7 indispensable features of a PR monitoring platform
July 16, 2012 1 Comment
With the rising importance for corporations of understanding Internet conversations, monitoring platforms seem to be sprouting from nowhere every week-end. And with prices ranging from nil to 6 figures and feature sets tailored for many different use cases, it has become almost impossible to compare offerings directly.
Here are 7 essential features you’ll want to look for if your monitoring is PR and reputation management oriented.
Defining clean reading-lists
When watching out for crisis-alerts, it is a good idea to include as many significant sources as possible in your data: picking up a criticism from a small blog before a larger one amplifies it will prove invaluable to crisis management.
But if you’re monitoring competition or launching a niche product, more sources will simply mean more noise and less ability to analyze your coverage in meaningful ways (share of discussion, sentiment analysis by humans …)
Depending on your usage scenario, you need to be able to tailor your reading lists very accurately.
- One product today, three tomorrow.
- Four competitors today, six tomorrow.
- New technology, new regulations, new blogs, new buzzwords.
How easy is it for you to adapt to these changes? A monitoring plan optimized for January may look pretty outdated in July. Can you easily add or remove sources and keyphrases to your monitoring?
Mixing it up
Twitter delivers news (and rumours). Fast. Facebook provides recommendation. Good blogs are niche lighthouses. But don’t count traditional media out just yet.
While there is great value in social media monitoring, it cannot be your only source of information for PR and reputation management. According to Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer, traditional media are still, by a safe margin, the most influent source of information when it comes to trust.
The ability to mix data from online and social monitoring and traditional offline clipping into a consistent feed is essential to analyse and understand along what paths news about your company circulate, which source is more influent and to be sure you are not missing out on anything important.
Blocking out the noise
What do SERPs look like for your company name, CEO, brand, products, competitors, technology (…)?
Hopefully, you own the first lines or pages of results, but beneath these are plenty of other pages unrelated to your brand and which are all likely to place news in your unfiltered monitoring feed.
For Augure, noise sources (from our point of view ) are many : atmospheric metal music (yes, that exists), world of warcraft guilds, organist fan clubs, photography exhibitions, magic tricks … plus a constant slew of good and bad omens (Augure means omen, in French) in all types of activities, from business to arts. All of these use the term Augure so a simple keyword based monitoring feed would probably contain 80% of noise.
It’s important. Noise will lower your confidence in monitoring results and lower your focus. More importantly, it will make all analysis impossible and crisis detection very unreliable.
Your ability to add that double glazing to your monitoring windows, with far more than single word exclusions to deal with noise, is critical to the success of your monitoring goals.
Striving to qualify
What good is a list of clips and mentions to your management?
Qualified data makes efficient analysis and reporting possible. A monitoring platform that provides information such as author influence, theme, audience metrics, source type, (…) not only lets you refine your monitoring plan and reduce noise but also helps integration with your engagement platform and its reporting module.
Management usually prefer strategic insights and ROI evaluations to a bunch of URLs or paper clips. Do you qualify?
Finding your target
Most monitoring companies focus on specific areas of the world, which makes perfect sense (unfortunately, not all are perfectly clear about it).
Our focus is on France (6000 fully crawled sources), the UK and Southern Europe. Plus quite a few Spanish-speaking countries (our technology originated in Spain). Which doesn’t mean we don’t monitor the US or China, but our main focus what I just described.
Whenever choosing a monitoring platform, be sure to check whether it covers your area extensively. Products from one continent may not be ideally suited for another.
Seeing beyond RSS
Most entry-level offerings – but also some more expensive and well-known platforms – rely exclusively on RSS feeds as their source of data. RSS feeds are a standardized output format from websites and blogs so tapping into them is extremely easy. In fact, you can build yourself a very similar monitoring rig using only a free RSS reader with search or filtering capabilities and cherry picking your sources.
But there are a number of problems with this approach.
First of all not all websites have RSS feeds. They’re a distinct minority but some of them are important and RSS-only will miss anything published by their website.
More often, a website will have separate sections and a specialized article might be published in a dedicated area with – or without – a dedicated RSS feed. Monitoring all the feeds from the website will result in duplicates if the article changes sections (e.g. a few hours on the homepage, then finances, then sports for an article on Football club debts).
Finally, many influent bloggers use their blogs as their sole website and make a solid proportion of their income from promoting their books, white papers, speaking bookings … in their sidebars. These prolific – and very important – authors deliberately place only a small portion, an appetizer, of their articles in their RSS feeds. If your company is mentioned in the body but not the header, RSS-only will miss the mention.
Clean crawling of websites, not using RSS, is a labour intensive job to perform and maintain. A large portion of the price difference between solutions can be attributed to this choice of sourcing technology. While free or entry-level software cannot be expected to go beyond RSS, any platform carrying a healthy monthly fee absolutely should.