The 5 Most Common Problems with Media Monitoring Solutions (& How to Solve Them)

by | Nov 23, 2020 | Media Monitoring, PR Tools, Public Relations

Media monitoring comes in various forms, but no matter if you are a DIY-master, self-serve aficionado or full-serve fanatic, it is an essential part of any PR and communications strategy.

Depending on goals and available budget, some PR professionals rely on free tools for a total DIY approach, while others invest heavily in full-service media monitoring. And then there are the many PR agencies and in-house teams that land somewhere in the middle—purchasing a media monitoring tool that allows them to perform their own coverage tracking and reporting.

While a self-serve monitoring tool isn’t as costly as a full-service option, it is still a significant financial investment for many organizations, and one that users will want to make sure they maximize the value of.

There are many available resources regarding how to make optimal use of your media monitoring tool’s full potential, but it’s less common for vendors to address challenges associated with self-serve tools.

That’s why we wanted to round up the most common roadblocks preventing PR pros from optimizing self-serve media monitoring and, most importantly, what can be done to solve them.

1) Irrelevant mentions in search results

Two common issues reported by users are the amount of “noise” and the number of duplicate mentions ending up in their search results.

And then, as the cherry on top, users set up a coverage alert and their inbox gets pummeled with irrelevant emails.

If you’re consistently getting media monitoring results that leave you scratching—or shaking—your head, it’s time to take action.

The solution

Reducing irrelevant mentions usually happens by going back to the drawing board. Look at the searches you’ve already set up and review their filters.

Here are some things to consider when reviewing your search structures:

  • Recreate an existing search as a new search. Add the filters one by one, starting broad then narrowing in. This may allow you to see something you missed the first time you set up the search. When you come across a seemingly irrelevant media mention, use the CTRL + F shortcut to find the search keyword in the copy. This will help you quickly identify the keyword that pulled this article or transcript into your results. Once you’ve gone through a few articles this way, you’ll have a sense of which keywords in your search are problematic.
    From there you can add negative keywords to your search to suppress the wrong type of mentions from being included. For example, if you’re running a search for the technology company Apple, you will likely need to suppress types of apples like “Golden Delicious”, “Granny Smith” and “Fuji”.
  • If your search returns an overwhelming number of mentions, consider how and where it can be broken up into a series of smaller, more specific searches. For example, if you’ve created a search for industry news you could separate it into one for regulatory updates and another for emerging industry trends.
  • Be sure to put quotes around phrases that should be kept together. For example, if you’re searching for ice cream, you’ll want to spell it out as “ice cream” so that you’re not getting mentions with only the word “ice” or “cream” included.
  • Take a close look at all filters available in your tool. There are some which are less obvious to new users, like searching only keywords in the headline or enabling case sensitivity for abbreviated words. For example, a search for “IDA” could end up returning a lot of irrelevant results if case sensitivity were not turned on.
  • Some media monitoring tools will have an expert mode feature, which allows for new options, such as more creative use of keyword groups and proximity searches. Check out our How to Build the Ultimate Search String article if you need to brush up on Boolean logic required for advanced searching.
  • Get in touch with your customer support team or account manager if you’re still seeing irrelevant mentions come through. Be sure to share an example of a specific instance where a search has returned a result you were not expecting.

2) Missed media mentions

Nothing is more frustrating than when crucial media mentions are not captured in your results.

A missed mention could equal you overlooking an early sign of a crisis, a crucial competitor update, or an important placement your brand or client received that you would have wanted to highlight.

While some users will turn to Google or social channels to fill in the gaps, this is hardly ideal. It creates extra work and means that your media coverage will be dispersed across tools, which is not ideal for reporting purposes.

The solution

Missed mentions are best addressed in the buying or renewal stage. Make sure you’re asking questions of your vendor and getting accurate information about the capabilities of the tool you’re using or are interested in.

Not all platforms are created equal and you’ll want to make sure yours has a good reputation for giving a complete view of coverage. Reading online reviews of media monitoring providers is a good place to begin. Be sure to read both positive and negative reviews. Keep a careful look out for reviews that note missed mentions as an issue.

However, if you’re not ready or able to switch media monitoring tools, there are many tactics you can employ to make sure you get the complete picture.

  • TV and radio mentions are more commonly missed than print or online news articles. Transcript sources for TV (closed captioning) and radio (“voice to text” software) are never perfect, and you may find that brands, names, and places relevant to you are misspelled. A good example is Ikea often shows as “Eye Kia” in transcripts. We recommend becoming familiar with these misspellings and using them as keywords in your searches.
  • Missed mentions can often be overcome by double checking your search logic. If you recreate a search you’ve made in the past and layer on one filter at a time to analyze the results, you may notice filters that can be adjusted to ensure more essential mentions come through.
  • Be careful when applying geographic filters, especially for social and online content as geography is not well defined by the platforms/outlets themselves. You may end up cutting out important mentions if you limit geography too much.
  • Consider if there may be scenarios where your brand’s logo appears but it’s not mentioned by name. For example, if your brand is an airline, your logo may appear on planes pictured in online news images about the aviation, transportation or tourism industry. To get a full view of your coverage we recommend including an image monitoring search.
  • Are you catching both singular and plural mentions of your keywords? If you’re not, use an asterisk to capture all variations. For example, if you’re looking for any articles that mention either “bee” or “bees” you can write the keyword as bee* to include both variations in your results.
  • If your provider has a find related concepts option when building your search, take advantage of it. This feature will examine the keywords you’ve already added and suggest related topics you might have overlooked.

3) Disorganized saved coverage

Once you’ve set up your searches and begun to sift through coverage, it can feel like you’ve just walked into an episode of Hoarders. The amount of media mentions can be overwhelming, especially if you’re searching for a lot of keywords or across many media types.

Scrolling through a seemingly endless list of articles begs the question, “How do I organize all of this, synthesize the data, and communicate its value to my stakeholders?”.

It can seem even more complicated when you also want to report on your coverage from multiple angles, like if you want to report on all your brand’s individual products as well as its product lines.

The solution

Being inundated with media coverage can be stressful. Luckily, it’s one of the easier media monitoring challenges to address.

Here are some pointers:

  • Be specific with your searches. You will still need some general search topics, but you can also save yourself a lot of time by creating a series of very specific searches. For example, if you work for a bakery that sells three distinct types of baked goods you can have a separate search for “cakes”, “pies”, and “muffins” as well as a general search. Once you have specific searches, some tools will allow you to tag the coverage automatically to organize it into separate reports.
  • If your media monitoring tool allows you to apply multiple tags to each media mention, do it! Going back to the bakery example, you can have tags for flavors in addition to type of baked good. For example, you can choose to tag things with the types of ingredients being used like “blueberry” or “carrot”. This way you can report on the media coverage across cakes, pies, and muffins, but also items with blueberries or carrots. This will enable you to report on your bakery overall, but also uncover specific and meaningful insights.
  • Some media monitoring tools allow you to save your coverage into folders, thus organizing mentions into distinct coverage topics. This can be very helpful for in-house communications teams at large organizations and agencies working with multiple brands.
  • Having a series of specific searches and a system for tagging your media coverage makes it possible to have well-organized media briefs. Depending on the tool you use, you may be able to pull in all recent mentions with a certain tag into a media brief or a section of a media brief.

4) Difficulty reporting

PR measurement is increasingly becoming more and more essential.

Unfortunately, some media monitoring tools haven’t kept up with the demand for flexible reporting. Online reviewers often mention that their tool is cumbersome to use and difficult to set up. Throw in the fact that many reports aren’t easily customized and it’s understandable why this is a top challenge for PR practitioners.

Sometimes PR professionals are so limited by the reporting features in their media monitoring tool that they turn to spreadsheet tools like Excel to accomplish their goals, which takes extra time and effort.

The solution

If you’re in the advantageous position of researching media monitoring vendors, it’s extremely helpful to have an in-depth demonstration of reporting capabilities before signing on. Be sure to ask about how you can customize reports for your own needs and how easy it is to share them.

On the other hand, if you’re unable to switch vendors, here are a couple of tips for making the most of reporting in your current tool:

The way you set up searches and how you organize mentions can really play into how you report on coverage. If you only have a few broad topics, it can severely limit your reporting function. Review the tips in the last section to learn more about organizing your mentions.

Reach out to your support/account management team to with feedback about your challenges to see if there’s anything they can do to accommodate your reporting needs.

5) Unable to access own searches

Unbelievably, there are still some media monitoring tools that do not allow users to set up their own searches. This can be frustrating for those who are unable to update their searches quickly or often enough since an account manager must perform all the changes.

Not only is this an impediment to productivity, it’s frustrating to users who must wait to get insights on emerging topics.

The solution

Like with most issues, being unable to access your own searches is easily solved by having an upfront conversation with the media monitoring vendor before signing on. Some vendors may try to downplay this aspect and the inconveniences it causes users, so be sure to get a clear answer on whether you will be in control of your own searches.

Aside from leaving feedback with your provider that this process is inconvenient, there may not be much more to do other than switching vendors.

Regardless of which media monitoring tool you’re using, the company should have a supportive team willing and ready to help you address and overcome any of the challenges discussed in this article. If you didn’t catch something in the buying process, it’s worth bringing up to them now and seeing what can be done. If they really appreciate your business, they’ll do what they can to keep you happy. But if you’re not getting the level of customer support you need, it might be time to consider switching tools. We recommend setting a reminder for yourself to review other media monitoring tools before renewing your current agreement.

At Agility PR Solutions we want all PR professionals to be successful with their monitoring! You can always contact us if you want to discuss any of the solutions mentioned above.

Cara Valle
Cara is a dynamic and results-oriented marketing leader with over 10 years of experience delivering high-performing marketing campaigns. Passionate about the PR and communications space, she is dedicated to delivering value to agency and in-house comms professionals. Cara leverages her expertise in marketing automation and digital marketing to drive demand generation strategies that align with business objectives and deliver tangible results.


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