Public relations: Media expansion tests PR tracking - Comprehensive PR monitoring is being complicated by a growth in media channels. By SUE LEVY

It’s no easy task keeping on top of media coverage. A brand might be talked about in an internet chat room, on one of the 242 UK commercial radio stations, or on a niche satellite TV channel. For PR agencies, it can be difficult to deliver against the client promise of comprehensive evaluation across all media channels.

It’s no easy task keeping on top of media coverage. A brand might

be talked about in an internet chat room, on one of the 242 UK

commercial radio stations, or on a niche satellite TV channel. For PR

agencies, it can be difficult to deliver against the client promise of

comprehensive evaluation across all media channels.

Take the launch of a Virgin Megastore in Glasgow in December. The event

was managed by youth consultancy Cake, which persuaded Spice Girl Mel C,

and Richard Branson to abseil down the front of the store. Pop group

Travis were also recruited and played a free gig in the street - all of

which attracted extensive coverage.

As well as securing space in music titles such as NME and Melody Maker,

the event earned a slot on the Big Breakfast, Channel Five News and BBC

Radio 1. Newspaper coverage ranged from the Financial Times to the News

of the World and all the Scottish daily press. According to Cake, the

campaign cost of pounds 94,000 translated into coverage worth more than

pounds 1.2m over a three-month period. Monitoring was through the

Broadcast Monitoring Company - which works across the Virgin group - and

Cake itself.

’It’s a real challenge keeping on top of coverage for an event like

this, especially when regional media is so important,’ says Cake account

director, Clare Craven. ’The client wants feedback the same day, but in

my experience, up to 60% can be missed by media monitoring


For most clients, cost is a major consideration in the evaluation

techniques they use, and many buy in evaluation software packages. One

of the more popular is Cutting Edge, which offers three editions of its

media evaluation system: ’Full Edition’, ’Lite’ and ’Network


Comic Relief used Cutting Edge in the run-up to Red Nose Day 1999 to

analyse the impact of media coverage on the organisation. By judging the

tone of coverage, Comic Relief was able to track which initiatives were

failing to attract attention and which issues were attracting negative

coverage. It evaluated coverage on six key areas: merchandise, TV

initiatives, education, grants (Africa and UK), special projects, public

fundraising and corporate fundraising.

Broadcast specialists

Print is one of a growing number of media channels which needs to be

monitored. With the globalisation of TV news and the growth of digital

channels, monitoring broadcast coverage has become more expensive, and

most companies find themselves going to a broadcast specialist.

Last year, Medialink International launched TeleTrax, an electronic

tagging system to monitor broadcast use of its footage. The company puts

an indelible code on every video it produces and uses a network of

’listening posts’ to monitor the signals of 84 broadcasters across

Europe - set to increase to 100 by March. As soon as any of the

broadcasters show Medialink footage, the company is alerted.

But at the moment, TeleTrax can only confirm that footage has aired, and

is unable to process the tone of the content. Media systems specialist,

Peaktime, goes one step further. Its system, Viewtime, records 18 hours

of primetime viewing a day and displays five channels


This makes it possible to analyse BARB audience data on a

minute-by-minute basis. By examining viewing patterns, users can see

what makes viewers switch on to, or out of, a programme.

But even broadcast coverage is easier to monitor than the internet. At

internet monitoring company Infonic, all relevant content is viewed by

one of the company’s researchers.

’Clients don’t want a data dump; they want internet content monitored

and translated,’ says Roy Lipski, Infonic’s managing director. ’We’re

not a clippings service. We see ourselves as advisers, and so do our


Cost, however, is a major factor for internet evaluation and clients

have to be prepared to set aside a realistic sum if they want detailed


Romeike & Curtice set up its internet monitoring service, Net.cut, in


Net.cut was designed to be used as an early warning service by corporate

communications departments to provide fast notification of unfavourable

comments on the net.

It can monitor internet publications, UK newsgroups and the worldwide

web. The service works on a keyword basis, searching the internet at

night and archiving company mentions. The following morning, the

cuttings are read for key messages before the client is alerted.

Angela Webb, sales and marketing manager at Romeike & Curtice, admits

Net.cut is not yet the perfect evaluation system, but believes the

evaluation industry will have to work together to create a better


Rapid development

’The net is an intensely difficult form of media. Net.cut has already

been upgraded twice because things develop so quickly,’ she says. ’Most

evaluation companies in the UK are looking at production aspects to

discover the next stage.’

The cost of using Net.cut depends entirely on the complexity of the


To monitor internet publications and newsgroups costs about pounds 49.50

a month, with each alert costing an extra pounds 1.

According to leading evaluation companies, market research has an

increasing strategic role to play to determine how different media

interact with each other.

CMS, the company best known for its Precis media analysis product, was

bought by top ten international advertising tracking and research

company, Millward Brown, last December.

Fergus Hampton, chief executive of Millward Brown Precis, said at the

the time that the deal would allow clients to get feedback on how all

the components of their communications mix interact, offering an

integrated set of measurement tools for above- and below-the-line

activity - a tool, finally, capable of a comprehensive evaluation


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