the paperless promise of the technological age, the demise of
hard-copy clippings has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, most
customers still use physical clips alone or in conjunction with online
text. ’The majority of our (clipping) accounts still want that hard-copy
report,’ says Michael Bux- baum, business development director for
Not all publications produce online editions and many don’t post full
text. Some say news can be harvested faster through the Internet. On the
other hand, Delahaye Medialink president Katie Paine points out that
many magazines hit newsstands long before their text hits the Web.
Placement and photo accompaniment can’t be gauged using Web-gathered
Then there’s the human factor. ’No computer can make the intuitive
judgment calls that a real reader can,’ says Drew Crandall, president of
Keep in Touch, a Connecticut-based research firm. No matter how well
written the program or how carefully defined the key word list, you
can’t teach news sense to a collection of wires and circuits. And Albert
Barr, president and CEO of CARMA International, notes that Web surfing
can be as time consuming and expensive as reviewing hard copy.
So with a heavy sigh of exasperation, you return again to that pile of
clips. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Granted, some
level of analysis undoubtedly occurs in-house at every company. But
clipping services and research firms can do most of the grunt work and
varying levels of analysis, depending on your budget. To what extent you
should rely on outside sources is open for debate. The argument hinges
on the inherent subjectivity of the process.
Some say media analysis companies are best used to collect quantitative
data - measurements of volume, column inches and geographic
distribution, for example. They contend in-house personnel can more
effectively address qualitative issues since they are more familiar with
the company and its industry. ’It should be a top person in PR that goes
through them,’ opines John McCombs, president of Allen’s Press Clipping
Bureau, a large regional service in San Francisco.
Others claim in-house people, and even the PR firms they hire, may be
too close to the issues or have too much at stake. ’If you have a vested
interest in the program, it’s really hard to be objective,’ says Donna
Coletti, worldwide media relations director at Texas Instruments. ’If
you don’t have a high degree of objectivity in the analysis, it’s not
Experts compare clipping analysis to survey research. If you don’t ask
the right questions, you won’t get meaningful answers. ’Getting it right
on the back end depends on getting it right at the front end,’ says
Steven Einhorn, a research director for Burson-Marsteller. ’Think
through what you want and pretest, just like you would with a
Defining your search may be the trickiest part of designing an analysis
matrix. Most clipping services charge by the article, so casting your
net too widely can be expensive; focus too narrowly and you may miss
important information. Communication is the key to striking the right
’Talk person-to-person,’ advises PR consultant Richard Weiner, who
represents Luce Press Clippings.
Slant or tone also can be hard to pin down, and outside firms may bring
different perspectives. ’Clients usually provide a brief as to what is
’good,’ ’bad’ or ’ugly,’ says Jacqui Walford, international SVP for
Echo, a European research group that is establishing a US presence.
Einhorn works with clients to select model articles that reflect
different degrees of slant, while CARMA applies a 100-point favorability
scale. Delahaye Medialink hires readers from its clients’ target
audiences who judge slant based on whether an article would make them
more or less likely to do business with the companies in question.
Researchers generally loath ad value equivalency - what the coverage
would have cost in advertising - as subjective and irrelevant, but it
frequently is calculated simply because CEOs understand dollars and
Geographic reach, placements in targeted publications and message
integrity may be more important elements to measure. Burrelle’s
Information Services recently did work related to an auto show; Ed
Harrington, SVP for PR evaluation services, points out that many
newspapers put editorial content about cars on the cover of the
classifieds. Thomas Martin, SVP of corporate relations at ITT
Industries, places special emphasis on ’share of voice,’ or the amount
and quality of media attention his company receives compared to
Clip analysis is a chore that always will be with us. The stack on your
desk might justify your job, reveal emerging market trends or provide
intelligence on the competition. And as much as you would like to
convince yourself otherwise, making sense of it probably requires more
expertise than the intern has accumulated in his short life.
DOS AND DON’TS
1. Be as specific as possible when developing key words.
2. Revise your analysis matrix as issues and circumstances change.
3. Make clip analysis part of a broader research program.
4. Determine whether your company needs to archive clips and research
the best storage mechanisms.
5. Consider staff time when comparing analysis options.
1. Define your search so narrowly that you miss important articles.
2. Expect your outside firm to work effectively without frequent input
3. Expect news articles to tell you everything you need to know about
the success of your PR efforts.
4. Assume outside analysis is more expensive than internal review.