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Checklist: Selecting a Media Monitoring and Measurement Vendor

PR departments and agencies have long used media monitoring and media measurement services to manage corporate reputation, handle PR crisis, and assess the impact and value of public relations activities. Now, more companies and non-profit organizations are using social media monitoring and measurement dashboards to improve customer service, conduct market research and identify successful marketing strategies.

Finding a media listening and measurement service that meets the organization’s needs can be an arduous and problematic task. New start-ups continually emerge, companies are regularly acquired, go out of business, or revamp their offerings. Many organizations have experienced the unhappy situation of selecting a media listening solution that doesn’t meet their needs, and having to begin the search all over again in less than a year. Sometimes, they can’t search for a new service because they are tied to a long-term contract.

Here are some key criteria to select a media monitoring and measurement service:

Media coverage. Many services do not cover all media – print, broadcast, online, social – in one integrated dashboard. Make sure that the service monitors the key media types you need and the outlets you need within each media type. Most organizations, for instance, have specific local news sources or trade publications they want to monitor. Many companies have specific blogs or social media accounts to monitor. Make sure the service already monitors your required sources or can readily add them to its monitoring list.

Timely alerts. For daily alerts of brand mentions in media coverage, timing is often as critical as content. A swift response to an attack on the brand’s reputation, severe customer service issue or other emerging crisis is often crucial in crisis management. Make sure the vendor can deliver media alerts when you need them.

Clip accuracy. Seek a vendor with good keyword filters. These days, the real problem isn’t finding all the news articles and social media posts containing your key words; it’s finding the right ones. That’s especially true if you’re monitoring some generic words. Boolean search queries – such as AND, OR, NOT and punctuation like parenthesis and quotes — can assure more accurate media monitoring results. They’re especially useful in eliminating extraneous results.

If the monitoring service can’t filter out spam, porn, geographical references and other irrelevant mentions, then look elsewhere. A short free trial using your own keywords will tell you much more about media coverage and clip accuracy than a canned online demo. If you can’t get a free trial, insist on a 30-day cancellation clause.

Sentiment analysis. When considering media monitoring services that offer qualitative assessment of articles, broadcasts and social media posts, seek one that uses a combination of automated software and human analysis. Relying solely on automated sentiment analysis software to assess tone/sentiment, messages, prominence, dominance, and other qualitative factors often produce results that can be misleading. Demand a minimum 88% accuracy in a Scott’s Pi intercoder reliability test.

Social media metrics. Selecting the best social media metrics to track is a critical step for social media measurement. Rather than focusing solely on likes and follower counts, seek metrics that support business goals. If you seek a company that can provide comprehensive social media monitoring and targeted social media metrics, seek a vendor that can take the application program interface, or API, from a variety of sources and automatically extract all the data that social media networks compile. Make sure the vendor tracks the networks you seek to monitor and measure.

Graphic depictions. Selecting the right type of chart, graph or other type of visual that’s best-suited for your data and your purpose is essential if you hope to educate and persuade colleagues, customers and corporate leaders. It’s hard to believe, but some measurement services use the wrong type of chart format to display results for trends or comparisons. Make sure the charts offered and the chart formats meet your needs – or offer flexibility to develop additional charts.

Customization. A customizable dashboard allows different divisions, departments, brand managers, or country managers to create their own search and measurement profiles. They can track different metrics and generate charts and graphs for their particular needs. PR teams monitoring a crisis or a campaign can create specific views, filters, and custom analytics. Most companies and non-profit organizations have some sort of special media monitoring or measurement need. It can be coverage of certain media sources, or custom metrics, or certain types of measurement or graphic depictions. Find a vendor that is able to customize its standard package to your specific wants and needs. Many vendors cannot or will not.

Industry standards. Before you begin your search, find what vendors have pledged their support to PR industry standards. The list is available at the Institute for Public Relations website. Vendors who do not follow industry standers are likely to push you to use AVEs and other dubious metrics.

A free trail. A short free trial will reveal the media measurement dashboard’s abilities and the accuracy of its data better than a canned online demo.

Beware pressure sales tactics. You should not feel any pressure to purchase from a particular vendor. High pressure sales tactics often indicate a lower quality service. Take all the time you need to make the best decision possible.

Determine Your Requirements First

Measurement experts recommend that you first determine your requirements, objectives and budget before contacting vendors. After determining your needs, interview vendors to find if they can meet them.

“This is much preferred to watching the 60-90 minute dog and pony show that vendors show to every prospective client. Make sure each requirement on your list is addressed—and demonstrated—to your satisfaction,” stresses Dr. Liz Gross, a social media and market research strategist for a federal student loan servicer.

After selecting a vendor, seek a trial period. Avoid signing a multi-year contract to keep your options open, Gross urges. The company you choose could overhaul its solution, be acquired, or go out of business before the contract ends.

Some organizations, notably larger companies and government agencies, require formal competitive bidding and a formal request for proposal (RFP) process. Although RFPs offer a methodical way to gather competitive bids, they often leave out information that vendors need to create a thorough proposal that’s specific to the organization’s needs. It’s essential to include specific requirements in the RFP in order for vendors to produce quality proposals with accurate cost estimates.

Bottom Line: These recommendations from industry experts can you help find a media monitoring and measurement service that meets your organization’s PR and marketing needs. Be sure your team first agrees on its needs, goals and budget before vetting media monitoring and measurement vendors.

Sign up for a free trial of the Glean.info media monitoring and measurement service

This article was first published on May 25, 2016, and updated on Dec. 7, 2020.