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by Erika Mudie, Mediaverse

Media analysis and evaluation is an emerging field and one that some PR practitioners have been reluctant to enter into. While there’s no single ‘right’ way to conduct media analysis we take you through some common mistakes you should avoid when you decide to start evaluating your media coverage.


Mistake 1: Overthinking it

There’s a lot that goes into designing a media evaluation plan and it can seem daunting at first. And, there are a lot of suggestions out there on how to approach it, but no ‘one-size-fits-all’ way to analyse media clippings. Then, there’s all the time involved in reviewing and reporting your results. It’s hard to know where to start, but don’t let that stop you!

Solution: Start by keeping it simple

Figure out how often you want to report and what insights could be most interesting to your team and managers. For example, would a quarterly report on your organisation’s share of voice amongst its competitors be useful? Or maybe a monthly report of news sources referencing your organisation and the topics on which your spokespeople are providing thought leadership would be more appropriate. Whatever it is, make sure it’s in line with your broader communication goals.


Mistake 2: Monitoring every outlet under the sun

It’s just possible that your communications strategy involves gaining strong media coverage in every single print, online and broadcast media outlet that exists. But let’s be realistic: the chances of that happening are slim to nil, and that’s why excessive media monitoring is a mistake. First, there’s no such thing as the ‘general public’ anymore, if there ever was at all. Secondly, audience fragmentation doesn’t mean that every outlet needs to be monitored. Monitoring every single result for a mention of your organisation is costly both in terms of money and time and won’t actually deepen your understanding on the effectiveness of your communication outputs.

Solution: Only monitor outlets and sources that are relevant to your audience and communication objectives.

Think about your PR goals and consider where you will be focusing your efforts to capture the attention of your target audience. You can then select media to monitor in accordance with both of those ideas. The result will be an evaluation of your work that best reflects how your organisation was represented in the media that matters most to your target publics.


Mistake 3: Ignoring competitor coverage

You’ve slaved over a great communications strategy, written media release after media release and coached executives into champion spokespeople. That’s great, and all these things will help your organisation achieve some of its key business goals. But what are your competitors doing? Should you even care?

Analysing competitor coverage can be very enlightening. It can reveal where your organisation actually stands in the competitive landscape. Internally you may think you’re number one, but how are you being represented in comparison with your competitors in arenas outside of your control, such as industry magazines and the mass media?

Solution: Track your competitors in at least some, if not all, of the same media outlets that you are monitoring for your organisation.

At the outset, you’ll need to identify which competitors to track. Some will be obvious, such as the long-standing organisations working in your field. But there could also be some less obvious competitors that you’ll want to keep an eye on, such as new market entrants, startups, or well-established companies that are expanding into your sector.

Whoever you decide to track, knowing what your competitors are up to will help you and your team adjust its communications plan to either maintain your hard-earned status or pull ahead of the competition. It will also help you respond more effectively to any potential threats. Know where you stand now so that you can be more competitive in the future. And, have a clear idea of what success for your organisation means in relation to its competitors.


Mistake 4: Being inflexible

When you begin analysing your media coverage, you may fall into the trap of thinking that your methodology is set in stone. There are many reasons for this. For example, all of your monthly/quarterly reports could culminate in an annual report so you’ll want a consistent methodology across the year. But what’s the point of putting the time and effort into analysing data only to end up with results or insights that aren’t useful? Bear in mind that your priorities and goals will shift over time, and when necessary your methodologies should shift to reflect these changes.

Solution: Keep an open mind when it comes to changing your analysis approach

The end of a reporting period or campaign is a good time to step back and assess whether your current methodology is working for you. It’s also around this time that you may get feedback from management about what they would like to see in the next report. While consistency is important in media evaluation, it shouldn’t stop you from tweaking and redesigning your approach when necessary.

Do what you can to create a report that gives your managers a clearer idea of what you’ve achieved within a particular time frame. Adjustments to your methodology and report content will also help your team make more intelligent and strategic PR recommendations.


Mistake 5: Letting ego drive your analysis

It’s normal to be proud of the work you’ve done and when you’ve had a particularly successful period of great earned media coverage it’s hard to stay objective when reviewing your media clippings. However, focusing too much on the positive could create a blind spot in which a looming threat may lurk. Similarly, if a competitor has had better-than-average media coverage recently, you could be inclined to play down precisely how strong they’ve been for your own self-interest. This won’t be helpful in the long run.

Solution: Put yourself in the reader’s frame of mind, or let your analysis be reviewed by others

This may be easier said than done! But it will serve you and your team well to be honest about the pitfalls of your efforts as well as your successes, particularly when the time comes to assess your communications plan.

Nothing really tops an outside and objective point of view. If that isn’t possible, internal biases can be offset by having a different team member review your work and look impartially at the media clippings or social media data. Another point of view may just be the thing to bring the whole thing into balance.


Another solution: Ask an expert

There is a wealth of information available about how to conduct media analysis and nothing tops the advice of an objective, independent expert. Starting out with media analysis can be difficult, so there’s a lot to gain from consulting someone who lives and breathes media analysis. After consulting an expert, you should come away with a clear path forward for your evaluation journey and the peace of mind knowing that your analysis is in the hands of someone who knows what to look for and understands your needs.


This article was also published on the Public Relations Institute of Australia blog.