If you’re in the market for a media monitoring solution, it’s important to gather as much information as possible about the service you’ll be subscribing to, since you’re trusting this service to be a partner in an important part of your business.
There are two sets of questions you should prepare: one, questions you should ask of yourself/your company; and two, questions you should ask of vendors you are considering.
First—questions that should be answered before contacting vendors:
- What business objectives are you trying to meet in purchasing a media monitoring system? This is probably one of the most important things to understand before you begin talking to vendors. If your objective is measurement of your public relations efforts, you will need a tool that helps you to accomplish that goal, which might mean looking for specific features, like the ability to rate, tag, or keep notes on clips.
- What time frames are important to you? Again, vendors will have a variety of offerings with different time spans. If measuring data year over year is important, you’ll need either a system that retains information that long, or the ability to extract the data so that you can store what you need over time.
- How many people will be using the system, and how many issues/companies will you be monitoring? Different systems have differing ways of allowing you to view, sift, and sort content, so knowing how the system will be used—and by how many—is important.
- What is your budget? If your budget is limited, you might need to do without some of the more advanced features on a system—but also know that a good vendor should be able to work with you on ways to meet your needs within budget.
Once you’ve answered these questions, here are questions you should be asking of potential vendors:
- How frequently does the system search for and display new content? If having the most up-to-date information is important, so is the answer to this question.
- How many sources are searched? If there are specific sources that are important to you or your clients, check and see if those sources are included—or, if they aren’t included, see if they can be added to search criteria. Remember that it’s not about the total number of sources overall, but the number that are relevant to you.
- Are there limits on the number of keywords or search terms that can be used, or the number of results returned?
- What kind of customer support is available?
- What are the key features that differentiate your product from others that are available? This is a sort of softball question—but a vendor should be able to describe what sets them apart.
- How are results displayed—do I have to log in to a dashboard, or are email results an option? Are alerts available, and if so can they be customized? For working with the data and doing analysis, logging into a dashboard will be important; but customized alerts can be a great help in the case of a sudden jump in volume—or in a crisis.
- Can I access the data the system collects, and can results be downloaded? This is an important question if you plan to do additional analysis beyond what the system can generate.
- Is there functionality to create charts and graphs of the data collected?
- May I see a demonstration of the service?
- Do you offer a free trial of the service?
- What is the length of your contract?
A bonus question that could be applicable for your situation is to ask if the vendor has analysts on hand to develop items like executive briefings or reports. You never know when you might need an extra set of hands or eyes.
One final note: when you are speaking to a vendor, make sure they are listening to you and what you need out of a system. There’s a saying that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. You don’t want to find yourself with a system that doesn’t do what you need it to do, so be wary of answers that seem to make your needs fit the tool, rather than the other way around.