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Getting Started with Media Monitoring

9 Tips For Creating An Effective & Comprehensive Listening Strategy

Whether you are a seasoned communications professional or you were just handed an assignment to start monitoring media coverage for the first time, it’s important to be methodical about your approach.

Having a sound process in place for media monitoring helps to ensure that you minimize the effort required to extract the maximum value from the data you collect.

Like most things in public relations, marketing, and communications, it starts with having a plan.

Establish Your Media Monitoring Goals

It’s easy to lose focus if you don’t set out clear goals and objectives at the start of the project. Understanding what you want to achieve with your media monitoring efforts will help to ensure that you build the appropriate process to give you the insights you need.

A well-executed media monitoring program can help you to accomplish many different things depending upon what you need.

Start by posing the questions that you would like your media monitoring to answer. For example, you might ask: “where did we receive the most media coverage last month?” or “how often were our spokespeople quoted directly in articles?”

Don’t Limit Yourself to the Rearview Mirror

A common mistake when building out a media monitoring program is to focus entirely on understanding what happened in the past.

As with any data analysis, we look to the past to better plan the future.

That means that we can use our media monitoring program to identify areas for improvement, including messaging and targeting. We can even use it to build out media lists or identify potential crises before they blossom.

Thinking about how you will use your media monitoring reports to drive future communications activity gives you the power to devise an approach that doesn’t just let you know how you are doing, but also helps you to perform better.

Build Your Searches from the Middle Out

Keywords serve as the foundation for most modern media monitoring projects. Technology enables us to quickly gather and report on a large volume of information from media outlets around the world.

Rather than putting together a giant disorganized list of search terms, start from the core of your needs and work out.

That means beginning with your organization name, brands, and key people. These are the media mentions you almost certainly don’t want to miss.

Many monitoring programs start there, but it isn’t enough to capture all of the valuable media intelligence available to you.

Some of the additional layers around those core keywords might be:

  • Industry topics
  • Competitors
  • Relevant journalists
  • Key clients or stakeholders
  • Government policymakers

By grouping your search terms into different buckets, you can tailor your reporting to meet the different needs of each segment. For example, you might not need to look at stakeholder news as often as you do mentions of your CEO.

Define the Scope of Coverage for Monitoring Completeness

It’s easy to say “give me everything” when you are first building out a media monitoring program, but what does that mean exactly?

The modern media landscape includes coverage in countless languages, countries, and formats. Some of it is available online, while some of it remains tucked away in hard-to-access print publications.

Achieving monitoring completeness across traditional media, web, social, video, search, and more requires a robust solution and critical decisions about what to incorporate and how to do so effectively.

A global media monitoring provider like CARMA can help you to understand your options so that you build out a scope of coverage that makes sense for the objectives that you have and the budget available.

Get Help with Crafting Relevant Search Terms

With so much information to sort through, designing well-targeted search terms matters more than ever. Too narrow and you will miss vital coverage. Too broad and you risk being overwhelmed by low-quality data.

Whether you get help from a knowledgeable colleague or the client service team at your media monitoring provider, you want to take advantage of as much expertise as possible.

Getting help matters most when you have search terms that overlap with those of other brands or organizations and you need to exclude irrelevant mentions. At CARMA, we frequently find the need to build complex Boolean queries and exclusion lists to help our clients get exactly the news that they need.

Set Up Alerts for Urgent News

A strong media monitoring program helps you to avoid surprises. While we may enjoy surprise parties, few of us want to be surprised in the professional world – especially when it comes to news coverage.

Most media monitoring platforms today enable you to set up real-time alerts for topics of particular importance. For example, you may want mentions of your CEO sent to you immediately so that you can share the news internally before anyone hears about it from a third party.

Alerts can also help you to build in effective crisis communications. With the 24/7 news cycle and the unpredictability of social media, getting a timely alert can make the difference in being able to extinguish a small fire before it becomes a five-alarm inferno.

Create Insightful Reports

Gone are the days when we relied on clipbooks or simple spreadsheets to compile our media coverage. Instead, we have dashboards where we can consume up-to-the-minute overviews of what’s being said in the news.

Take advantage of the opportunity to customize dashboards and other reports to meet your needs. Use them to reduce the amount of time it takes you to glean the necessary insights.

Media monitoring platforms typically enable you to customize your reporting so that you can easily view different reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. The depth of reporting and the types of information you need likely shift as you look through these different windows, and you should allow the technology to cater to your needs rather than accepting default reports without customization.

Share Media Coverage with Key Stakeholders

You can use the tools that platforms like CARMA provide to easily create and deliver executive news briefings and other reports that can be shared with executives, coworkers, or even external audiences.

The ability to share the insights and reporting more broadly helps to deliver what matters to those key stakeholders so that they can all contribute to the organizational goals more effectively.

Consider a plan that targets different audiences with customized reporting at intervals that make sense. For example, the communications team might need intraday updates, executives could get daily reporting, and other audiences might only need a weekly email.

Evaluate Your Media Monitoring Program Annually

If you’re just getting started, the furthest thing from your mind may be what happens one year from now.

However, an annual review enables you to perform necessary housekeeping (especially updating search term lists for things like new products, staff changes, and other evolutions that may have been overlooked in real-time).

As important, this review is a time when you need to ask how well your media monitoring program is achieving the goals that you set for it. Are you getting the insights that you need? Is the volume of information manageable? Are there things that are being overlooked?

Finally, these reviews are a great time to consider how you could be making better use of all the media monitoring data that you are collecting. In addition to any automated reports and dashboards that your provider may give you access to, should you be looking to add human curation to improve relevance or expert analysis to obtain deeper insights?


Media monitoring provides you with an opportunity to not just understand what is being said about you, but also to improve your communications efforts in the future.

Careful planning and a reliable provider can help to ensure your success and deliver the insights you need to achieve your organizational goals through public relations and marketing.

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