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The Importance of Continuous Monitoring: How Real-Time Data Enhances PR Agility

Media monitoring serves many functions, from providing basic information about how issues of interest to your company or client are being covered, to how carefully crafted messages are resonating with key audiences.

When you track media based on an outreach campaign or if you’re watching for a specific issue or hot topic, it’s typically for a specified period of time. Targeted monitoring has a place, but it will leave gaps.

With PR professionals handling so many different tasks, the idea of ongoing, continuous monitoring can seem daunting—and maybe not feel like it is worth the investment of time. I’d argue that ongoing monitoring might be one of the best uses of a PR pro’s time—if done correctly.

Continuous monitoring is like getting regular exercise—there are short-term and long-term benefits, and it gets easier once you make it a habit.

Strategically Proactive

The ability to frame a topical issue in a way that benefits a client, or craft a pitch that seems timely and relevant, rests on understanding current events in a deep way.

If you’ve ever run across one of those PR professionals who seem so instinctive you almost wonder if they’re able to predict the news, the more likely story is that they are probably regular consumers of news. They’ve built enough of an understanding of current news that the pace of coverage is familiar to them.

Continuous monitoring of the news cycle provides a foundation of understanding of complex issues, allowing a strategist to quickly determine how a topic might link into coverage of current events. In other words, you aren’t playing catch-up to learn where things stand so you can proactively move ahead of the news cycle, not behind it.

Protecting Reputation

Reputation management is an ongoing concern for brands, CEOs, influencers, and pretty much anyone else working with the media.

Reputational threats seem to be everywhere. The fact that a misstep or misunderstanding can go viral in the blink of an eye adds to the stress.

Monitoring for reputation should without question be an ongoing process. However, this can quickly become overwhelming if you’re monitoring for common names or across a wide variety of outlets.

The key to successfully monitoring reputation is well-designed search parameters. Keywords or key phrases, Boolean search strings, and exclusionary words are all effective in helping to restrict volume to reduce false positives (things that match the keywords but are not accurate results). You might find that you’ll need to restrict the types of media searched—for example, some monitoring tools allow searches to skip things like obituaries or medical journals.

Finding a balance between pulling in all results that match, no matter how relevant, and restricting the field so that volume is manageable can be difficult. If you’re having trouble finding that sweet spot, talk to your monitoring firm. They’ve seen this before, trust me.

Make a list of any recurring problem areas, such as another prominent person with the same or similar name, and the field in which they work. Identifying pain points by using specific examples will make it easier to design a search that gets you what you need—and leaves out what you don’t.

Managing a Crisis

Crisis management is what usually comes immediately to mind whenever a PR or communications professional hears “continuous monitoring.” That’s because a crisis can change quickly.

Continuous monitoring during a crisis is essential to properly managing a crisis. Seeing which messages are resonating with journalists, how the crisis is being presented, how much coverage company spokespeople are receiving, and where they are being placed in an article—all of this information is available to you if you are monitoring and reviewing your coverage.

Collecting these data points can inform your crisis response tactics, adjusting as necessary allowing you to navigate a crisis effectively.

Being Agile

The ability to respond to shifting situations has always been an important skillset for anyone working in public relations. Part of this is on the practitioner’s side. The best PR pros can shift gears quickly, whether it’s at an agency where some days you’re working on issues for multiple clients, or if you’re in-house PR for a company, where you might be asked to shift quickly from external pitching to internal comms. The other part of this is the ability to rapidly revise plans when circumstances change—and that’s where continuous monitoring fits into the picture.

Building a PR plan must incorporate some flexibility because you don’t know how breaking news might impact your plans. It’s like the weather—you can’t control it, so you’d better plan around it. How do you do that? By keeping an eye on the forecast. The same is true for PR planning, but instead of the forecast, you should be monitoring media, both traditional and social.

This will help you to build some resilience in your efforts. If a big, all-encompassing news story hits on the day you plan to send out a news release, monitoring gives you the time to make a decision as to whether to proceed or hold off until the release has a better chance of getting picked up.


Continuous monitoring is an effort well worth undertaking. It allows you to be better prepared for proactive planning, managing reputational efforts, and working on a crisis. In each of these situations, ongoing monitoring can improve your response time and allow for flexibility in addressing changes in the media cycle.

Real-time data is essential in a PR environment where news and social media have global reach and are “always-on.” Having a monitoring platform that is correctly tuned to the issues and people that are important to you means you’ll be able to plan, strategize, and respond when necessary.

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