MEDIA COVERAGE: Making the most of monitoring

A brand's success can be judged on press coverage. Alex Black talks to three monitoring firms to see how they gather results.

Online monitoring
Online monitoring

Comms teams constantly need to assess how their brand is perceived by customers and stakeholders. The collection of print, web or broadcast cuttings is the first stage in that process. But without the right sort of raw data, the evaluation processes will always struggle to produce useful information.

When PROs review their monitoring and evaluation strategies, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start. Although everyone working in the PR industry will have seen cuttings, not all will have been presented with a monitoring report, and many would not be sure of the best way to use the data once they receive it.

So PRWeek gave three media monitoring firms a fictional brief to assess volume monitoring of UK press for a well-known brand - in this case, mobile phone firm O2.

The three - TNS, Precise and Durrants - were asked to monitor articles with a cover date of 14 to 20 March (not including share listings). This could include print, broadcast and web coverage as they saw fit. Precise and Durrants chose to scan all types of media, with TNS demonstrating what a more specific brief would look like by focusing on print and broadcast media. In terms of volume, Precise found the most clips but, as it already works with O2, it has had longer to familiarise itself with the brief.

Dave Massey, O2 head of comms strategy and policy, says despite the increase in the number of influencers and commentators online that would be categorised as 'non-traditional' media, the evaluation of traditional media remains a key focus for O2.

As for his team's use of cut searches, Massey explains it all boils down to working out which journalists and publications are covering the firm and, ultimately, using that data to evaluate the angles they take and the overall tone of their articles.

Once the monitoring data is assessed, O2 picks out the strongly favourable and strongly negatively coverage.

'This is the information which best represents the strength of our PR campaigns,' says Massey, 'and this is what helps us understand the approaches that have best worked.

'Combined with other data that we collect, it helps build a picture of how we are perceived by the outside world. Once we know that, we can address our reputation weaknesses and build on the campaigns that produced positive coverage.'

The week from 14 to 20 March turned out to be a big one for the firm. It generated plenty of coverage in the sports pages thanks to the final weekend of the Six Nations rugby tournament, featuring the clash between England and Ireland - both of whom are sponsored by O2.

It also announced a deal with Napster to offer O2 customers five million tracks for download to phone and PC, and it launched the Apple iPhone in Ireland.

Here, PRWeek has reproduced some of the results gathered by the three firms' research, and looked at their methodologies. We also asked them how firms should be using monitoring data to assess their reputations and build their profiles.


MONITORING COMPANY: TNS

How it finds its clips
TNS unearthed fewer cuttings than the other two firms, but on this occasion it chose to show how a search might be conducted if a client asked to focus on print and broadcast titles rather than including online sources. Obviously it can scan the web too if that is part of a brief.

TNSLike the other firms, print coverage was sourced from UK national and daily titles, trade press and consumer titles and broadcast coverage came from more than 200 radio and TV channels.

TNS claims it has taken an 'intelligent approach', discarding anything it regarded as passing mentions or out of context.

Like the others, it did not include share price mentions, and also discarded market reports unless they were accompanied by a comment.

How the cuttings reach the customer
TNS prefers to deliver its reports online using its website, morethannews.com. The site has been designed to filter the results by brand issue, date, competitor and so on, and it can be programmed to differentiate business units within the target company.

Using the web means sites such as morethannews.com can summarise broadcast content and link through to streaming sites, and can also let users click through to full-colour scanned pages.

It also means the in-house PROs can add notes to pages, search archives and have updates sent through on email and in XML feeds. All this helps cut down the time it takes to deliver the contents of broadcast items to the press team.

What TNS recommends should be done next
Once the monitoring data is in, TNS suggests looking at things like whether the coverage was unique to O2 or if it mentioned a competitor. It could look at the incidence of O2 mentions in all telecoms coverage and ask whether O2 was the primary or secondary focus of a piece.

This could be refined to look at which publications or programmes gave O2 the most prominence, and which journalists, or news outlets, had the best and worst take-up of an O2 story.

Depending on the campaigns a firm is running and what audience it is trying to reach, an evaluation brief could analyse how much coverage hit different media sectors.

It would also be useful to know what proportion of the coverage was driven by releases or spokespeople.

Any other tips?
If O2 was looking to put a value on all its PR output, TNS suggests using tools that show how coverage influences customer perceptions and behaviour.

In-house PR professionals could also compare mainstream coverage against consumer-generated content such as blogs to assess what the general 'buzz' is around the brand.


MONITORING COMPANY: DURRANTS

How it finds its clips
Durrants' production system digitises all content, including hard copy newspapers and magazines.

A process of 'optical character recognition' turns the digital images into searchable text. Certain media - eClips, web and newswires, and broadcast content - arrive already digitised.

DurrantsThis text is then searched using customers' keywords and filters, and the hits appear on the editors' screens for analysis. These editors make the final decision on whether or not to send the mention to the customer.

How they reach the customer
The cuttings are displayed on the web so customers can access them from their computers, and email alerts include links through to the clips. Durrants also formats national and regional clips so they can be viewed on BlackBerrys and PDAs.

What Durrants recommends should be done next
In-house teams should take the volume data and feed it into evaluation tools to track key messages, share of voice coverage compared with competitors, campaign tracking and spokesperson benchmarking.

It can also be used to analyse simultaneous campaigns and multiple key messages.

Any other tips?
The Durrants team sits down with all new customers and works out exactly what they are looking for. It asks questions like: 'Does the customer require every piece of coverage, including passing and trivial mentions, or simply the focused coverage?'

Similarly a new customer would typically be asked whether they want any restrictions on found hits - for example 'only send me mentions in connection with sponsorship'.

This is particularly important for a company such as O2 that is featured in the media frequently for its coverage in sports sponsorship.


MONITORING COMPANY: PRECISE

How it finds its clips
Precise Media claims to monitor more than 10,000 UK and international print, online, newswire, broadcast and social media sources - roughly 100,000 pages a day. Increasingly, media content is supplied directly by digital feed from publishers. Where this is not available, media sources are digitised on arrival.

All articles with keyword hits are read on-screen and checked for relevance by editors.

How they reach the customer
Precise delivers its cuttings via its website (see pics). Monitoring firms are falling over themselves to develop faster and more user-friendly interfaces. Some clients can view coverage as it becomes available, and can sort it by category, source, media and journalist.

PreciseAs well as clicking through to the scanned articles, Precise (and other big monitoring firms) provide data in other formats such as Word and Excel.

As speed is often crucial for companies battling crises, monitoring firms such as Precise also send cuts via email in formats that can be viewed on hand-held devices.

What Precise recommends should be done next
The Precise team explains that after analysis to establish the overview of topics the press are covering, its analysis of O2 found that the Apple iPhone received the most coverage.

Both the O2 brand and the O2 Arena received roughly equal levels with total circulation of approximately 30 million, and the tie-up with Napster reached about 10 million people.

When they receive data like this, companies may want to consider how metrics such as the number of articles written, the circulation of the publications and potential readership have changed.

Due to the sheer size of the web, internet stories will exceed print cuttings. But analysis of the numbers those stories reached might show most people go to the national press for their news.

An in-house team could work out opportunities to see from the dailies' circulation figures and, if coverage was broken down by newspaper, the demographic of the people most exposed to O2.

Of course, this level of detail may be too much. A firm may simply be interested in how much 'noise' it is making in the papers compared with its competitors. A press team fighting a crisis may only want a quick summary of what is being written.

Any other tips?
Monitoring firms will also help identify what individual journalists are saying. Compiling a list of 'friendly' and 'not so friendly' hacks can be vital to a press team's strategy.

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