How to improve brand monitoring

2.16.21 / 7 min read

Improving brand monitoring is a matter of not only creating better ways to capture information and mentions of your brand but also, crucially, gain more of an insight into what those mentions actually mean.

PR & comms teams can add huge amounts of value to the organizations they represent by offering insight into both the sentiment and the quality of what’s being said.

Improving brand monitoring is really about being able to demonstrate how a brand is perceived and whether that aligns with wider corporate strategy for the business or organisation. In this way PR teams can begin to demonstrate their strategic value.

In this post we’ll look at:

  • What is brand monitoring?
  • How to monitor a brand
  • Questions PR and comms teams need to ask about the brand they represent
  • The future of brand monitoring
  • Brand monitoring metrics

What is brand monitoring?

To effectively monitor your brand, you need to observe how a brand is perceived and talked about wherever those conversations are happening. It means being aware of brand mentions on social media, in traditional media, broadcast media and online, including in reviews and blogs.

Brand monitoring is one aspect of what can be achieved with the right media monitoring tools and expertise. To add most value, brand monitoring needs to be continuous and allow for real time responses and actions.

Potential benefits of a robust brand monitoring strategy include:

How to monitor a brand

It’s only possible to effectively and usefully monitor a brand with tools that allow for constant scanning of every place a brand may be mentioned. Those tools also need to provide alerts and offer a reporting system that indicates the relevance and importance of that mention.

This can be a particular challenge for large, global brands where mentions may be in the thousands – even tens of thousands – across multiple channels and in different languages. Traditional media monitoring tools struggle to bring in global media coverage and translation at a reasonable cost, if at all.

Modern artificial intelligence (AI) systems are the only way this can be comprehensively achieved. Public relations agencies and comms teams that have access to AI-powered tools have the ability to gather huge amounts of data in regard to brand mentions and quickly understand the importance and relevance of those mentions.

AI allows brand monitoring to:

  • overcome challenges in relation to brands with common names e.g. differentiating between ‘Apple’ and ‘apple’, meaning gathering the right information takes less time.
  • capture brand mentions across all channels, regardless of how noted a brand is, even for the likes of Coca-Cola or Google where brand mentions may be hundreds or thousands of times daily.
  • understand the perception of a brand by giving insight into the sentiment and saliency (relevance) of a brand mention. For example, AI could tell Coca-Cola’s PR team that the mention of the brand in this article is incidental and neutral – it requires no action.
  • scan in all languages and provides real-time translation.
  • provide real-time information and present it in a way that allows assessment of whether action may need to be taken.
  • make an assessment in relation to specific topics or brand attributes such as innovation, financial performance or the environment.

The chart below, from our whitepaper on managing a reputation, is an example of how real-time information can make a huge impact.

The chart relates not just to brand mentions, but mentions in relation to a specific topic and with information on sentiment built in. In this case, it shows sentiment around Adidas and Black Lives Matter and demonstrates two extreme negative drops.

This topical alignment is very difficult and time-consuming to perform without AI, but is of huge value to brands when it comes to managing their reputation.

Real-time awareness of sudden negative drops in sentiment allows a brand to trigger crisis communications plans and offer an opportunity to alert the wider business to a potential need for action or change of strategy.

Questions communications teams need to ask about the brand they represent

Brand monitoring is an integral part of the wider picture of reputation management – the main job of PR and comms teams.

Mandy Pearse, President Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), recently noted: “Our industry is still heavily populated by publicists and propagandists with an overemphasis on creating a media moment or product awareness rather than delivering long-term behaviour change and managing reputation.”

Improved brand monitoring – and the right resultant action – is a huge step towards this vision. With expert brand monitoring, PR and comms teams can not only create these media moments, but have a real impact on reputation management. But, by providing deeper insight into how customers, stakeholders, and the wider world is responding to a brand, they can also start to really feed information into their C-suite in regard to how to grow and sustain the business.

In order to provide this insights, PR and comms teams need a tool to help answer more strategic questions, such as:

  • Do stakeholders know us? What do they know us for?
  • Are we part of the conversations that we want to be driving or impacting?
  • Do we know the decision-makers?
  • How does that compare to our competitors and aspiring peers?
  • What is driving the media and social media coverage we receive? Is it positive or negative?
  • What do stakeholders think about us/our issues? Are we the go-to organisation?
  • Do we lead or follow the debates relevant to us?
  • What are we planning for in the future? Are we bringing the whole organisation along?
  • How can we effectively use our (internal) resources or experts (to be more externally facing)?

The future of brand monitoring in public relations

Without the assistance of technology, keeping up with monitoring all relevant channels and assessing how important those mentions are within a timescale that allows for meaningful action in response.

The future of brand monitoring – enhanced by the use of AI – will see even more improvement in the ways data around brand mentions can be sorted, explained and then used to prompt and shape action from PR professionals.

Signal AI, for example, is now investigating ways to add to its offer by teaching its artificial intelligence systems to automatically detect the difference between press releases, financial results, opinion pieces and so on.

This increasing level of detail helps PR teams to show the quality and impact of brand mentions, to set aside those that are of little relevance and to really focus in on the areas where action can be targeted to improve and shape brand reputation.

Even now, our AI brand monitoring tools allow PR and comms teams to:

  • Scan their horizon by monitoring and assessing coverage in all types of media, in all languages, way beyond target publications aimed only at target audiences. This can help a business to develop new markets, better understand who their customers really are and ensure that brands can get involved in all the conversations that are relevant to them, wherever those conversions are happening.
  • Highlight any important changes in brand perception that may indicate opportunity or threat. For example, AI could demonstrate that a brand is becoming less associated with innovation than it once was in a specific territory, or highlight a rising competitor.
  • Highlight the most influential brand mentions and differentiate those from less important mentions.
  • Support PR teams to be more strategic and proactive by uncovering things that may affect the brand such as developing trends linking the brand name in a positive or negative light to specific topics such as environmental impact.

A hypothetical example chart in our eGuide on market intelligence, reproduced below, demonstrates how useful it may be to see how your own brand is being mentioned in relation to a specific topic. But going further, it shows how analysis of a competitor’s brand is doing in relation to that topic, providing an additional layer of insight.

This hypothetical chart demonstrates which areas the brands are being talked about in a meaningful way in relation to sustainability. With all the brands plotted in this way, you can also see that there is competitor analysis value to this work.

Metrics for brand monitoring

The discussion around how best to quantify PR value has been going on for decades, with metrics such as AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) continuing to cling on long after most robust arguments made against them.

In 2009, PR Week ran a story that discussed the already long standing arguments that AVE was essentially a meaningless measure. Even then it reported on a decades old argument that AVE makes PR teams look good by appearing to demonstrate how much the earned (free) coverage achieved would have cost in advertising. The conclusion of that piece was that the future would be a model that is able to ‘analyse the depth, resonance, importance and influence of the conversation’. AI makes that model available now, yet too many comms teams and agencies still rely on AVE and other vanity metrics.

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