Category Archives: Measurement & Monitoring

The Costs of In-House Media Monitoring

at what cost

Have you ever stopped to think about how much media monitoring costs your company?

Your PR department has been collecting clips for your company for a while and you’ve even managed to come up with some metrics to trend for tone. But how do you know you’re capturing all the coverage that’s meaningful to your business? How many sources do you examine?

Have you ever really considered the cost of doing this kind of thing manually?

Well, we did.

We made a few assumptions, adjusted for inflation, and voila!  We figured out what a North American company spends on average per year on monitoring its media coverage. When trying to justify a monitoring service, consider these figures.

How much time would it take to compile a clipbook manually?

This depends on the size of the company but, on a regular day (no issue to be managed or crisis to quell), let’s assume (if you’ve had your morning coffee)…it takes:

  • 2 hours every morning to scan the news sites, broadcast sites, video sites, RSS feeds, and collect news clips
  • 1 hour to manually generate a clipbook
  • 1 hour converting the information into manipulate-able data…if you’re an Excel wiz
  • few hours for tone analysis and reporting brings you to your full 8-hour work day

Some days will be worse than others. You might be sluggish because it’s a Monday or maybe your company recently released its earnings and there are a higher volume of mentions.

Now let’s talk money. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, the mean hourly wage for a Public Relations Specialist is about $33.50.

Let’s say that he/she spends about 95% of their time working on media monitoring-related things. So, based on the 40-hour work week, your company pays about $1,200.00 per week towards manual media monitoring – which rings you in at about $65,000.00 per year.

Now, if yours is a larger company, you could be paying 2 or 3 staff members to share that work. Or consider if your PR pro is at the higher end of the pay scale and makes closer to $40.00 per hour – now it’s costing your company about $80,000 yearly.

Either way, media monitoring may already represent a large resource drain and hidden spend for your group.  If that’s the case, it might be time to consider a full service media monitoring service, like our very own MediaVantage.

Press Release Engagement: When Your Reader Takes “The Next Step”

A few weeks ago, we added the Instant Access button to our popular ReleaseWatch reports, providing immediate access to the comprehensive Visibility Reports press release measurement reports  PR Newswire provides with each message we distribute.  At the same time, we also started sending a “Five Day Reporting Snapshot” via email, to make it easier for everyone to see the results their releases are generating.

(Related reading:  New Press Release Measurement Reporting Features!)

Press release engagement, defined

In addition to simply telling you how many times your press release was read (which we call “views,” we also summarize the number of times your readers took a “next step.”  We call those actions “engagement.”

Simply put, when someone reading your press release on PR takes another action with the release, we consider that to be engagement.     So what are these other actions readers can take when reading a release on PR

  • Clicking through on an embedded anchor text link within the press release
  • Clicking on a URL within the press release
  • Sharing the press release on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ using any of the sharing buttons we embed on each release page
  • Printing or e-mailing the press release
  • Bookmarking the story on sites like StumbleUpon, Digg and Delicious, using the buttons embedded on the release page
  • Embedding the press release in a blog post or other web page, using the Embed button on the release page

Engagement actions are important, which is why we call them out separately within the press release reports we provide.  When one of your readers takes one of these next steps, they get closer to the ultimate objective of your press release, whether that is selling a product, generating support for a cause, encouraging downloads of a white paper or driving traffic to a web site.

The Engagement Index

On the Five Day Snapshot, you’ll also see a reference to the “Engagement Index.”   This index is designed to give you an idea of how your messages are performing when compared to press releases issued by other organizations within the same industry category.   While these categories are fairly broad – the “retail” category will group giant retailers and small mom & pop stores together – they do a good job of giving you some feedback on how your messages are faring within your sector.

Index scores range between 0 and 100, and 50 is an average score.   Scores above 50 are highlighted in green on the reports, and scores below 50 are colored yellow.

An important sample of audience reaction & message effectiveness

While the reports just capture the activity your releases generated on one web site (PR Newswire’s), the information is nonetheless informative, and provides a solid indicator of how audiences responded to your messages.

The index scores are especially useful when you log into the Online Member Center, and access your entire Visibility Reports dashboard, which aggregates all of your press release reports in one place.   (The Instant Access link only provides access to the report for a single release – to access all of you .) When you’re in the dashboard, you can see clearly which releases generated higher engagement scores.  Why is doing this important?  Simple.  Comparing the engagement results of different releases will help you develop an understanding of what sort of content your audience prefers – and what content is most effective.  Taking the analysis a step further and looking at the activities the releases generated can give you more insight into how your audience is using the press releases you issue.

We think engagement is important to think about, because ultimately, engagement describes whether you captured your audience’s attention, and inspired them to act.  It’s a far more involved measure than many, but we think it’s one of the most important, because it helps you understand whether or not a message was effective in inspiring action, not just acquiring eyeballs.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

New Press Release Measurement Reporting Features!

We all know that measuring the impact and outcomes of a PR campaign is tough, and here at PR Newswire, we’re doing all we can to help customers understand and quantify the results their press releases generate.

Today we’re rolling out some important changes for US customers to our Visibility Reports and ReleaseWatch press release measurement reports, both of which are included when you distribute your press release via PR Newswire.

Visibility Reports “Instant Access”

Starting today, you’ll see a green button at the top of your ReleaseWatch reports, labeled “Visibility Reports Instant Access.”

Clicking on this button will take you to the Visibility Reports page for that press release, where a variety of different metrics relating to your press release – such as online views, media views, demographic data and search engine referrals – will accumulate over the coming days, weeks and months.

At first, the reports won’t show much – though results start to accrue immediately, it does take a little time for audiences to find and engage with your messages.  We find that many press releases generate significant reads over a few days post-issue.   To ensure you get a handle on your results, we’re going to start sending you reminders to check your report at the two, five and 30 day marks.

The 30 day reminder email.

Summary results delivered directly via email

The reminder you receive on the fifth day after you issue a press release will also include a high-level summary of your press release results to date, in addition to the Instant Access button, which will enable you to access the full report for that particular press release.

A partial snapshot of the summary report that will be delivered via email the fifth day after you issue a press release.

We want to make it easy for you to quickly capture the most up-to-date results for your press releases, which is why we developed Instant Access to your reports.  For an in-depth view of all your stored press release measurement reports, access the the Visibility Reports dashboard in the Online Member Center.

Bikes, Baseball & the Power of Goodwill in Preserving a Brand

The future of Lance Armstrong’s personal brand is blurry.

Yesterday was a sad one for me. A long-time cycling fan, and in particular, a fan of Lance Armstrong, the damning report issued yesterday by the USADA was a little heartbreaking.  Specifically, the testimony from eleven other cyclists has pretty much sealed it for me.  He doped, and worse, according to the report, he was the ringleader, pressuring other riders to get on board with the team doctor’s program of systematic blood doping.   The simple fact that he’s never tested positive doesn’t hold much water anymore.

Of course, as a fan of cycling, I knew doping was rampant.  Other favorites – Christian Vande Velde, Jan Ullrich, Alexei  Vinokourov, Tyler Hamilton to name just a few – have tested positive for a variety of sins against their bodies and the sport.  When the news of their positives broke, I was really angry.  No one likes a cheater.

But I’m not nearly as angry with Lance, a fact that has confounded (and disgusted) me.   Where is my outrage over this?

The answer is actually pretty simple.  Lance Armstrong’s story of beating cancer is one we all know, and it’s a heroic tale.  But what makes him such a sympathetic character – even in the face of the charges leveled against him by the USADA – is the fact that Lance is also a bona fide Good Guy.  He has effectively and relentlessly used the story of his survival to power the Livestrong movement.  Livestrong provides tens of millions of dollars annually to a variety of cancer-related advocacy and support programs.  The work this organization does, by all accounts, is impressive and immensely valuable.

From a PR standpoint, Lance Armstrong has provided us with a master class in the insulating power of goodwill and a good reputation.  Though his career as a professional cyclist has been permanently sullied, his work with Livestrong provides an important counterweight.  And the legions of people he’s helped are positive advocates for Lance and his brand.  Right now, they are buoying his brand in the rough surf of this current crisis.   They are buying him a little time in this current crisis.

Barry Bonds – a contrasting case

The polar opposite of Lance Armstrong is Barry Bonds, who was considered to be one of the best baseball players in the history of the game, until his use of steroids and implication in the Balco scandal.  A famously sullen player who  (unlike Armstrong) annoyed sports reporters by refusing to give interviews, Bonds curried no favor with fans, except through is play.  When the news of his steroid use broke, he was widely reviled by media and fans alike.  The teams he played for haven’t retired his number, and he’s fallen from grace, and into obscurity.    Bonds created no insulating layer of goodwill and as a result enjoyed little public support.

What’s next for Lance, and Livestrong?

From a PR standpoint, the question of what Lance should do next is interesting.  His former teammates, in their testimony to the USADA took responsibility for their actions, offered apologies and committed to riding clean (something many have been doing now for years.)  By and large, cycling has cleaned up its game significantly.

All this puts Lance in a tight spot.  He’s vociferously denied that he doped while racing.  An about-face now will be difficult.  But it’s probably the right thing for Lance to do, from the standpoint of his personal reputation, and the longevity of the Livestrong foundation.  The foundation brand is inextricably linked with Lance Armstrong.  One could argue that coming clean and doing all he can to repair his name is part of his fiduciary duty as Livestrong’s chairman of the board.

So, as both a fan of cycling and from the PR standpoint, my advice to Lance is simple.  Own up.  Be human.  Admit your failures, foibles and mistakes.   Transparency is strong medicine – it’s difficult to swallow, but it is a potent remedy.  hrow support behind the clean cycling and anti-bullying movements, and double down on your commitment to Livestrong.  Do these things quickly, and change the public narrative.  The opportunity to salvage reputation is fleeting, but it’s there.

That’s my advice to Lance.  If you were his PR counsel, what course would you chart?

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

Image courtesy of Flickr user AngusKingston.

The cornerstone of managing a brand’s online reputation is active listening.   Our free white paper can help you get started: Active Listening: The Key to Relevance & PR Results.

Small Business Communciators Monitor Online Conversation With Multiple Channels

Anyone who has implemented a plan for monitoring online conversations and social media mentions knows how tough tracking all these discussions can be fore even the most ambitious and well-intentioned communicator.

That’s why findings from a survey conducted by PR Newswire and PR News aren’t terribly surprising.   Fewer than 40% of small business communicators monitor conversations daily, despite the speed with which conversations and rumors can take hold  online.    The good news is that only 3% of communicators reported that they don’t do any monitoring.  Another 18% indicated they monitor conversations weekly.

One reason why the majority of communicators aren’t listening on a daily basis likely stems from the simple fact that many people find themselves relying upon multiple channels in order to keep tabs of key social networks and online groups.

The the survey found that the topics monitored were roughly even, distributed between monitoring for the brand, the industry and (to a slightly lesser degree) competitors.

The Small Biz PR Report covered the survey comprehensively in the article titled 37.7% of Communicators Monitor Conversations Throughout Each Day.

PR Newswire is conducting another survey , this time on the topic of content marketing.  Your participation is invited!  Take the content marketing survey.

We know that monitoring social, online and traditional media can be hard.  PR Newswire’s new Agility platform puts monitoring different channels in one place.   Monitor your media, interact with your audience, identify media & influencers and distribute your content – all in one place.  Learn more about the Agility Influencer Engagement Platform.

Dear Gracie: Tips and Tricks for Interpreting Polls

Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Gracie,

With elections approaching, I’ve seen a lot of polls in the news recently. How do we know if the polls are accurate or biased?

Puzzled by Polls


Dear Puzzled by Polls,

Three ProfNet experts provide some insight:

What You Need to Understand About Polls

“Creating and fielding a poll is not something that just anyone can do at the drop of a hat,” says Jason Reineke, associate director of the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Poll, which is a statewide, biannual poll of Tennesseans; as well as the university’s assistant professor of journalism.

“It is both an art and a science, and the people who do it well usually have extensive training and expertise,” continues Reineke. “Like a journalist, lawyer or medical doctor, being a pollster is a profession.”

Polls are snapshots in time and not predictive tools, explains David Schultz, law and graduate school professor at Hamline University’s School of Law, and editor of the Journal of Public Affairs Education. For example, polls conducted today about the presidential elections are not necessarily indicative of what will happen in November.

“A common problem with political polls is that they are often fielded by one party to support its agenda,” adds Bob Clark, president of 24K Marketing.

Some polls are better than others, but the value of a poll can be better determined by the goals that it was designed to address, rather than one-size-fits-all rules, says Reineke. “Nonetheless, there are some standards that can be applied across most polls.”


Pollsters should freely and honestly report information about the poll’s funding, affiliation, methodology, data and analysis, explains Reineke.

“If the source of a poll can’t or won’t tell you how they sampled respondents, how they interviewed them, what the questions and response options were, what the response rate was, or other details about the poll, then the results should be taken with a commensurate grain of salt,” he advises.

Also, be skeptical of a poll if it was designed and conducted by someone without recognized credentials, experience and reputation, says Reineke. Just you’d be skeptical about a doctor without a degree or a journalist without any bylines.

Reineke suggests checking out the website of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). “If a pollster is not a member of AAPOR, or is dismissive of the organization — or worse yet has never heard it of — that should be cause for concern.”

Poll Questions

One indicator of bias in surveys are leading questions, says Clark. For example: Are you better off now under the Obama administration than you were four years ago?

This question is biased because it ties Obama to the issue, says Clark.

“A poll is only as good as the questions asked,” agrees Reineke. Questions should not encourage or discourage respondents to provide a particular response over others, and should only ask about one thing at a time.

Conversely, answers to questions should not include biased or politically charged words, says Clark. For example, phrases like “tax breaks for the rich” (instead of “tax reduction/reform“), “Obamacare” (rather than “healthcare reform“) and “War on Terrorism” (instead of “War in Afghanistan“) are all political labels with divisive meanings.

“Answers to questions that include these terms are more likely to be used by one party to validate their agendas,” Clark explains. Thus, this is not a projectable measurement of public sentiment on issues.

Reineke also suggests considering these three guidelines regarding poll answers:

  • Response options should be exhaustive, meaning that any possible response is represented by a response option.
  • Response options should be mutually exclusive, meaning that participants will need one and only one response to indicate their answer.
  • Pollsters, and consumers of their results, should also pay attention to potential order effects, meaning the ways in which a previous question, or a participant’s response to it, might affect interpretation or response to following questions.

Population Sampling

“Polls work by contacting a sample of the population of interest,” says Reineke. That sample should be representative, meaning it should have the same proportion of all important characteristics as the population.

Representative samples are often achieved through random sampling, which means every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected, he says. “Pollsters should be prepared to explain how their sampling is random if they claim it is so.”

“In cases where sampling is not random, pollsters should be able to explain how their sample is representative of the population, and provide appropriate cautions about the extension of results to groups who were not adequately represented in the sample,” continues Reineke.

Population Size

“The size required for a random sample to be representative of the population in question is dependent on the size of the population,” says Reineke. “The larger the sample, the smaller the margin of error.”

In the simplest terms, “margin of error” is a statistic that shows how well the selected sample predicts things about the entire population.

Look at margins of errors when evaluating polls, suggests Schultz. “I would say any poll with margins of errors greater than +/- 4 are meaningless, since that means the results could be off by as much as eight points.”

Interestingly, there is not much difference between the margin of error for a sample of 5,000 Americans vs. a sample of a million Americans, says Reineke. However, there is a significant difference in margin of error for a sample of 500 Americans vs. 2,500 Americans.

Statistical formulas aside, as a rule of thumb, you should look for a sample between 500 or 1,000 for state polls; and 1,000 or 2,000 for national polls, says Reineke.

“For presidential polls, I am suspect of any poll with survey samples of much less than 1,000 people,” agrees Schultz. “They probably need about 1,200 to 1,500 people to be accurate, especially if one wants to tap into swing voters or the views of particular subgroups.”

Also, ignore any poll that does not have a confidence level of at least 95 percent, says Schultz. Some polls have confidence levels of only 90 percent, which means they are only 90 percent confident that responses were within their margin of error. In other words, 10 percent of the time they are not sure if sample answers were indicative of the true population (not good).

Furthermore, polls are only as good as the underlying assumptions that go into them, continues Schultz. For example, a poll that lists 50 percent of those who responded as Democrats is skewed in terms of over-representing Democrats.

That’s why samples are sometimes weighted to better represent the population of interest, says Reineke. For example, if African-American males ages 18-35 are 1 percent of the sample, but 2 percent of the population, a pollster might mathematically adjust the sample so that responses of individuals in that demographic actually count as two responses each, thus better reflecting the population.

Regardless, pollsters should report their sample size and their margin of error, and provide information about how they sampled so that others can evaluate their claims and methods, Reineke stresses.


Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Dear Gracie: The Social Media ROI Debate

Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to

Dear Gracie,

I’m curious to hear social media experts take on this ROI issue. How can we prove the value of social media without quantifiable proof? What can I say to clients who want to see evidence of their influence on social media?

Socially Stunted


Dear Socially Stunted,

Four ProfNet experts weigh in on this much debated topic:

Why Social Media ROI Cannot Be Clearly Defined

Traditionally, return on investment (ROI) is the ratio of money gained or lost, whether that’s in terms of profit, interest or something else.

“Normally, ROI is a simple numbers game,” says Ari Zoldan, CEO of Quantum Networks. If the investment has negative ROI, or if there are other opportunities to producer higher ROI, then the business stops investing. If the investment has positive ROI, then the business continues investing.

“So why doesn’t social media ROI follow that same formula?” ponders Zoldan.

“The reason is that social media ROI cannot be determined by a simple equation, because it is not measured in monetary profit, but rather in enhanced or broadened relationships with consumers.” And those types of “returns” can take months, or even years, to build and sustain, says Zoldan.

Furthermore, there is no clear endpoint in social media ROI, Zoldan continues. For example, if you own a company and are deciding whether or not to undertake an advertising campaign, you invest a certain amount, and once the money is used up, you decide whether or not the ROI makes the investment worth continuing. This strategy simply does not apply to social media ROI, because it’s not about creating profit in a literal sense, he says.

On the other hand, creating compelling social media content is similar in some ways to creating a billboard or having a placement in The Wall Street Journal, says Gina Bericchia, public affairs and media relations coordinator at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s hard to draw the exact relationship between placing an ad and an increase of interactions with consumers, but we make the leap that one thing caused the other.”

Social media ROI is confusing because each type of professional is trying to apply it to a metric that they understand, explains Alex Nicholson, director of new media at Cone Communications, a PR and marketing agency in Boston. For example, for a PR person, ROI is based on engagement, but for an advertiser, ROI is based on clicks; and for a brand manager, ROI is based on sales. In other words, the “returns” are conflicting, says Nicholson.

The cherry on top of the social media ROI conundrum is that each social media platform offers different data on users, continues Nicholson. “Engagement and clicks look totally different from one platform to another.” For example, a tweet does not equal a ‘like.’

But there should be some way to measure whether or not a company is meeting its business goals, says Berrichia. “Brands that devote time to providing good customer service and using social media to meet their business goals will be the companies who are successful using these tools and successful in ROI,” she says. “In other words, you can’t just create a Facebook page because everyone else is doing it. You have to have a clear objective.”

Nicholson concurs that it’s essential to understand what success and failure looks ahead of time, even before determining the social media strategy. Establish what you need from the beginning, even if its just media coverage, and make sure the vehicles to track those goals are in place.

How to Measure the Impact of Social Media

“The ‘profit’ in social media ROI is enhanced relationships with users and consumers, and succeeding in branding yourself, your product or your company in an attractive way that will inspire users to figuratively — and hopefully literally at some point — ‘invest’ themselves in your site, wares, etc.” explains Zoldan.

Social media ROI is not a one-step, limited-time-only operation; it requires a great amount of effort and energy to get consumers to like — and “like” — you, says Zoldan. “There may be eventual, indirect profit down the road.”

To gauge success, consider how many followers you have acquired and how invested those followers are in your company’s online space, says Zoldan. Think about quality vs. quantity: having five followers who comment on every piece that’s posted is as equally bad as having 5,000 followers who only check in once every three months for five minutes. “The goal is to gain a large but also consistent following,” he says.

“Both numbers and anecdotal evidence are valid ways to establish a case for social business,” says Bericchia. If your client asks for hard-and-fast ROI numbers, talk about recent increases in engagement. Even if there hasn’t been a huge boost in number of followers, consider how many followers are talking about the brand.

Goals can be set in terms of audience growth, engagement levels, shares, clicks, Web traffic, coupon redemption, sales and more, suggests Nicholson. But ultimately, goals and measurement will be dictated by the nature of the business.

On Facebook specifically, “virality” helps measure the people who have created a story from your page’s post based on the number of people who have viewed it, adds Bericchia.

“Sentiment is important,” she continues. Monitor profiles to see if people are responding to their experience with the brand in a positive or negative way.

“Companies who experience the most success with social media will approach the market from a unique perspective,” says Zoldan. That is, they will “flavor” their brand in a way that is different from everything else in the virtual world.

There is no single “right way” to measure social media success, says Bericchia. Whether you’re measuring engagement or the number or products sold, it’s important to think about what the brand does well and use social media to maximize that.

For example, Bericchia continues, when someone says Zappos has a great social media presence, it’s really because they have exceptional customer service. “They maximize their opportunities by using social media to achieve their goal of providing outstanding customer service using innovative tools,” she explains.

“Companies that ‘get’ social media are doing it seamlessly as part of their marketing mix,” says Nicholson. “They know their consumer and they are activating in ways that feel natural and authentic to the brand across digital and traditional channels.”

Alternative POV: Why the Social Media ROI Conversation Is Pointless

Rob Frankel — branding expert, author and speaker, and founder of i-legions and — says in his blog post “The Business of Social Media” that social networks should be used for “socially oriented issues,” but not “business purposes.”

“Have we drifted so far from the purpose of business — making money — that entire campaigns can revolve around efforts which have no direct relationship to revenue generation?” he muses.

“For my money, social media is nice, but no big thing, really,” Frankel explains. “It’s just doing what people have always done, except now they can do it faster because of technology.” That is, before social media, people still found out about news and gossip.

“If raising awareness for your cause is your thing, social media might be the right tool for you,” says Frankel. Yes, social media links connects people, “but it’s a major mistake to assume linkage of people translates into actions of people,” he continues.

Spending a lot of time and resources on social media just to get a million “likes” on your brand’s Facebook page doesn’t add anything to the bottom line, and can therefore be a huge waste of money and effort, he says.

“It’s flattering to get 15 million views on YouTube, but until and unless you can convert those hits to sales, what’s the point?” he wonders. Concentrate on socially oriented issues on social media — not business issues.

What’s your take?


Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Dear Gracie is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.