The days of bulging binders are over, as the clip book has become digitized and includes complex measurement.
Demonstrating the value of a PR campaign, program, or department is notoriously tricky, not least because it means many things to many people. But because one of the key functions of PR is to garner media coverage, for many years, the clip book seemed to be a handy answer.
"[The clip book] still serves a very important purpose," says Gary Getto, VP at VMS. "Even though the focus is always on business outcomes and ROI ... as PR people, the only way we can drive the business is by the editorial coverage we generate."
In its most primitive form, a clip book is a bulky, exhaustive compilation of all of the print media coverage for a particular client. Articles are cut out of magazines and newspapers, and pasted into a book, which is then presented to the client for evaluation. In times past, its value was often determined by the sound that it made when dropped on a desk or conference table - called the "thud factor" by many PR professionals.
Mark Weiner, CEO of Delahaye, notes that the clip book is the equivalent of currency in PR, and it is still used in its traditional form by a good amount of pros. This presents challenges for those who have to prove the value of their programs and campaigns to business executives outside the PR department.
"One of the big disconnects between PR people and executives to whom they're trying to prove value is that clips don't come in the language of business. But funding and decision-making in the C-suite is done in the language of business," Weiner says. "It may be comforting for a CEO to see clips on one level, but people who make general business decisions require more than that."
Indeed, as time has gone on, and PR has become a much more important part of the marketing mix, having a clip book that goes beyond the standard cut-and-paste clippings has almost become a necessity. And for the most part, PR pros have adopted a new way of doing things: the electronic clip book.
Ann Ertsas, director of marketing and PR for Bacon's Information, adds that, although a significant proportion of clients still request a traditional paper-based clip book, in the past two years, the company has seen more than a 90% increase in the number of clients who request an internet portal to manage and view clips.
The company's MediaSource module allows users to see an excerpt, full text, and actual image of the article featuring a company or client. Not only are these compilations electronic, but they also include metrics and analyses that have only entered the picture in the past couple of years.
David Rockland, partner and global director of research at Ketchum, notes that the agency's research and measurement practice has increased threefold over the past five years.
"The clip book was something that interns spent the day organizing," he says. "Now you have super fancy clip books. It allows you to feed data into market mix models that have traditionally been for other forms of marketing communications."
Evolving the offering
While the concept of the traditional clip book will never go away completely, Jennifer Scott, president of StrategyOne, Edelman's research unit, says that clients are increasingly viewing their media hits as part of their overall goals in business strategy. "There's a lot more pressure on the PR practice to develop its media outreach strategies based on what needs to be achieved from a business objective," she says. "Clients are really beginning to appreciate that good PR maps back to good business practice." The traditional clip book, she adds, has more of an emotional value than a metrics value and, therefore, has to go one step further to be relevant in the overall business scheme. "Many of our clients are seeing that a clip book is a good record of a media campaign, not a good way to track that achievement."
Jennifer Hoffmann, VP at CARMA International, agrees. "Clients have been moving away from the clip book as a way to show success and moving toward measurement," she says.
Six years ago, the company offered a traditional clip book in addition to a detailed measurement report of the client's media coverage. Now, Hoffmann says, not one client requests the traditional offering.
The need for clip book reform is also due to the fact that staffers in different offices of a firm very often work on the same campaign. "The physical clip book really doesn't apply when people are all over the word or all over the country," says Charlie Guyer, senior director of media relations, North America, for Alcatel and a Cymfony client.
Rockland says another reason for the incorporation of measurement into the clip book is that it will eventually allow PR to play at the same level as advertising. Before this incorporation, the analysis of media coverage was determined by the size of the clip book, he says. "Now it concerns messages and whether they were good or not. Because the data you now get is more sophisticated, it allows you to feed into ways that marketers manage their business," he says. "Companies that are leading that type of thinking and analysis ... are the ones who are going to be very effective in how they spend money on PR."
So what should this new and improved clip book look like? The most basic requirement is that it be web-based and easy to share with other members of the team, as well as other business executives within the company. Another important feature for many clients is speed. If a CEO or CFO of a company wants to see a snapshot of results from a recent PR campaign, the clip book solution should allow for easy-to-organize and quickly printable or e-mail-ready reports.
The notion of speed also applies to the user's retrieval of media coverage and analysis. "What we're finding... is that customers want to be able to see what's happening within a day or two of what's out there," says Andrew Bernstein, CEO of Cymfony.
While almost all measurement solutions make it easy to e-mail reports, versatility is essential. Many members of the C-suite still often prefer a printed summary, says Jim Waggoner, president of VMS' analysis division. "Most people enjoy the ability to have the reports quickly created in an electronic format, but by the time you get up to the CEO or CMO, I suspect they're reviewing hard copy more often than not," he says.
Another important feature is the ability to assemble the information into a format that is convenient and in line with the PR department's method of doing things. Guyer says that by using Cymfony's Dashboard product, he's able to add his own comments to the selected information, charts, and graphs. This allows him to offer explanations as to why coverage was high or low at certain points. That feature, coupled with the metrics, makes it something that is easy to distribute to senior executives, he says. "It's not always quantity; it's quality of coverage that's important. It's nice to have something that depicts both."
Another important feature of the new clip book is the type of media being monitored and analyzed. According to Katie Paine, president of KD Paine & Partners, including blog coverage in a clip book is especially important, as it's one of the biggest developments in media monitoring and measurement.
"It's clear that, at least in the tech and political sectors, blogs are hugely influential," she says. Lone Buffalo's Dave Farrell agrees that clients are far more concerned over online news content and blogs than traditional media. "When we first started [in 1998], a lot of clients were more concerned than they are now with where things appeared in print editions," he says. Scott says that being able to track the blogs and how what they say gets translated into the traditional media is a very important part of what the company does now.
Most monitoring and measurement providers now offer analysis of the blogosphere and other consumer-generated media.
James Fetig, VP of media relations for Raytheon, uses KD Paine's dashboard solution to analyze the company's media coverage and share it via e-mail with other interested constituents within the company, such as investor relations and HR. The product also allows him to slice the data 32 different ways, looking at competitors' coverage, the quantity and quality of coverage, the media covering the company, the product lines being covered, and who's being quoted.
"You just can't do that with a clip book," Fetig says.
Weiner adds that a good clip book should also give users the ability to manage data by region and business unit.
"Most people don't have time to look at the information that isn't relevant to them," adds Waggoner. VMS' web-based Insight product offers coverage and analysis of broadcast, print, and online media content. "You must be able to demonstrate ROI for your activities," he says. "The metrics developed are being done with that goal in mind."
And like similar offerings, it allows users to track the media coverage of their competitors, something that could not be done with a traditional clip book. "Every one wants to stay up on what the competition is up to," says Waggoner. Indeed, one of the biggest changes in the clip book, according to several people in the measurement and monitoring industries, is that companies are realizing the importance of monitoring competitors' media coverage.
Deborah Eastman, CMO of Biz 360, says clients will work with the team from her company to define a custom dashboard as part of its web-based Market 360 solution. The client can establish different metrics and even customize them according to different events.
While several clients request monthly or quarterly reports on media coverage, the availability of near real-time information is essential to some PR pros, especially in a crisis situation, says Hoffmann. Of those clients that receive reports on a monthly or quarterly basis, many also manage their coverage through the CARMA Online product. It allows clients to view reports of media coverage, which are often accompanied by charts and graphs that then link to the articles used to develop it. As far as translating metrics for executives outside the PR department, Hoffmann says that the team translates it into something everyone can understand: percentage change.
The evolution of the clip book is also crossing over into broadcast monitoring. Although the only outlet used to be to mail tapes at clients' requests, several broadcast monitoring companies are introducing metrics into their products.
Brent Bamberger, VP of marketing at Multivision, says the broadcast-monitoring industry as a whole has become more concerned with including metrics in its reports. The company's Digital Showroom product is a web-based solution that allows users to monitor, watch, analyze, and present its clients' broadcast coverage. It also includes such metrics as tone and media impact to determine the effect of the clip.
Although the trend toward a more sophisticated clip book is becoming increasingly popular, VMS' Getto says that the most important thing is that there be some type of measurement in place to assess the PR team's activities.
"Doing some measurement is certainly better than doing no measurement," he says. "If all the budget is going to permit is a clipping service to build a clip book, that's better than having nothing to show for your work."
Building the perfect clip book
Although the new and improved clip book is based on many of the same principles as the original, there are still new elements to consider. Here are some that should be top of mind:
Scanned or text version of the article or streaming broadcast clip. For many PR pros, seeing the actual story is still important, although that story's placement has become less of an issue.
Impressions/opportunities-to-see. How many people were exposed to a particular article or broadcast clip.
Share of voice/discussion. How much a company's coverage comprises the entire amount of coverage about the industry or subject.
Tone. Shows if the slant of coverage is positive or negative. Many measurement companies use this to determine an overall score for coverage.
Competitor tracking. Measures your company's media coverage against that of your competitors' to see if it differs in quantity or quality.
Spokesperson messaging. Being able to determine if a company's spokesperson is on message is important to the overall strategy.
Third-party commentary. While monitoring spokespeople is important, it's equally key to monitor and analyze what third-party experts, customers, and competitors say about your client.
The measurement menu
Below is a sample of some of the measurement and monitoring firms out there, and the clip book solutions that they offer:
Bacon's Information: MediaSource includes immediate delivery of online clips and blog postings; other media sources are delivered within 24 hours. Because it owns Delahaye, more in-depth information from this company can be used to supplement MediaSource reports. It can also offer clients solutions from the recently acquired Multivision.
Bacon's Multivision: Recently debuted Broadcast Showroom 3.0. In addition to a streaming video of the clip, the product allows users to view details on media hits' tonality, placement of the company mention within the broadcast, and media impact, which is a score comprising audience number, placement, and tone.
Biz360: Its Market 360 product aggregates and analyzes content from print, broadcast, online, and blog media. It offers a variety of metrics that can then be used to generate reports about a company's media coverage. It also offers in-depth reports prepared by Biz360's research team.
CARMA International: Its CARMA Online product allows users to search press coverage by subject, time frame, publication type, company, circulation type, and country. The software then generates a chart showing the volume of stories and favorability rating, which can be printed or downloaded onto a spreadsheet. In addition, users can obtain information on their shares of voice in the media. Other functions include the ability to search by journalist and spokesperson.
Cymfony: Offers a suite of products, including Cymfony Dashboard, which offers analysis and reporting capabilities; Digital Consumer Insight, which does the same for consumer-generated media; and Orchestra, its newest product, which offers a convergence of traditional and consumer-generated media. It also offers reports prepared by the Cymfony research team.
Delahaye: The MediaCompass product is a web-based media monitoring and analysis tool. The company also offers detailed measurement on a quarterly, monthly, or even daily basis.
KD Paine & Partners: Offers the Do-it-Yourself and FYI Dashboard solutions, both customized products that allow users to view information about media coverage, including opportunities to see, share of positioning on key issues, and share of positive and negative coverage. It also allows users to generate charts and graphs.
Lone Buffalo: The company offers a web-based product that monitors news and allows users to search by topic, product, competitor, publication, journalist, and date range. Users can track coverage of certain issues or business goals, as well. The product is also optimized for real-time updates.
VMS: Offers Insight, which allows users to monitor and analyze broadcast, print, and online content, as well as generate graphs and charts. Its Broadcast Center product does the same for broadcast content. The company recently acquired PRTrak, which offers a do-it-yourself web-based measurement solution for clients, as well as in-depth analysis that can be incorporated into VMS' other products.
Vocus: The Analytics software product analyzes print, broadcast, and online media coverage in real time. The product also allows users to create and electronically distribute media coverage analysis.