Why media tracking matters for PR

9.12.19 / 6 min read

What is media tracking?

Media tracking has become an essential tool for PR professionals in 2019. But what exactly is it? And how can it help you?

Let’s take you back to the good old days of PR (think Ab Fab but with less booze). Where tracking a campaign’s performance meant flicking through endless piles of dog-eared newspaper and magazine articles, in the hope that you’d find a mention of your client’s brand.

Next, you would grab a of scissors, cut out said articles, and then glue them (yes, with real glue) into a clippings folder. In retrospect, this was a bad for two reasons:

Firstly, it was mind-numbingly dull. But secondly – and crucially – there was a lot of room for human error. Thankfully, modern technology now means we have AI and algorithms to do the donkey work for us, and they do it VERY well indeed.

Their mission is to trawl through touch points where your audience have engaged with your brand – from print to online, social media or television and radio. And then to give you insights into how your PR campaign landed.

Media tracking is the automated process of scanning media for the keywords and topics you’ve specified as being relevant to you and your public relations campaign.

So what can it actually do for me, you ask? Well, media tracking helps PR professionals in a number of ways

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Understanding campaign performance

After any campaign, your client will want to know how well their brand performed – which means you need to measure the effectiveness of your messaging.

Did the campaign land well? Or could it have been more targeted and effective?

Media tracking helps you find out if your hard work has paid off, and by tracking performance you will also know if your campaigns are getting the right coverage.

Let’s say your product is an innovative anti-ageing eye cream. Discovering that you got most of your traction from GolfingTimes.com means you are way off base with your targeting.

Tracking helps you see how your campaigns spread and exactly which platforms made that happen – which means you’ll know more specifically who you should be pitching your next campaign to.

And the more targeted your PR campaigns, the better they will perform.

Launching campaigns is an expensive business, so getting as much mileage as possible from your budget is key. And that’s why a media tracking tool will really help boost the ROI.

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Keeping PR strategy fresh

In the competitive world of PR, getting your brand or product to stand out from the crowd can be a tricky task.

What can really help inform your strategy is to analyse previous campaigns. After all, by looking at what has worked (and what hasn’t), you can discover exactly which elements make a campaign successful. And then replicate them!

FYI: Rehashing campaigns that have made very little impact is not the way to go…

Through tracking you can learn which particular media works best for your brand (not all are equal), or how to engage further with your client’s specific audience.

And having all this information at your PR fingertips will allow you to develop fresh, new ways to get your brand noticed.

Monitoring your competition

With a media monitoring tool, not can you only track the performance of your own brand, but you can also keep tabs on the industry as a whole, plus that of your competition.

By keeping an eye on your competitors, you’ll gain insight into their campaigns, how they’re talking to customers, and which messaging is performing well (and not so well) for them. So they make the mistakes before you do. Ha.

And there’s nothing wrong with gathering a bit of market intelligence now, is there?

Tracking media reach

According to the Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR), reach represents “the total number of unique people who had an opportunity to see an ‘item’ or a valid reproduction of that item across any digital media.”

Well, that’s as clear as mud.

A simpler explanation would be how far and wide your brand message has travelled – and how many people had the potential to come across your campaign.

Reach is the kind of metric that the Sales team love, but nowadays it’s no longer that accurate. Although reach will tell you how many people could have seen your messaging, it doesn’t actually mean that they definitively did.

Instead, more important metrics to monitor are; which platforms and influencers are having the most impact on my brand? Where does my audience live? And which other verticals and affinity brands do they identify with?

Getting under the skin of your customer and communicating in the right way has so much more value.

Managing a crisis situation

We all know when there’s a problem with a campaign, you have to fix it quick sharp. And if you don’t, you could potentially lose a client.

Being able to react in real-time is one of the big benefits that media tracking give you, particularly when dealing with a crisis – as every second counts.

Unfortunately, no matter how much of a firm hand you have on your brand’s output, it’s impossible to prevent every potential PR disaster that’s waiting around the corner. But you can exercise some critical damage limitation…

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Let’s talk about chicken for a moment. Back in 2018, KFC, everyone’s fave spicy-coated fast food outlet, were in a spot https://www.signal-ai.com/content/library/8-tips-on-how-to-manage-a-pr-crisis-effectivelyof bother when they ran out of chicken in almost all of their 870 restaurants across the UK & Ireland. Yes, really.

How it happened is a mystery, but luckily KFC’s PR and marketing teams got to work fast. They responded to the ensuing backlash by placing their own ads in newspapers with the KFC letters rearranged on the trademark buckets to spell ‘FCK up’.

They also put up a temporary page on their site so customers could check the ‘chicken status’ of their closest restaurants. But most importantly they invested time and energy dealing with hungry and disgruntled Colonel Sanders fans on social media every day.

Without tracking tools, it simply would have been impossible for KFC to avoid a PR disaster. Instead, they had a head start with their crisis management – and they  successfully stopped a public relations problem becoming a nightmare.

By knowing what is being said about you – positively or negatively – and whether there’s the potential for your client to be impacted, you can decide how to deflect a crisis swiftly and effectively.

Measuring opinions

Sentiment analysis is a buzzword in PR right now, and it’s very powerful. Tracking sentiment is a way of understanding the attitudes, opinions and emotions expressed within a ‘mention’ of your brand.

As a quick example: the Obama administration used sentiment analysis to gauge public opinion on their policy messages before the 2012 US presidential election. This allowed them to modify and adapt their campaign as it progressed – and we all know how well that turned out.

Media tracking of sentiment is also a great way for PRs to collect feedback. Using media and social media monitoring, you can find out the good, the bad, and ugly about your brand and how it’s perceived.

And this feedback is priceless.

Leveraged properly, it can be used as testimonials and reviews for your marketing content but – most importantly – it helps you to devise better-informed and smarter, more targeted strategies in the future.

Getting started with media tracking

So, before you start off on your own media tracking adventures it’s important to find the right tool to add to your PR backpack. There are a lot of them out there.

But we highly recommend you try out our award-winning media intelligence suite first!