As Monitoring Tools Evolve, ‘Media’ Itself Proves Harder to Define

Monitoring the media for positive and negative mentions of a brand is one of the cornerstones of the PR practitioner's job, and it can't be done properly without some kind of technological assistance. But as monitoring technology evolves, the definition of the "media" itself seems to be dissolving.

As the traditional media gatekeepers struggle to remain relevant and find new business models, PR practitioners are left contending with a cacophonous sea of voices that they must wade through, analyze, manage and respond to. Providers of monitoring technology are working to help communicators meet these challenges, and to do that they have to follow the same process—listen, analyze, manage and respond to the changes in the ways information is being disseminated and ingested.

Johna Burke, SVP at BurrellesLuce, Dave Armon, president of Critical Mention, and Martin Murtland, VP and managing director, Factiva for Communications Professionals (Dow Jones), are on the front lines of media monitoring and share their insights into developing technology and listening strategies in the following roundtable discussion. You can hear more from them at PR News' Taste of Tech event for communications pros in New York City on June 21.

PR News: What changes in media monitoring technology should communicators know about?

Dave Armon

Dave Armon: First of all, the thing that they certainly should know about is that the definition of the publisher or the influencer has changed profoundly and the individuals who previously would not have shown up in your media directory now have the ability to either enhance your reputation or cause some pretty severe damage in a pretty quick time span. So, as a PR practitioner, your tools ought to echo or mirror that, and certainly give you insight into who’s out there and who’s embracing you and disgracing you. Beyond the audience change, the technology change for PR people is that it’s no longer about sitting at your desk with a telephone and a browser. It’s really having this world [of monitoring technology] in your pocket.

Johna Burke:
We’re almost at a point where it’s not just the new technology, but also its implementation and the effects of legacy technology that PR professionals are going to see as the biggest impact. For example, information might be available on a publication’s Web site, but in order to get full stories—in order to get the entire nuance of something—you have to have a subscription. And there’s still this perception that information should be readily available and free.

Martin Murtland: Visualizations are helping people understand what’s going on a lot more quickly rather than having to read every article—being able to drill down and see the evidence that’s being supported in those visualizations and charts. We want charts to be able to talk with a person in a way so they can very quickly interpret them and understand them.

PR News: What other technological changes are on the horizon?

Armon: The opportunities are going to be for PR pros to tell their own story without the gatekeeper. It’s a sea change, and it’s something that we’ve watched because we’re in the media monitoring space, and if there’s no media to monitor, we have to be worried about that. There’s always going to be media, but it’s very fragmented now and the traditional players that have run things for years won’t be in charge in this new paradigm. 

Burke: For the next 12 to 18 months, especially, we’re going to see a closer connection between owned and earned media. And I think that’s what Dave was talking about, that the ingestion of media is changing so much.

Murtland: We’ll see more developments in the concept of using visualization to help people screen who they should be engaging with and also to search and sift through information to gain more insight and understanding.

PR News: What best practices can you share about monitoring online conversations about one’s brand?

Johna Burke

Burke: Understand that for years already, people have been talking about you. And, ideally, PR pros are listening and learning and using that before they jump in and try to have a solid action plan around social media. Having a strong grasp on who those advocates and badvocates are within your industry makes the most strategic sense.

Armon: Monitoring online conversations about your brand is only a part of the picture. If you’re just looking at what is online you may be neglecting what is about ready to jump online. I like what Johna said about listening first and earning respect among those in the community before just jumping in.

Murtland: One of the key things is having a benchmark. That helps you look at how your message is resonating, how it’s performing against your competition, and then being able to see what your stakeholders are interested in.

PR News: How can technology help PR pros insert their brands into the flow of media stories and trends in real time?

Martin Murtland

Murtland: There are ways you can analyze information in real time, such as looking at trending topics and keywords, all of which can help you identify content you can leverage or story themes that you may be able to hold on to. But I still think that no matter how advanced technologies are, they are never going to do your job for you. You need to be basing your work on assigned strategy in support of a business strategy.

Armon: You can’t operate using an agenda that was set six months ago and that fits just your needs as an organization. You have to look for those moments of opportunity when the media is setting the agenda. There’s earned, there’s owned, there’s paid and then there’s another category, which is contributed media. User-generated content will be another trend that will be seen in another year or so.

Burke: What we’ve seen over the last two years are PR pros relinquishing the reins to the exclusive story and to the feature story, and understanding that it’s just as important to be a part of a story as it is to be the whole story. That brand equity and that brand affinity with the issues that are important to your organization are increasingly important for building awareness. Savvy PR pros know now that when they’re doing their pitching, that they’re pitching it in such a way that it is a part of a bigger story.

Learn more about the latest trends in technology for PR pros at PR News' June 21 Taste of Tech event in New York City.

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