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Media Monitoring for Competitive Intelligence

For many firms, the primary use of media monitoring is to track their own company mentions and coverage. Public relations and communications work depends on this information, and it can be extremely helpful to use social media monitoring elements to track public opinion. Deeper analysis can yield insight into which messages are best resonating with the public, and which publications are most likely to cover an organization’s news or press releases.

Back when media monitoring meant gathering physical clips from newspapers and magazines, even this basic level of content review was a chore. The advent of online monitoring significantly increased the speed of data collection, allowing firms to expand the scope of search terms—meaning they could collect more information, including on competitors, even if it was just a cursory search to see how they were being mentioned in similar publications.

The sophistication of modern monitoring and analysis tools allows for much deeper examination of competitor data, providing users with competitive, actionable intelligence. Here are some of the ways you can use media monitoring for competitive intelligence, and some ideas on how to determine which approaches will yield the results you are looking for when setting up a program.

Share of Voice

One of the most familiar uses of media monitoring of competitors is determining share of voice (SOV). At its most basic, SOV shows where your company stands in terms of visibility with respect to competitors. The setup is fairly straightforward too—you’re simply monitoring for competitor mentions across the same set of publications.

Testing your search terms first is particularly important if you’ll be relying on graphs to represent SOV, which many organizations do, because monitoring SOV for competitors can result in very high volumes—and manually reviewing all of that content to ensure accuracy can be extremely time-consuming. So, if you are depending on the graphics, it’s important to ensure the search terms are as accurate as possible. You don’t want to discover months down the road that the high SOV for a competitor that you are working to overtake was actually caused by false positives within the keyword matches.

Similarly, SOV is best used when paired with sentiment analysis. That’s because SOV only shows a count of mentions, or straight visibility. From a communications perspective, a high SOV caused by a successful product launch is dramatically different than a high SOV caused by news coverage of a crisis. Both of these examples will result in higher volume, but context matters: one is a positive event, the other is negative.

If you choose not to add sentiment analysis to competitor volume, you may want to consider doing several weeks of spot-checking the SOV content to develop a baseline understanding of what “normal” parameters are for the share for each competitor. That way, if volume suddenly increases for one or more competitors, it’s a sign to take a look at the content for that week to determine what is causing the spike to provide additional context.

Competitor Media Coverage

Analyzing competitor media coverage can provide all kinds of interesting insights. The key is to keep in mind two somewhat contradictory points—know what you want to look for, but also keep an open mind. For example, if the industry you are monitoring is going through a number of mergers and acquisitions, you might use media monitoring to determine how the changes are being reported in the financial press. That’s a very specific task—reviewing articles within a reporting niche to determine messaging penetration and tone. While that is being done, it might also be worthwhile to take note of which competitor spokespeople speak to which financial journalists, to see if there are any patterns or if you should add new outlets or journalists to your outreach lists.

Keeping an open mind means looking for other bits of useful information, such as what aspects of a merger or acquisition a publication or journalist focuses on, for example. Is the focus on the impact to shareholders, or the employees of the company? Jobs, or customer impacts? By paying attention to these small details, you’ll be able to better refine your pitches down the road, or it can help to better prepare your leadership when they are asked by a particular journalist to interview or comment.

Events and Activity

Where are your competitors showing up? Analyzing media content for things like sponsorship investments, event participation, and similar activities can provide insight into competitor audiences and targeting decisions.

Has a competitor recently started funding a new charitable event? Are they the decades-long host of a community economic forum? Are they the platinum sponsor of an awards show? Each of these sponsorship investments will likely receive news coverage—how is that coverage treated, and what is the public reaction? Answering these questions by analyzing competitor coverage can either point the way to finding similar opportunities for your brand, or can provide the data to show big sponsorships grab a few headlines but don’t offer much of a long-term impact.

Public Perception

Monitoring and analyzing social platforms can provide substantial insights into how competitors are perceived by the public, particularly in response to new products or high-profile corporate decisions, such as leadership changes or when a crisis occurs. However, sometimes it’s just the loudest voices on social making noise. Time and again issues pop up on social that spark outrage, and a day or two later there’s a counter-backlash, and then everything settles down.

Public perception can be fickle, in other words. But, it’s still worth watching—for your own brand and for competitors. This is especially true for consumer-facing brands, and brands that have active influencer programs.

Strategic PR and Communications

Using the above-outlined aspects of competitor monitoring can help an organization to better refine and target PR efforts. Instead of guessing what stories might be worth pitching a journalist, you can use competitor monitoring to pitch directly to a journalist’s interests. Make smarter decisions about sponsorship investments that will capture the attention of your target audience by paying attention to how competitor events are covered.

Monitoring competitor coverage can provide a lot of information about what resonates and what doesn’t, who their most effective spokespeople are and why, and how the public perceives your industry and the players within it—all of which can help to create a more strategic public relations approach to your media efforts.

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