October 5, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

How to create an early warning system with media monitoring

How to create an early warning system with media monitoring

Monitoring for mentions, examining competitor activity, and keeping abreast of issues and trends that are important to your company and your industry are all common and important uses for media monitoring. Many companies also use monitoring to alert them to potential problems that could crop up, as it’s always better to discover and address issues early, before they have a chance to gain steam in the press.

While it isn’t always possible to identify every potential problem ahead of time, there are a number of things you can do in both your set up and review processes that will help you to spot problems earlier—so you can address issues sooner.

When setting up keywords, consider setting up negative combinations—this can be particularly useful if your objective is to watch for potential crisis situations. With your industry in mind, brainstorm a list of potential problems and add those to your searching terms and use those terms to set up a rapid alert to notify you whenever they appear. For example a food-based business, might elect to set up words such as: E.coli, salmonella, food poisoning, and so on that would alert to problems in the industry. Using those words in strict combination with your company or client name would narrow the results to just those mentioning your client, which might be all you need, but do give some thought as to whether or not a narrow focus is a good idea. This applies to any business that relies on a chain of vendors. Identifying a problem within a supplier chain early could give you valuable time to respond.

Trying to spot problems that don’t rise to the level of a crisis is important too. For many of these types of issues, your general keywords might already be capturing the information you need. It still might be worth setting up additional keywords so that it’s easier to separate out this content from the rest—not only will this help you problem-solve the issues, it will also help you to track progress on preventing such issues over time. Things like wait times in lines, backorders, etc. are not crises. But knowing when they might occur and how people are responding can help smooth customer services issues quickly, before people get irritated. Having separate keywords will allow you to track the decrease over time as issues are addressed, and, if such spikes are seasonal or have other patterns, you’ll be able to spot them quickly.

Spotting problems early during the review process, rather than through keywords, is more labor-intensive but ultimately might be one of the most effective ways to get a significant head start on identifying problems before they are Problems with a capital “P.” Changes in tone, or the ways in which issues are framed by a journalist, can provide clues as to a changing attitude on a particular issue or topic. Consider the following phrases:

“While some construction delays have occurred, Bob’s Building is on site every day and the progress made on the building is evident from the street.”

“Additional construction delays in the Bob’s Building project mean the street and surrounding buildings are covered with dust. Lane closures continue, and nearby businesses are concerned about a prolonged drop in foot traffic.”

Clearly, there’s a change in tone from one phrase to the next. Both quotes use the phrase “construction delays” and the client name “Bob’s Building”—but the first quote leans positive, the second leans negative. This change from statement A to statement B is an indicator that outreach to the surrounding businesses and the reporter are needed—before the coverage moves to a statement C that you really don’t want to see in print.

Monitoring really can help you get a jump on problems early, through careful set up, close reading, and good analysis.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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