Why you need a war room

And why you shouldn't assign media monitoring to junior staffers.

Staffers work in former Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg’s campaign headquarters in Manhattan. Getty Images
Staffers work in former Democratic Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg’s campaign headquarters in Manhattan. Getty Images

It wasn't long ago that comms pros only had to worry about 25 or so newspapers. The work was tedious, but clipping, sorting, and faxing daily clips packages was more manageable with fewer sources. It was also cost-effective; just hire an inexpensive college graduate eager to launch a communications career.

With the dawning of the internet, things changed. We set up Google Alerts instead of reading papers and we copied-and-pasted (instead of scissoring and taping) before emailing Word docs full of text. The work was less manual, and the delivery quicker.

However, one thing remained the same: media monitoring was still the purview of interns and junior account executives. And it remains this way nearly twenty years later.

Technology has transformed media. Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook generate enough data to fill 174 newspapers each day. But PR stays the same; to the peril of both its margins and its clients.

This has massive implications. PR firms have laid off thousands of professionals to create efficiency amidst client budget cuts and demands to achieve more for less. And while staff reductions are often necessary, it's unsustainable to expect fewer people to deliver better results amidst a broader media environment.

Instead, we should look holistically at the PR business model and we should start with the basics: media monitoring. Instead of assigning it to junior account executives we should learn from political campaigns.

Modern campaigns don't rely on junior staffers or automated media monitoring tools to stay abreast of developments. Instead, they create war rooms staffed by experts that use technology to sift the relevant and actionable news from the mundane and insignificant.

These experts are essential for building or hiring your own war room. These experts must process a tremendous amount of information, picking the needles from the haystacks in real-time and in rapid succession.

They must also have the training and experience to know how to use a plethora of tools and services to monitor online, print, broadcast, and social media. And because news can break at any hour of the day or night, your war room must have expert analysts on duty around the clock.

That's how a successful war room delivers political candidates an edge that cannot be replicated by automated clipping services or generalist junior account executives.

Clients are seeking precisely this kind of edge because the modern media landscape demands it of them. Technology firms like mine stand ready to leverage AI-empowered media scrapers with expert analysts at the ready. If only PR shops would choose to evolve.

Joshua Gardner is the president of CMGroup.

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