You’re probably missing something: How to effectively monitor online PR coverage
You can plan, create, and execute a brilliant PR campaign that drives traffic and engagement. But while you might be satisfied with the beautiful graphs that you dig out of analytics in a few weeks’ time, your stakeholders probably want to see more – and sooner.
You need to be able to show your client or boss specific pieces of coverage that a campaign has achieved – and you should do it quickly.
However, it’s not easy to find coverage as soon as a campaign goes live. Most journalists won’t send you the link (because why should they?) and a lot of tools can be slow to pick it up.
But we’ve got you covered. We’ve shared our go-to strategies for finding coverage, including useful tools and practices you can implement to catch the pieces that inevitably slip through the cracks.
Why should you look for coverage as soon as a campaign goes live?
Before we show you how to find coverage, you should understand why it’s so important to find it quickly:
- So you can thank the journalist – doing this is always good for developing and maintaining a good relationship. Plus, it’s just polite.
- So your client or boss can share the coverage with other stakeholders (and you can show that they made a great decision when they chose to work with you).
- So you can spot any mistakes quickly, and if you need to ask for a correction you can do so in good time.
- So, if the journalist hasn’t linked to your content and you think it’s worthy of a link, you can ask for one in timely fashion – being quick can make a huge difference in getting a link added.
4 tools you need to start using to find coverage
Before we share our favourite tools, we need to warn you – no tool picks up everything.
We use a combination of platforms, which has proven to us just how many gaps there are. That’s why we try to cover all the bases by using several different tools to crawl for each campaign we run.
We’re the first to admit that, even with the suite we have, we occasionally discover that we’re missing things. However, using following four platforms will allow you to build a strong foundation.
1. Buzzsumo (Paid)
We use Buzzsumo’s monitoring function to set up real-time alerts for all our clients’ brand names and for their domains, so we’ll receive alerts on any backlinks.
We usually find the Buzzsumo alerts to be the fastest of all alert services. It’s also handy that they’re organised in one place so you can see them over time.
2. Google Alerts (Free)
It might be an obvious one, but it’s still worth mentioning because Google Alerts free service will sometimes lead us to things we might have missed otherwise.
The downside is that it tends to be slower than Buzzsumo, and, despite the fact that might you think it would be the best option (considering Google is supposed to know all), it will often miss some of the coverage that Buzzsumo picks up.
3. Google Search (Free)
As well as having our alerts set up, we manually check for coverage at least once each day (and often more frequently during a campaign launch).
To do this, we use various combinations of searches, including:
- The brand name
- Variations of the brand name
- Product names
- Any relevant campaign messaging (such as straplines, hashtags, and experts we’ve quotes)
The combination tactic is key, as some sources of coverage won’t mention the brand name but will discuss the campaign messaging in detail.
4. Kantar Yellow News (Paid)
For a long time we avoided paying for a ‘proper’ news monitoring service. However, with more clients being featured in print and broadcast as well as online, we realised we needed to branch out.
Kantar monitors all the big media titles for us, sends alerts, and provides a dashboard that displays all coverage. We’ve found that it tends to be more reliable from a traditional press standpoint than some of the other alert services.
Note: An important note on this (as well as any media monitoring) is that if you need to share coverage from certain publications internally or with a client, you must covered by an NLA licence. A list of which titles are covered by the NLA is available here.
Troubles with tools (and how to work around them)
While we have a very comprehensive monitoring process, these tools collectively still don’t provide us with complete overview of coverage. We’ve learned that there are gaps in the system – but we’ve also learned how to fix them.
Google can be slow
Our recent campaign for Dance Direct was based on Eurovision, and the coverage came in fast over the days leading up to the final.
One particular problem was with local news coverage – Google wasn’t indexing the articles quick enough for them to be picked up by alerts (or our searches).
Luckily, we discovered a workaround. We searched for the article title, which Google would then index on archive pages (which seem to be crawled more often), allowing us to find the articles from there.
However, two weeks after the articles went live, we were still finding 2-3 unflagged articles per day. This was because they were also disappearing from the index, so we had to keep refreshing to catch them before they disappeared.
For example, when we searched the phrase pictured below at the time of writing this post (about a month after the campaign ended), Google only had 8 results. However, we tracked 107 individual articles with the same article title (all of which are still live):
The problem may well stem from the fact that a lot of the articles have canonicals back to one of the sites, hence why they’re appearing and disappearing in the index.
We also tried finding the list of local sites covered by same publisher and searching the news sites themselves. However, most use Google Search Bar and so we ran into the same problem – Google hadn’t indexed the article yet.
Because of this, we probably still missed identifying a lot of coverage.
When we do get an alert for coverage, we keep searching for that article title to see whether it goes live anywhere else – often refreshing numerous times a day.
As you’ll know a lot of national title such as The Independent can act as triggers for other articles on smaller websites. Often these use the exact same headline and article copy as the original article (on The Independent or wherever else). So this workaround also helps with capture these as well as with the local news problem.
Journalists can misspell
Even if you have all your alerts set up, journalists will occasionally misspell your brand, product, or campaign name – meaning your alert won’t catch their mistake.
For example, one of our clients is called TheAdvisory (all one word). During our latest PR activity, even though we wrote this correctly in our press releases and emails, two journalists spelt it “The Advisory” in their articles. If we only included the correct spelling of the brand name in our alerts, we would have missed that coverage.
That same client also has a tool called Propcast, which we were using data from. Another journalist that covered the story didn’t reference TheAdvisory but instead just Propcast. Again, if we only had a “TheAdvisory” alert set up, we’d have missed this piece.
Have multiple alerts set up that cover terms associated with the brand or predictable misspellings set up across tools. Look out for potential mistakes such as:
- Brand name as all one word and with spaces
- Key products or tools that you quote
- The name of the spokesperson you include quotes from in your press (with any obvious potential misspellings worked in)
If you run a campaign that gets plenty of coverage, chances are there might be the occasional piece that slips through the net – however, using these tools and monitoring the gaps will give you a better chance of finding as many sources as possible.
And what about now – are we missing anything? We’d love to hear about any other tools you have in your suite for monitoring coverage, and any workarounds you use to make sure you find it all.