Before you head off to Google the Best Media Monitoring Software in 2019, you need to think about what exactly you want to get out of media coverage.
It can be an expensive business paying for a high level media monitoring service and many public sector media teams simply don’t have the budget. Unfortunately, this can lead to spending more time than is humanly necessary - or possible - on pulling together all those press cuts.
For some it can be a daily task that takes at least an hour (we know, we’ve been there!) and the results are not always worth of the input and effort. There are plenty of free online searches that bring up results, but this still means a lot of time spent on the copy/paste and distribution of these.
Some consideration needs to be given to the service you are providing as a media team and also into what you really want to get out of collecting all the coverage on your issues or organisation.
This is always going to be different for everyone, but there should always be some level of awareness about what the media are saying about you. Traditional media, social media, online blogs, newsgroups - it’s all what people are saying about you. The source isn’t necessarily important (think ‘traditional’ media vs social media) but the sentiment really is. Being savvy to what people are saying about you should be at the core of your communications strategy.
Typically, you’re looking at the management team, key opinion formers within your organisation, partner agencies and their press officers if you regularly work on joint initiatives. If you regularly work with private companies, they will also be interested in what’s going on. Always keep a record for yourself and your team - it will fall to you to provide this information should there be an information request or there is an inquiry.
Proving the value of your role or your team can be an ongoing battle. Quite often people don’t realise the true value of a good communications professional until things go wrong. Being able to log and report on media coverage demonstrates your abilities and experience. The key is actually being able to provide context, explain why the coverage is the way it is and then provide a strategy to handle that coverage whether it’s good or bad.
We’ve had direct experience of media coverage being used in court as evidence. It’s used in post-incident debriefs and also with multi-agency meetings after large scale emergencies. Don’t think that because you’re small it won’t ever be referenced. Remember, something small can turn big, so be sure to consider from the outset what your main goals are in collating your press cuttings.
Consider the audience (see above). It’s likely that your media cuttings are not going to be the only thing these people have to take a look at. It’s an internal audience, yes, but it doesn’t mean they’ll even open your report, let alone read it.
Make it compelling and easy to read. Take your top five themes of the day, summarise them and then provide the links for further reading.
Copying and pasting whole articles or providing countless hard copies to throw in someone’s in tray is a waste of their time and yours.
Thankfully, gone are the days of scissors and glue. If you’re a public information officer needing to gather media coverage in a hurry and on a budget, it makes sense to get simple keyword alerts set up online. Make sure that you’re detailed enough so you’re weeding out the irrelevant, but not so narrow that you could potentially miss on a small item that could gather into a snowball like communications crisis down the line.
Consider that you’ll be getting duplicates, triplicates and even more, so gather in a way that is relevant and keeps the context. Something that would work for us was creating a case - summarising the event, adding dates, times, lines to take and then ensuring all the coverage relating to that case was kept in the same place.
If you do see a hard copy of something useful, make sure you take a photo of it at least. It can happen any time, any where and it’s easier to store photos now than it is to rip things out of yet another publication and file it in the bottom of your bag.
Distribution depends again on the audience and how they consume information. Email is usually the go to, but often it’s missed or added to the ‘read later’ folder and never read again. It could also be subject to information requests. You could add it to an internal media update page and just distribute one link to alert people to the fact that there is new information. Be mindful that there will always be someone who prefers a hard copy to read through at the end of the evening. If you’re going to do this, a tool like MusterPoint can provide you with the online storage to compile these then export the reports as a PDF which can easily be printed.
However you look at it, collating press cuttings (and social media conversations) is a vital part of working in communications. Think about the way you want to approach it - any solution should be something that sets you free rather than adds to your workload and ultimately becomes an unnecessary burden on your already busy role.
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