October 4, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Use Charts & Graphs to Understand News & Social Media Results Better

Use Charts & Graphs to Understand News & Social Media Results Better

The following is an excerpt from The Media Monitoring Checklist that I wrote to provide insight into how to set up your media monitoring service, whether you use something free like Google Alerts or a professional solution like CustomScoop.

Visualizing or segmenting your media results can lead to important insights more quickly than reading through every story that your monitoring tools uncover in chronological order. Even many free services provide basic charting capability that helps show volume for individual search terms over time, while professional solutions often give you a robust set of options to create customizable reports and charts and graphs that meet your specific needs.

Use volume charts to spot trends

Looking at the simple number of results matching certain search criteria can prove to be a valuable tool to identify important trends. Understanding spikes and valleys in coverage – and what caused them – will inform future activities.

In the chart here by Nielsen’s BlogPulse service, one can easily see a couple of spikes in the social media coverage of Steve Jobs. Although the events driving these spikes are well-known to us all in this particular case, these types of charts can reveal useful pieces of information.

First, a clear baseline of coverage is seen on either side of the spikes, thus providing useful information for Apple executives as well as competitors. If one were to look at the chart in real-time some morning and see movement above that baseline – as would have been the case if looking at this report in early August or October 2011 – it would alert the need to examine what event was causing that uptick. Think of it as an early warning tool for understanding things that are driving coverage.

By looking at longer timeframes, however, it is also possible to understand replicable events that drive coverage. Some may be obvious, like quarterly earnings reports for a company, but one may discern other patterns that prove useful for planning purposes. Maybe a spike is noticed every time an interest group has events or when a competitor releases new products. The possibilities are endless, but the tools to zero in on these trends are readily available even in free services.

View results broken out by keyword or source type to find news drivers

With the proliferation of media sources, it is valuable to understand where coverage of a particular topic is coming from. Are results being driven by traditional or social media? Is it an industry trade press story or one that is garnering mainstream print or even broadcast attention?

Knowing how your organization and issues (and your competitors) are being covered – and where – will help improve your own targeting and messaging activities.

In this chart from CustomScoop, one can easily see that the coverage of this particular topic is focused largely in online and social media sites, along with a significant component of trade press. But clearly it is not one that is breaking through to the mainstream, with very little newspaper, magazine or TV/radio coverage.

If the pie chart shown here were “normal” for your organization, it would allow you to glance at it each day and know quickly if something is out of the ordinary. Perhaps a competitor has a crisis that took it from being a social media/trade press story to one that broke through to receive attention from a broader media segment.

Compare yourself to competition/opposition using charts

We all need benchmarks and our bosses often want to know how we’re doing in “us vs. them” comparisons. Knowing how we stack up helps drive strategy and tactics and may even inform compensation discussions.

The most common way to compare results for related topics is through combined line charts like the one shown here from Google Trends. As the name implies, that free service provides the ability to understand topic trends over time by comparing with related benchmarks. For instance, this example shows George Bush vs. Barack Obama, with obvious spikes around the 2004 and 2008 elections.

These comparison charts need not always be just against competitors. Perhaps you want to explore how your company’s coverage trends against important economic, governmental, or even sporting events. There are almost endless permutations but the bottom line is that they can all provide useful insight to help in your decision-making and analysis.

Segment results by geography or other important delineators

For many larger organizations, it may be valuable to break out clips by geography or other factors that are used for dividing workload or enhancing analysis.

This sort of segmentation can take two different forms. It may be visual, as is the case with the coverage map shown here from CustomScoop that allows at-a-glance assessment of which states have the highest concentration of relevant coverage for any given time period.

While a map chart can be useful in getting an overview of coverage, many organizations will want to have specialized reports that group results by region, topic, source type, or other factors that are used to determine who will manage responses. These may be media relations managers with specific responsibility (like broadcast vs. social media), but it may also be used by organizations that feed media results to non-PR departments, like regional sales representatives or grassroots government relations managers.

Develop reports to highlight the most important results

In addition to the charts and reports previously described that focus on uncovering trends or balancing workloads, you can also use customizable report criteria to quickly review results that are more likely to be important.

For example, you might create a specialized report that flags stories that mention your CEO. Or perhaps you have a small, targeted list of publications that are of particular interest. Some professional solutions will enable you to zero in on those sources to help save you time. Other options to consider would be organizing results by the number of keyword mentions or other indicators of relevance like circulation.

As we’ll see in the next section, reports like these can be linked to email alerts to ensure you stay on top of the information you need quickly.

Download The Media Monitoring Checklist to get more tips, tricks, and advice to help you get the most out of your monitoring solution.

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About The Author

Chip Griffin is the Founder of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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