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Tips to keep your monitoring effective on a tight budget

PR measurement work seems to follow this popular business advice: Pick two from the following list of three attributes—inexpensive, fast, and good. If it’s good work and you need it fast, it won’t be cheap. If you need good work done inexpensively, it won’t be fast. And, well, if you need something done both inexpensively and fast, there’s a high chance of errors.

That said, there are ways to get the most out of your PR measurement and media monitoring even on a limited budget.

Your approach may depend on what a tight budget means to your organization. In some cases, it might mean fewer people with time allotted to provide monitoring and analysis help. In others, it might mean a reduced budget for tools, such as your monitoring platform. Or, it could mean that you are being asked to do more with the products you have, to get the most out of them.

Prioritize what you really need

Once organizations adopt a media monitoring and PR measurement program, it can be tempting to add more and more to the mix. Because most monitoring software designed for PR professionals was developed to make accessing information easy, once it’s set up correctly, expanding on search terms, adding new sources, and layering additional topics in feels like a good idea. After all, the more you capture, the less likely you are to miss something, right?

Actually, monitoring for too much can be as problematic as not monitoring enough—especially if you don’t have help.

If you’re struggling to review, assess, and analyze the content that is currently being pulled in, it might be time to prioritize your content.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stop monitoring things you feel are important. It simply means that the most important content should be what is reviewed first and most thoroughly. Then, after that is complete, if you still have time you can move on to the items that aren’t quite as urgent.

Review your keywords

This goes hand-in-hand with prioritizing what you need to review but comes at it from a different angle. Instead of ranking content by priority level and reviewing what is most important first, this tip gets at the root of a common problem in monitoring and analysis—the over-collection of data based on keywords that are too broad.

Take a look at the content you are reviewing with a critical eye: are you finding that a substantial portion of the coverage is not relevant? News coverage that matches keywords but isn’t relevant to your monitoring activities can mean that your keywords are too general. Work with your monitoring provider to further refine keywords. This should focus the content being pulled in to the most relevant data, allowing for faster review and richer analysis results—and better overall measurement.

Make it routine

PR measurement and media monitoring are typically ongoing activities, but reporting periods are spread out. This can lead to intensive review and analysis work that eats up a lot of time close to the reporting deadline—and time spent is money spent. One way to reduce that burden is to make a review and analysis routine, cutting down on the time needed to complete the big reports.

Get help

This might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to maximize a budget is to spend a little bit more, yielding better results. This is about being efficient and getting the most out of monitoring and measurement.

Anyone who has ever found themselves in over their head during a home improvement project should understand the position that sometimes, it makes more sense to call in the pros. Detailed, complex, or hard-to-quantify PR measurement can take time to do properly, and if tight budgets are putting pressure on what is being asked of the PR department there typically isn’t a lot of free time available for deep analysis.

Outsourcing can be an efficient and cost-effective means to get the job of monitoring, measurement, and analysis done. This is true even if you have more junior staff members on your team handling these assignments. When handing these tasks over to a firm that specializes in this work, you benefit in multiple ways. The people working on your account have deep experience in monitoring and analysis and know how to get the most out of any software and measurement tools, and it will free up your internal staff to handle different tasks.

What to avoid

When belts are tightened, one solution to cut expenses is to have junior personnel take on tasks to free up more senior employees to take on more revenue-generating work. This can be effective…or a disaster. The key to effectively rebalancing monitoring and measurement work is to make certain that analysis is handled by those who understand PR measurement—from why you are doing it, to how it maps back to business goals. You want to avoid creating holes in your measurement process because the analysis has been turned over to someone who might not have the background or institutional knowledge to know what to look for in the data.

Challenges can be opportunities. If your measurement and analysis budget is reduced, don’t despair. Look for ways to maximize the funds that are available, and make certain that you are drawing a direct line from measurement results to business goals. If you can do that, you are well on your way to proving the value of monitoring, measurement, and analysis to the organization.

Speak with one of our experienced consultants about your media monitoring and communications evaluation today.