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Monitoring the media to minimise the damage

FOR an increasing number of businesses, keeping up with the news is about much more than catching the six o’clock bulletin on television. These days, monitoring the news is about maintaining a strategic advantage over the opposition.

Businesses and government departments employ media monitoring services to scour the news for industry details and to maintain a clean corporate profile.

Although the two major news monitoring services in Perth provide slightly different services the media monitoring industry, at it’s heart, is driven by crisis management of negative press.

Rehame account manager Catherine Whittingham said the client list included a vast range of industries, from major government departments to small public relations firms.

“The way we work I make sure we know everything that is said about a client in the media and we can provide them with any sort of media item, from television segment on A Current Affair to something from talkback radio,” Ms Whittingham said.

Clients employ media monitoring services not just to keep abreast of the massive load of information churned out by the press every day, but also to ensure they are alerted of any negative sentiment in the press as it’s happening.

With mediums like talkback radio, being on the ball means a client can call up the station in question and intervene in a debate that has the potential to be damaging to the company profile.

“If something negative is said about a client on talkback radio they’ll often get on air, and (it’s) the same if there’s a positive issue they want to boost,” Ms Whittingham said.

For a growing number of businesses, media monitoring is vital as part of overall brand management and it’s a simple and effective way to keep abreast of public opinion. In an election year it’s vital for the political parties.

A simple call on talkback radio in the morning can spark a major crisis for a company which, unmanaged, can end up as the lead story on the nightly news.

More than anything, media monitoring plays a vital role in crisis management.

“The main reason for Rehame is negative press. If anything negative is said (in the electronic media) clients will know straight away and they can respond and not let it blow up,” Ms Whittingham said.

For the public relations industry, media monitoring services allow PR agencies to follow a public relations campaign through the press and analyse in real time how an issue plays out through the media.

“A lot of clients also use us for reports. We can inform clients how well they performed in the media and we have no bias because we can’t determine how well our client performs in the media,” Ms Whittingham said.

The other major media monitoring service in WA, Media Monitors, also screens press such as newspapers and magazines in addition to the electronic media.

Although its core business is to keep clients informed of any mention in the media, Media Monitors has broadened its services to include a range of media management solutions to help businesses manage the media cycle.

Media Monitors state manager Danielle Berdal said the business can provide a press release distribution service to clients and analyse sponsorship values.

“Sponsorship Information Services looks at the sponsorship value of television coverage. It looks at logos and how much air time a logo gets and where it has been positioned,” Ms Berdal said.

Media Monitors has just signed its first digital licence agreement, which will allow it to digitally deliver press cuttings to clients.

“Our clients are split between corporations, government agencies, public relations firms and a small percentage are not-for-profit organisations,” she said. “The different States have a different split. Obviously in WA we have a large number of mining companies.

“It is a labour-intensive business because information only has a short life. Our motto is to be informed to inform our clients.”

Again, for Media Monitors, talkback radio is a vital part of the public debate about issues and a vital link to public sentiment on difficult issues.

“With talkback it’s very issues driven and controversial. It can be negative and clients always want to take the positive side. Sometimes no news is good news,” Ms Berdal said.

And it’s not just the radio and television the monitors’ clients need to think about. The Internet is swarming with news sites and these are also monitored by both Rehame and Media Monitors to keep up to date with the word on the Web.

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