September 27, 2016

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

What to track when no news is good news

What to track when no news is good news

Media relations is such a central component to PR it’s hard to imagine that there are companies and firms that exist that do not actively seek out media coverage. However, they do exist and they are uninterested in seeing their names online or in print for a variety of reasons.

For some, like the pharmaceutical industry, monitoring traditional media coverage might be okay but social content—or even comments on traditional media articles—can pose a problem due to FDA adverse event reporting requirements.

There are also firms that cater to an extremely limited clientele that don’t want to sift through inquiries that come in after a piece is published. The market for exceedingly rare, exclusive, or costly items is a small one, and the sellers of these types of items generally get to choose their purchasers rather than it being the other way around. An influx of thousands of calls or emails is an unwelcome nuisance. There are also companies and firms in industries that relate to national defense or security that recognize that any coverage, no matter how innocuous, can assist in drawing a profile of the firm—and that’s something they actively try to avoid.

When a company has no interest in securing media coverage, it can lead to thinking that media monitoring isn’t necessary: if the company name is mentioned, a Google alert will suffice. That may well be the case if the company in question simply wants a heads-up in case of a mention. An argument can still be made for a more expansive approach to active monitoring.

An active monitoring program can provide information well beyond simple direct mentions. It would be beneficial in many situations to know if and when the industry as a whole is being discussed, as that could lead to a specific company mention. For example, when the Deepwater Horizon spill first occurred, the vast majority of the stories focused on BP. As coverage continued, the names of additional companies involved such as contractor Halliburton and the rig operator, Transocean, also began to receive mentions. While not every story will be as heavily covered and dramatic as this example, the point remains: industry monitoring can be beneficial as an early warning indicator.

Monitoring the broader industry can also help a company understand which journalists cover their industry. Even if you aren’t actively seeking publicity, understanding how your industry is covered is critical for one main reason—crisis planning. Newsrooms change quickly these days, so staying on top of who is responsible for which beats is an ongoing effort.

News monitoring can also provide valuable information on something that is relevant to just about any business: the climate for regulatory changes and reforms. It can also pinpoint areas in the country that might be good for employee recruitment, or other internal factors.

In other words, try to look at monitoring as a way to track information that is of use to the company beyond external considerations like publicity—it can also help to inform internal decision-making, and be prepared in the event of a crisis.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for just over 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR work, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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