Our Measurement Vendor Selection Guide begins down below. It is designed to be used along with Paine Publishing’s:
- 8 Quick Tips for Finding the Perfect Communications Measurement Vendor
- Checklist for Picking the Perfect Communications Measurement Vendor, and
- Vendor Evaluation Spreadsheet.
A decade ago someone posed me a question: “Hey Measurement Queen, how big is your realm?”
So I put it into context for them: Suppose there was an “empire” of paid advertising and marketing, and it was the size of North America. Then the slightly smaller kingdom of earned media (PR, social, public affairs, ESG, CSR, community relations, etc.) would be about the size of the US. The even smaller duchy of paid advertising measurement would be about the size of California. And the even smaller county of earned media measurement would about the size of Strafford County, New Hampshire. That would be my realm.
The county of earned media measurement has grown a bit since back then. It’s now the size of New England, if you believe the the G2 Report on Media Monitoring. But you can take that with a shaker of Gulf of Maine sea salt. I’ve been around this business for over 30 years and half the names on G2’s list I’ve never heard of. And apparently no one else has either, judging by the number of reviews they’ve received.
Too many “media monitoring” companies
Some of the names on G2’s list have already closed their doors (CyberAlert, for example). Others have been subsumed into mega-platforms like Cision and Onclusive. Others serve incredibly niche markets.
Many shouldn’t even call themselves “media monitoring” companies. (See our No Bullsh*t PR Measurement Glossary for what’s what on the lingo.) Alpha Sense is a great example. Yes, they monitor media. But their end result is to connect you with customers, not tell you how your communications program is doing.
The reality is that it is now so easy to crawl news feeds, and so much of your “mentions” happen in social media. So anyone can start a media monitoring company in their basement—and many probably have.
We do not need all these alleged monitoring companies. Which is why there is continuing consolidation in the marketplace.
The day-to-day problem for us in the business is that all these companies keep banging on our virtual doors to make their sales pitches. And most of them hide their prices, so you have to listen to find out if you can afford them. It’s no wonder that every other day there’s a post in the PRSA Forum asking “What’s the best media monitoring tool?“
Don't talk to a vendor until you have your goals in place
No matter how often I tell people that “Selecting a Tool” is the second-to-last step in the measurement process, they still seem to think that tools are the first thing to think about. And when you probe for what they actually want the tool to do, the answers are all over the map.
Here’s a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t talk to even a single vendor until after you agree on goals:
Several years ago, I spent a day with a very worthy non-profit defining their communications goals and processes. After about six hours of discussion, we all agreed that their goals were to “increase trust and engagement among employees and volunteers.”
Later, when we got around to talking about tools, they mentioned that they had just signed an $80K contract with a well-known media measurement company. They wondered if that would measure the goals and metrics we had just defined.
My answer was, “Noooooo! You just agreed to measure trust and engagement among humans. No amount of media monitoring is going to measure that!“
Don’t get me wrong. I think every organization today needs to monitor and measure what is being said about them in earned (traditional and social) media. Not necessarily to justify the PR budget, but to make sure customers and employees aren’t in open revolt about something stupid someone affiliated with your company has just done or said.
The 2022 edition of our Measurement Vendor Selection Guide
I grudgingly acknowledge that at least some media monitoring tools are essential for certain purposes. Which is precisely why we began publishing our Vendor Selection Guide about a decade ago. The updated 2022 edition is below.
Note that, unlike the G2 report mentioned above, we do not describe or list every tool. Our Guide is built around a series of typical problem scenarios that you might use a tool to solve. These are problems, questions, and quandaries that your average professional communicator faces every week. And this list grows longer every year.
The good news is that, given the volume of tools and technology out there, you will probably find a tool to solve every one of those problems. But it depends on:
- the size of your budget (both for communicating and for measurement),
- the nature of your business,
- your level of comfort with “do-it-yourself” solutions, and
- your patience with the sales pitches.
We hope you find our annual Guide useful. Let us know if we missed anything or anyone important.
The fine print, in the interest of transparency: It is our business here at Paine Publishing to fulfill some of the measurement needs that our Guide addresses. Generally, we help clients pull together existing data into dashboards and insight reports using whatever tools our clients have in house.
However, when our smaller companies have very specific needs, we find ourselves actually doing the research, be it surveys or media monitoring. When they need very specialized, human-curated daily news alerts, and the amount of media activity is so small that it doesn’t warrant the cost of a full-blown platform, we provide those.
So, in full disclosure, here are the tools we typically use: LexisNexis NewsDesk, because it fits our clients’ budgets and gets the specific media outlets that they need. Also, Talkwalker, AnswerThePublic, Hootsuite, SparkToro, Awario, Brand24, Google News, Google Trends, and Google Analytics—depending on how much data they need and what metrics their objectives call for.
24 Common Communications Measurement Needs and the Best Vendors to Solve Them in 2022
|The Problem You Need Help With ↓||Recommendation:||The best vendors for it:||What to double-check:|
|1||I need to identify appropriate authors, influencers, and media contacts for a particular topic or company.||The most important element of a tool to identify influential authors is how often it is updated and how it is maintained.||SparkToro|
|Make sure that your search accurately reflects your topic. Confirm that your tool knows the difference between Mobie the musician, Mobie the spectrometer, and Mobie the blockchain platform. Don't buy more than you need. If you have a targeted audience you don't need a mega platform like Cision to keep track of it. You can do it in MailChimp or Salesforce if you have them, or in a Google or Excel Data Sheet if you don't.|
|2||I need a good way to manage my media lists and keep track of what I've sent reporters.||You need the PR equivalent of a customer relationship management (CRM) system that can keep track of all your media contacts, what you’ve pitched them on, and whether they’ve run any stories.||Muck Rack|
|It’s not the size of the media database, it’s how accurate it is and how often it’s updated. For example, if you are selling spectrometers, you don’t want to be sending releases to The Measurement Advisor. So make sure they update the list several times a year, at least.|
|3||I need a good way to distribute my press releases.||You’ll want a wire service or press release distribution service.||Business Wire|
|You get what you pay for. Business Wire might be more expensive but tests have shown it delivers more relevant stories. Make sure your release is sent out to the right outlets to reach your audience. Make sure your service goes to sites that are indexed high by Google or they'll never be found.|
|4||I need daily monitoring reports on issues and crises that might affect my brand, and they must include social and traditional media.||You'll want a company that can monitor for issues, not just Boolean terms. Otherwise you will get too much garbage in your alert. You should hire a company that offers human curation of clips to ensure you aren't swamped with irrelevant items and that they flag you personally if a major issue surfaces.||FullIntel|
|I’ve been providing daily alerts for years, and doing it right is a lot harder and takes a lot more time than you might think. A high quality alert system will cost at least $1000 a month. Make sure the vendor can get all the media that senior leadership and the board think is important, in whatever language(s) they are published in.|
|5||I need daily alerts from media outlets around the world, so I know what’s being said about us.||You’ll want a monitoring company that can capture all the media that is essential to your business and to your stakeholders. Typically that should include blogs, podcasts, video, digital, print, and social.||Burrelles|
|If you're looking for automated daily alerts, timing is often as critical as content. Make sure they can deliver the alert when you need it and that they get the key media outlets you need.|
|6||I need to know what people are saying about me on Twitter and other social media platforms.||You’ll want a social listening platform that can identify trends and alert you to trouble.||Awario|
|"Social Listening" (aka "Reputation Monitoring," etc. See our No BullSh*t PR Measurement Glossary.) has become a huge business, and it isn't cheap. Make sure your vendor has good filters. The big problem isn’t getting all the posts, it’s getting the right ones. If they don’t have easy and effective ways to filter out spam, porn, and dreck, then run in the opposite direction.|
|7||I need to push out my daily coverage to management.||You'll need a system to capture your coverage that also enables you to customize an email to your senior leadership team.||CoverageBook |
|I’ve done this work for years, and can tell you that customization is key. Anyone can do this, but you’ll want flexibility, reliability, and smart humans to get it right. The problem isn't "getting everything," it’s not drowning in the drivel that you are likely to get without really good screening.|
|8||I need to know what local dailies and other traditional print media outlets are saying about us.||You’ll want a traditional clipping service.||Burrelles|
|Other companies provide it but chances are the best, most comprehensive data comes from Burrelles. If you need local coverage, there are a number of small local news monitoring companies that might work. Make sure that you can get the media outlets you need. Expect that pay-walled outlets like The Wall Street Journal may be problematic.|
|9||I need to monitor radio and TV coverage.||Most monitoring services offer the on-line version, but your choices are pretty limited if you want actual airchecks.||National Aircheck|
|Make sure you can capture all the outlets that your stakeholders listen to.|
|10||I need to monitor podcast mentions.||More and more monitoring companies are adding podcast tracking these days so you may be able to just get your current vendor to add podcasts to the list||Cision|
|Make sure you can capture all the specific podcasts that your stakeholders are likely to listen to, and none of the ones they aren’t.|
|11||I need to capture all my television and broadcast coverage, and be able get broadcast quality videos I can save and show to my boss.||You’ll want a broadcast monitoring company.||TVEyes|
|Most people are happy to just get links to broadcast coverage on their monitoring feed. But if monitoring broadcast is important, and you may want to download a real video, then you’ll need to go with one of these three.|
|12||I need help analyzing and evaluating my media and social media coverage.||You’ll want a measurement company that can provide customized metrics that match your goals, and that has trained human analysts to actually interpret your data and help you find insight.||Brandwatch|
|You want to find someone with highly trained analysts who can code relevant coverage accurately. You should demand a minimum 85% accuracy in a Scott’s Pi intercoder reliability test. (Call me, Katie Paine, at 603-682-0735. I’ll be happy to run the test for you.) Make sure your content contains more than just snippets of a headline. Many platforms restrict access and only send you short snippets of a headline. You can't find insights unless you can actually read or listen to what people are saying about you.|
|13||I need to hire a company that can provide detailed social media metrics.||You’ll want a company that can take the API from a variety of sources and automatically extract all the data that Facebook, Twitter, etc., compiles.||Awario|
|Make sure that the channels that matter to you are actually tracked by the vendor you select. If it only provides a link and no text, you will need to manually click on the link to actually analyze the content.
|14||I need international monitoring and measurement.||You’ll want a company that has relationships or offices in the countries you care about.||Brandwatch|
|Most companies just use Google Translate to determine sentiment and messaging. If possible, find a vendor that has in-country linguists who really understand the subject matter.|
|15||I need a company that will inform me about risks and issues that my company or brand might face from global social and traditional media.||You need a company with the capability to instantly collect and report on breaking news affecting your brand around the world.||Brandwatch|
|Make sure they have both the technology and the staff to cope with international demands and time zones, so you get the information you need, when you need it.|
|16||I need a company that can provide an integrated dashboard to show the results of all our communications activity including media, digital, events, social etc.||If your budget is small, you just need an integrated dashboard. If you are a major brand you'll need a true integrated measurement solution||Brandwatch|
Paine Publishing (for smaller budgets)
|17||I need a good way to measure my internal/employee communications.||Just measuring activity isn't enough. You need to do survey research to find out how your employees are feeling and thinking after you communicate to them.||Bananatag, now Staffbase|
Growth Survey Systems (a Paine Publishing Partner)
|In addition to an email company, you will also want a company that can do a Leader Say/Do survey, an internal Net Promoter Score, or something similar.|
|18||I need a global enterprise solution that can cope with the demands of multiple business units with global requirements.||You need someone with the capability to collect and analyze a wide variety of data and who offers a robust dashboard that your regional teams can use.||Onclusive|
|Make sure they have both the technology and the staff to cope with international demands.|
|19||I need a way to measure my reputation on a regular basis.||Unless you are a huge brand, your best bet is custom survey research around your specfic needs and issues.||RepTrak|
Growth Survey Systems (a Paine Publishing Partner)
|The hardest part of survey research these days is getting responses. Make sure you have access to a good email list. Panels are cheap, but if your target audience isn't on that panel, the research is worthless.|
|20||I need a way to measure my communications around DE&I.||You need to conduct regular surveys of your employees to understand whether they feel included and listened to.||Growth Survey Systems (a Paine Publishing Partner)|
|21||I need to understand how our culture is perceived by our employees.||You need to measure your perceptions around empathy, authenticity, trust, and credibility.||Growth Survey Systems (a Paine Publishing Partner)||You need to develop a customized index around authenticity, trust, credibility, etc.|
|22||I need to find the influencers that matter to my target audience.||You need a firm that can look for search terms relative to your brand and identify people who are following those issues.||SparkToro|
|Most of the firms in this space only look at Twitter. So make sure you find one that analyzes all the platforms your stakeholders are on.|
|23||I need to find the best terms to optimize for SEO.||You need a system that looks at how people are searching for the problems your organization can solve.||SparkToro|
|Don't limit your research to what people are searching for today. Think about what is next for your organization and figure out how people might search for those things.|
|24||I need a way to understand what the impact of my efforts have on ROI and the bottom line.||You'll need to be able to correlate communications activities to sales, revenue, profit, or revenue retention.||ProofAI |
Marketing mix model
|The hardest part of setting up a revenue model is making sure you have sufficient, valid data to make the correlations significant.|
|24||I need away to measure our contribution to our ESG score.||You'll need a comprehensive dashboard of communications results and the ability to correlate that data to a valid ESG score.||ProofAI |
|Unless the ESG score is validated and acceptable to risk managers and investors it's meaningless. So make sure you have a authenticated source for your score.