Questions to Ask When Evaluating Media Intelligence Tools

Part 1: Media Monitoring

When it comes to so-called “media intelligence tools,” marketing and communications professionals should recall the Russian proverb, “doveryai no proveryai” (“trust, but verify”). Obviously, we need reliable tools in order to hack our way through the wilds of digital media. But as platforms (and sales calls) proliferate, it can be tough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

For our purposes, we like to think of “media intelligence” tools in two buckets: (1) media monitoring tools, which comb through digital, print, television, and/or radio clips to deliver you the news you need, and (2) media contacts tools, which provide a directory of journalist contact information, and can help with sending releases direct to journalists.

Let’s start with the first bucket, media monitoring. To help build the trust needed to succeed in the world of media intelligence, here are three “big picture” questions to ask before you start your next media service relationship.

1. Are there search limits on my package?

Media intelligence tools need to be able to grow with your organization – keywords should never be “locked” or dependent on package size. Think of your searches like folders – these folders should be accessible and able to be adjusted at a moment’s notice. Your ability to update these folders should never be limited. If you have to call your account rep to change a search, the tool is too complicated.

Other words to look out for: “points” (indicate that you can, and will, run out) or “package number.” Another function that is often limited is how far the tool can go back and pull data. We’ve found that news monitoring tools should be able to pull at least a few years of data, to allow for year-over-year analysis.

  • When not to sound the alarm: the number of searches (think: folders) will likely be set; what’s important is that these searches are editable. For example, say your tool can only save five searches. This means you can only have five searches running **simultaneously** but you can change them at any time. Say all of a sudden it becomes absolutely imperative that you run an ad hoc search on puppies + fuzzy blankets. Chances are, you don’t need to use all of those five searches you already had running right now, so simply edit one of your existing searches, and replace it with your more pressing puppy search. After analyzing, exporting, or reading your search results, you can reset the search to monitor its original keywords. You may even find the search you originally had set up no longer monitors important news for your orgs current needs. This sets a good precedent of evaluating your saved searches to make sure they are up-to-date with new projects, goals, and priorities. (Photo credit: Ticketybu)

2. What sources do you track?

When evaluating media monitoring tools, you want the tool to be strong at the local level (think local newspapers, radio stations) and the national level (think subscription content with high national circulation). A great way to test this on the sales call is to look up a local publication from your hometown and ask the rep to find it on the call. If they don’t track the source, ask if they have a way to add sources to their database for their clients. This is a good way to test the resources the company allocates to tool development and customer service.

Next, check for big names, and include a question about an outlet that you know charges a subscription fee. Some tools have partnerships with big subscription outlets and the cost of the partnership is factored into the cost of their tool, while others charge extra for what the industry calls premium content.

  • Bonus question: Great, you told me you can track 1 million outlets (**side eye**). How do you count your outlets?
  • Pro tip: What number of outlets should you be looking for? A realistic number for a tool in the current market ranges from 150,000 – 350,000 digital outlets (not including blogs, and *not* double/triple/quadruple counting their outlets).