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
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
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
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
’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
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
1. Spend some time comparing the separate offerings of monitoring
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
4. Talk with your client between a series of TV interviews to suggest
improvements or changes of emphasis.
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
3. Rely on ratings information to tell you much about cable
The sample size is sometimes too small to know who’s been watching.
4. Forget to set the video.