There are a wide range of monitoring tools available for just about any segment of media, whether traditional or social. There are tools that specifically track content on social networks, others that specialize in traditional media, and others that allow users to monitor televised content. Some are free, while others range up to thousands of dollars per month.
How does a PR pro decide which tools to use, and whether an all-in-one or tailored solution fits best?
There are a number of ways in which to approach this situation, but the fundamental question that needs to be answered first is: what is the objective of the monitoring program?
Objective: Ongoing monitoring
For routine, ongoing monitoring, an all-in-one solution presents a number of advantages. The benefit of all-in-one tools is that they cover a number of different media types and sources and pull that information into one dashboard. This allows the end user to access a range of media formats and do measurement and assessment in one place. If the tool has the ability to export this information to a spreadsheet or other format, you’ll be able to preserve monitoring data over time, which allows you to conduct year-over-year analysis.
Objective: Specific program tracking/social media
If you are launching a program that specifically seeks to reach out to a target audiences in purely social channels, a solution tailored to monitoring social media might be the right answer. Measuring social media activity generally includes tracking things like engagement and shares. This differs from traditional media, especially now that a number of mainstream media sources are no longer hosting comments on their sites. What you’ll need to look closely at when you are examining tools is what kind of data are being provided to the end user, and make sure that whatever is being provided is useful to the type of measurement you’ll need to determine program success.
Objective: Specific program tracking/traditional media
For some programs, you may be looking for a more robust traditional media tracking program, while keeping an eye on social channels for message amplification. This decision will largely be based on the audience you are trying to reach. Smaller and highly targeted audiences, such as a public affairs program supporting or opposing an issue in a single state (like a ballot initiative) will require intensive monitoring of local traditional media across all formats, but might not merit the need for paying for a separate, stand-alone social media monitoring tool. It may be more cost-effective to pay for a tool that tracks traditional media and supplement that with free social monitoring tools.
By now PR pros have heard the message repeatedly: your measurement program needs to be matched to business goals. It stands to reason then that a monitoring tool should make that measurement as accurate as is possible. When you are looking at monitoring tools, think of the business goals the communications work is supporting, and make certain that the tool can provide the necessary data to meet the measurement needs. This sounds easier than it might end up being in practice, so have in mind what types of outcomes you would expect to have and see if the data provided by the monitoring tool can be used to quantify those outcomes.
All-in-one tools are going to be a good fit for a variety of uses, from effective daily monitoring, to crisis management, to effective measurement. Tailored solutions are exactly as described: tailored to provide specific solutions. You might need just the all-in-one for daily use, but find it necessary to deploy tailored solutions for specific programs or product launches. Finding the right solution means asking—and answering—questions that zero in on your objectives.