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Planning and Account Setup: Why Establishing A Baseline is Important

Setting up a media monitoring account and tracking content is fairly straightforward, especially when you have the help of a team on your monitoring software side, who can help to determine which keywords and key phrases are most likely to yield good results with a minimum of false positives.

Once you’ve set up an account, you’ll need to commit some time to adjusting and tweaking the settings and reports so that you’re receiving what you need on a schedule that works for you.

After you’ve hit a point where your monitoring feels routine, that is when it is time to determine what your baseline is—and create a baseline report.

A baseline report is a document that sets out your average statistics. Here are some examples of what such a report may include:

  • Average daily volume on a weekday
  • Average daily volume on a weekend
  • Average weekly volume
  • Monthly volume
  • Typical sentiment
  • Top keywords
  • Top outlets by volume
  • Top outlets by reach (or circulation)

Depending on your organization’s size and other characteristics, there may be additional logical items to add to this, like standard share of voice, top journalists, top regions or countries for coverage, and so on.

It’s usually true that the more data you have the better your analytics will be—but, it’s important that you look at a time period when your data aren’t terribly “noisy,” so that the baseline makes sense over time. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use the weeks following a celebrity highlighting your issue or product as your baseline—your numbers will look perpetually pale in comparison.

This is especially true if you’re going to be using your monitoring to determine the successful dissemination of new messaging, or for a product launch—or, to manage a crisis.

That’s because the biggest reason to establish a baseline is that it will provide you the reference point by which you’ll benchmark all of these other pieces of information.

Baselines are important whether you are using simple metrics from a SaaS platform or more integrated reporting that combines human analysis and platform data. That’s because regardless of how simple or intricate your analysis is, if you are looking to measure outcomes you need to have a starting point to look back to and compare.

Creating a baseline to measure messaging

Creating a baseline to measure messaging can be approached several ways, but the most direct is through keyword searches.

Examine the messaging keywords that are most frequently being caught by your monitoring tool. Look at the overall keyword density. Note the rankings, and see if there are any you’d like to see increased in frequency or decreased.

Assess whether these keywords are associated with positive, negative, or neutral sentiment. Look at the keywords relative to competitive share of voice—are your competitors associated with these same keywords? If so, are they mentioned more frequently or less frequently?

Which publications are most likely to include these keywords in stories about you, versus stories about your competitors? Develop a list of publications that have covered your competitors using these keywords, but not your organization—these may represent good outreach opportunities.

By making note of where your messaging currently stands using these metrics, you’ll be more easily able to identify changes over time.

Here’s why this is important: having a baseline starting point to measure your messaging will allow you to see which messages are resonating (changes in keywords), how those messages are received (changes in sentiment) and with whom the messages are resonating (changes in how frequently publications are covering your issues).

Creating a baseline to track a product launch

Tracking a product launch is one of the more straightforward monitoring projects, particularly if the product is new to the market and has a unique name.

That said, it’s still important to figure out before the launch if there’s any noise that needs to be accounted for so that you are working with data that is as accurate as possible. This can be particularly important if there’s a chance for false positives—meaning, coverage that accurately matches the keyword or key phrase searches, but is not your product.

Adding and testing proposed keywords for a period before the product launch is a good way to get an understanding of what potential there is for these types of problems. By establishing a baseline, you’ll know what your “normal” volume and results look like—and then, by testing keywords and phrases before your new product, event, or issue is launched, you’ll have time to think about how to proceed.

This time to prepare can be invaluable. No one wants to start monitoring the day of a launch, only to discover that half of the coverage gathered is not relevant. Using a baseline as a benchmark to test keywords or phrases means that you’ll be able to proactively determine if it will make more sense to adjust the keywords being used, or keep the keywords as they are but adjust results, or provide an explanation in the narrative of a report.

Here’s why this is important: having a baseline to track a product launch will provide a more accurate analysis then you might otherwise have. Establishing a baseline of similar or related terms allows you to measure the delta—the change—in coverage before and after a launch, providing fine-tuning so that you can appropriately account for “noise” such as false positives.

Creating a baseline to manage a crisis

Managing a crisis is almost always stressful. Don’t add to that stress by not having an understanding of what “normal” volume is—because that’s what the organization is going to be striving for, a “return to normal.”

Knowing what your baseline is will help you to set up alerts in your monitoring tool that can give you an early warning that something might be wrong. For example, if your account typically gathers between 200-300 articles per day and that number suddenly jumps to 500, something may be wrong.

With some monitoring tools, you can even set volume-spike thresholds that will alert you if either a volume or audience threshold is exceeded, buying you critical time to plan on how to address an issue that has gone viral.

Having a baseline to reference is also absolutely critical for post-crisis analysis. How quickly did volume retreat to standard levels? Did the sentiment return to normal as well, or did volume drop while sentiment remained stubbornly negative? Were certain publications—or specific journalists—change how they covered your brand following a crisis?

These questions would be difficult to answer without a clear example of what came “before” and “after” a crisis.

Here’s why this is important: an existing baseline, established before a crisis hits, can show a company when their coverage is back to pre-crisis levels, or what a “new normal” may look like—depending on the severity of the crisis.

Creating a baseline of coverage might take time, but it’s time well-spent on the front end of your resource planning. Monthly and year-end reports from prior years can add additional dimension to your baseline, but try not to get too caught up in gathering every data point. Think about your organization, and what might matter most in each of the areas mentioned above: messaging, launches, and in the aftermath of a crisis. Use those as guideposts to create a baseline understanding of what routine coverage looks like, and you’ll be ahead of the curve when asked to measure what has changed.

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