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A Proverbial Needle in an Electronic Haystack

By Mark Hunter LaVigne, APR

A combination of the new copyright law, the trend towards subscription-based news media websites (and subsequent silos from web search engines and other media monitoring services), has made the media monitoring task feel like a search for a needle in an electronic haystack at times.

"With copyright licensing and high technology investment, media monitoring definitely has gotten more expensive," says John Weinseis, President, Bowdens Media Monitoring Ltd. "But the results have also improved dramatically in terms of speed and quality. New services have been developed by many participants to provide multi-media portal based delivery along with rudimentary analysis. The bigger concern seems to be the ability to weed out irrelevant material."

One very senior and savvy Toronto-based practitioner uses at least seven different services to provide her clients with accurate and timely media monitoring reports. Media monitoring services have been hindered by these new regulatory and competitive realities, while at least one senior independent media relations practitioner thinks of throwing in the towel some days because the media monitoring task has become so expensive and time consuming.

"Our number one goal is to provide a one-stop monitoring service to our clients across multiple platforms. That's why we're focused on developing partnerships that allow us to respond to their media monitoring needs and the direct feedback we receive while working with our customer base, by providing ongoing enhancements to our portfolio of news sources, functionality and infrastructure," said Arturo Duran, President of Interactive and Business Integration, CanWest MediaWorks Inc. "For example, FPinfomart recently added the Globe and Mail, blogs, as well as over 140 new international sources and broadcast transcripts, and there is more to come."

Agencies that have a number of junior practitioners on staff definitely have a competitive advantage these days since they can afford the extremely time-consuming deep web searches, conduct the old-fashioned read and clip services themselves and chase hard copy and electronic media coverage once they know it has been published or broadcast.

How do we survive this media monitoring nightmare?

  • Subscribe to as many media monitoring services as budget permits and lobby hard to get a large enough budget to do a good job
  • Train in-house staff and clients to accurately seek and report coverage as a team effort
  • Build-in inherent tracking systems from media follow-up to chase as much coverage as possible
  • Get on as many comp lists as you can
  • Subscribe to all key media within the client's category
  • Deliberately build in key words and specifically named quotes in news releases to help with electronic monitoring
  • Hire as many web savvy under-25s as possible
  • Beg every journalist who has promised coverage to send you tear sheets, MP3s, DVDs and give them your courier account numbers to send them at no charge and send profuse thank you's afterwards
  • Some chains, such as Sun Media, offer an in-house tear sheet acquisition service that is expensive, but worth every penny since they can dig internally for the coverage as a part of the fee.

For those of us in the media relations trenches, it's getting harder and harder to report on media coverage to our clients. Let's get some industry-wide dialogue going to help alleviate at least some of the barriers so those of us who actually create the information can capture it after it goes through the journalistic gatekeeper.

Mark LaVigne, APR, is an elected member of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) National Board as Vice President/Secretary and is a Past President of CPRS (Toronto). He runs a media relations and media coaching firm based in Aurora, Ontario where he can be reached at 905-841-2017or Email