By Vivienne Wilson,
Life as a public relations professional can be considerably easier if your media monitoring is managed effectively. Media monitoring is a cornerstone of our work, but is often delegated to the most junior team members with limited guidance, training or context.
Having an effective media monitoring system helps anyone working in PR to understand how their organisation is perceived by stakeholders, how effective their pro-active communications are and provides evidence of what they are doing.
Here are my top tips:
1 Understand the legal restrictions: You should make sure that you understand copyright law. If you are using a media monitoring service, you will be receiving PDFs and links to articles, audio and video clips that are not feely available on the internet. You should have a licence from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) to allow you to have access to the media content. Your NLA will stipulate who exactly in your organisation has access to the clippings/content. Make sure that you are fully aware of what your NLA licence does and does not allow you to do.
2 Know where to find freely available information: Often, your media monitoring service will alert you to articles which have been published on sites that are open and freely accessible for all readers via the internet.
It is a simple task to look the articles up on the publisher’s site and to share the link with colleagues, clients or people in partner organisations who need to see the information, but who are not included in your NLA. Where an article has been published on a site which is not openly accessible (eg where a subscription is required to view articles), it is often worth doing an internet search to find out if another publication has published a similar story on an accessible site. This would allow you to share the link.
Alternatively, you may find that another organisation has issued a media release referencing your organisation, which has been taken up by a journalist and published on a restricted media platform. Press releases can be shared along with a comment about where the release has been used and how it has been interpreted by journalists.
3 Buy a paper: If you would like a specific group of people who are not covered by your NLA to be able to read an article, sometimes the best and most cost effective option is to buy a paper and pass it round.
4 Round ups: In circumstances where you are getting a large amount of media coverage, it is useful to write a round up explaining the extent and tone of the coverage, giving an explanation for any unexpected comments and letting people know if quotes from stakeholders have been used and what they have said.
Senior staff are unlikely to have the time to read all the articles and will appreciate you doing this for them. You can let them know if you would advise them to read particular articles in full.
5 Don’t forget your staff: Use your internal communications channels to let staff know about media coverage. If it is a positive story, then your staff are likely to spread the news further and may be pleased to be associated with it. If it is a negative story, then alerting staff to it gives you an opportunity to explain your organisation’s position and prevent speculation from having a detrimental impact on staff morale.
Depending upon the seriousness of the situation, you may also want to issue a staff briefing.
6 Get social: Sharing articles on social media can be a very effective way of getting your message across. If an article has been written by an individual who is respected by your target audience, their endorsement can give your work a very positive boost.
7 Evaluation: Make sure that you collate information from your media monitoring and incorporate it into your evaluation. Media articles can be the most visible and recognisable evidence of the work you have done and can help you to explain the work that has gone on in the background.
For example, where stakeholders are quoted, you can explain that their support was planned for and that the relationship with that stakeholder has been strengthened by involving them in the planning of work. Save your round-ups, so that you can reference them if you are writing up an evaluation report of media coverage.
8 Read the articles in full: This might seem like the most obvious piece of advice but it is very often neglected. Your media monitoring service will send you copies and clippings of articles, but will be unlikely to add note at the top of the email to alert you to a contentious comment hidden away in a chunky quote from a stakeholder at the bottom of one of the stories. You or someone in your team needs to read all the articles to make sure that pick up on anything that could cause reputational damage and deal with it straight away.
9 Horizon scanning: Make sure that the information you are picking up via your media monitoring feeds into your horizon scanning work. Media monitoring gives you useful information about developments in your organisation’s area of work. You may find out that politicians or campaign groups are calling for changes that would affect your organisation via your media monitoring. If you do, you should be feeding that information directly into your horizon scanning work.
10 Listen: Pay attention to the people in your team who keep on top of the media monitoring. If you have an issue that is being covered by the press over a period of time, those people will be able to tell you whether your reputation is being enhanced or tarnished by the coverage and give you a steer on how you may need to alter the way you are communicating.
Vivienne Wilson Chart.PR, MCIPR, is the Communications and Engagement Implementation Lead for NHS Scotland’s National Boards Collaborative.