Tip Sheet: How to Choose a Monitoring & Measurement Firm

Angela Jeffrey

Has your phone been ringing off the hook with PR and social media monitoring and measurement firms offering you their wares? If not, you haven’t been discovered yet. At last count, there were at least 200 firms measuring social media, and there are many others mixing social and traditional media analytics, outreach and workflow.

The net effect is confusion as time-strapped PR professionals try to figure out appropriate measurement plans for their organizations and seek out the right service providers. The word I hear most frequently from clients who are navigating this process is “overwhelmed.”


I’ve recently counseled several nonprofit organizations on measurement strategy and vendor selection, viewing some 15 providers of both traditional and social media measurement. Coming from 20 years in PR and 10 years in measurement and evaluation, what I found were great services that each fit into its own niche, but no single service that was right for every client, every time.

The following tips are offered in hopes they’ll keep you from feeling overwhelmed and lead you through a productive journey to find the right measurement solutions for your organization.

1. Goals and Objectives: Of course, we have to start here since it’s impossible to find the right measurement solution if we don’t know what we need to measure. So check out this great white paper from the IPR Commission on PR Measurement & Evaluation, Guidelines for Setting Measurable Public Relations Objectives: An Update (available at www.instituteforpr.org).

2. Big Picture or Deep Insights: You’ve undoubtedly been wowed by snazzy dashboards that are now available with all-you-can-eat news content and automated sentiment and analysis. But can automated processes alone provide accurate analysis? While some vendors claim 75%-85% accuracy, other industry sources say it is much closer to 60%. Tips:

• If your need is for a big-picture overview in real time, automated analysis should definitely be part of your measurement portfolio.

• If your need is for high-level insight for counseling senior management, you’ll want to consider hand analysis and formal narrative reporting instead, or at least as a supplement to the automated system. Only humans can detect sarcasm, nuance and implicit messaging in language.

3. Media Content: Many companies boast of enormous traditional and social media databases, but they often provide only online coverage for print and closed-captioning text for broadcast. Is that enough for you, or do you need to see your key media in print PDFs and video? Tips:

• Send the vendors your key media list and priority DMAs and find out exactly how much media they source in those areas.

• Don’t be afraid to mix and match databases on content-agnostic sites. Sometimes getting best of breed in print, broadcast and social media content may be different than what is offered by best of breed dashboards.

4. Simple Metrics or Fodder for Correlations: The area of metrics is a real minefield. It’s easy to see great charts and graphs on an automated platform demo and think the system will provide everything you need. However, there is an enormous divergence of metrics across platforms. They all offer clip counts (volume), audience impressions and category breakouts, but the best platforms also offer index scores based on prominence and dominance of client within each clip, or some type of qualitative and quantitative combinations. Tips:

• If your need is just to see volume, impressions and automated tone, the low-end platforms will suffice.

• If your need is to supply a more sophisticated score for correlations to outcomes or for use in a marketing mix model, you must find a vendor that supplies both quality and quantity in a single metric.

5. Test Their Accuracy: To be sure the automated engines and metrics are sound, consider asking each vendor for a single chart or graph from the prior 60 days that you can compare against your own data. If the numbers come back very different, proceed cautiously with that vendor. PRN

[Angela Jeffrey will be one of the measurement experts at the PR Measurement Conference on April 18 in Washington, D.C.]


Angela Jeffrey is a PR measurement professional who specializes in measurement planning and matching organizations with suitable service providers. She can be reached at angie@measurementmatch.com.