As a PR professional, one of your major functions has always been to create meaningful messages on behalf of your company and its products/services, and then carefully monitor those messages in the market. In traditional PR, you would work through a third party endorser, such as the media, to deliver your message. Then, your favorite reading or clipping service would gather your editorial and share it via hard copy or an electronic format.
When PR 2.0 surfaced, there was a lot buzz about the “dangers” of brands communicating directly to consumers. Communications teams have little, if any, control over what’s being said in the blogosphere. However, if your brand is not joining in the conversations, then the conversations will simply surface about your company in the form of opinions, without a chance for you to engage and comment appropriately.
When brands decide to participate in social media, it’s a forward-thinking decision. As a communications professional, you should encourage valuable conversations with the confidence that PR 2.0 monitoring can track the threads of conversations and keep your communications team abreast of the positive and negative perceptions in the market.
The industry has made great strides to gather up content in the blogosphere, so that brands are able to track conversations surrounding their products and services. However, it’s up to those brands to decide what to do with the information and what resources they will designate to the monitoring process.
The Web universe is so sophisticated now that it requires you to go beyond the pure numbers. A great example is the deal that PR Newswire signed with Technorati, one of the leaders in blog tracking, to provide more complete monitoring for the company’s clients. Technorati provides PR Newswire’s customers with the ability to track online conversations triggered by news releases. Today, both B2C and B2B companies are realizing the importance of monitoring conversations and relying on blog monitoring to know how their brands are being perceived in the market.
I interviewed Mark Vangel, a research manager at Delahaye, and he shared some of the challenges and solutions with 2.0:
“It depends. There were times when we did daily reports. We’ve analyzed blogs or discussion forums for certain issues and for tone, and we’ve produced a report every day. That’s not always the case. In fact, that’s more for a crisis situation. In one instance, there was a rumor spreading about one of our clients, so they wanted daily information about where it appeared. For something like the long wait at Starbucks, it’s definitely communication they’d want to keep on the radar—weekly or monthly anyway. That obviously would be much too long a time to wait for customers who are monitoring blogs. We have self-service portals, as well, where clients can scan information themselves.
We have had clients who have acted online to clear up misinformation or point individuals to some background data. Offline changes, such as changing product features or company processes, often take longer. With the Starbucks example, the company can dispatch people to stores and key locations, and monitor the wait times. They can also survey the public, or place comment cards in their stores, although those might take a little too long to yield answers. If they’re wondering, “Is what I’m seeing in the blogs representative of what the public feels?” they can conduct a survey or other research methods. With awareness, there’s an opportunity for a company to fix the problem or to change a product or service to make it better. Without it, you might be blindsided as criticism grows.”
Of course, the question looms: how is monitoring going to change in the next ten years? As companies become more involved in monitoring and measurement, they will want more complex, technologically advanced products. These products must be able to deliver the data instantaneously. Lastly, because the accountability model in PR has changed over the years, having those 25 clips in a clip book isn’t good enough. We need monitoring that meets the challenges of a Web 2.0 world and, thankfully, today’s PR monitoring is changing with the times.