Last month, we took a look at when Google Alerts are an acceptable alternative to using a paid monitoring service—this month, let’s look at the other side of that coin. For those under incredibly tight budgets to those accounts that have only a handful of results a week, spending money on a monitoring tool is either not possible or not necessary.
For everyone else, a monitoring tool can save time, aggravation, and money.
If you have complex search terms
Complex search terms can sometimes be a bit of a chore to set up sometimes, but they can also be a significant benefit for whomever is doing the content review in the monitoring tool. Generally speaking, there are two big buckets that complex search terms fall under: one, complex terms are necessary to gather the most relevant content; two, complex terms are necessary to conduct the best analysis on the data.
If you are monitoring a high-volume account or your account has a high probability of collecting false positive results (results that match keywords or search terms but yet are not relevant), complex search terms will help separate the wheat from the chaff before it hits your account. If you are the one reviewing results, there’s nothing that starts your day off on the wrong foot quite like logging into an account and seeing 5,000 results that you need to sift through, knowing that only a fraction of those are relevant.
Using complex search terms means that the analytical data generated by the keywords/search terms is more likely to be accurate, which is a tremendous help when conducting reporting and analysis. Showing your client that a program generated 5,000 mentions is only nice if those 5,000 mentions actually are from the client’s program.
If rapid notification is necessary or advisable
One of the most important reasons that clients pay for monitoring software is for the functionality of alerts, typically by email. Whether it’s a breaking news story or a legislative issue moving very rapidly, every minute counts for many PR professionals. The same holds true for crisis communicators. The ability to receive the most up-to-date information with a laser-focus on the issues or subjects that matter is a top concern for many, and if it’s important to you, then it is a feature that is worth paying for in a monitoring tool.
If you have multiple team members involved in monitoring
Using a monitoring tool allows you to create keywords and search terms that remain stored, in the tool and allows for the flexibility of adding different words or phrases on the fly. Team members can log in and keep track of information, forward or flag important items, and conduct analysis off of the same body of data. Trying to create that kind of database from a free tool is complicated and, since it’s generally spreadsheet-driven, is prone to data errors or inconsistencies as multiple users add and forward items.
If you are creating reports or daily updates
Most paid monitoring services have functionality that makes daily notification and reporting easier. Trying to build reports from the results generated by free services can be haphazard at best—not only is it a very manual process, but sometimes the data collected by free services can be delayed. Layering a manual process on top of needing to do additional searches to make certain the necessary items are included in a daily report can make a what should be a quick task a very long one.
Ultimately, it’s this streamlining of tasks that allows a paid service to save you money. When simply looking at the bottom line, a paid service is by definition going to cost more than a free service (stating the obvious). However, when you look at the amount of time an employee must invest into manually recreating what a service does, that’s where the dollars are saved. An employee or team of employees who are spending two or three hours a day searching for, identifying, and reporting on information have that time locked up—they aren’t able to do other things, like create great work for clients. They will also probably get burned out very quickly if volume is high.
Paid monitoring services fill an important niche for communicators. Turning high-volume, routine work over to a service improves accuracy and frees PR pros up to do the creative work that cannot be done by a machine.