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Listening & Monitoring

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Listening & Monitoring,

Reality Check: You Don’t Get to Set the Topic

[draft chapter excerpted from Strategic Social Media, due out in 2012 from Routledge]

Reality check. People are having conversations every day about your organization and they have been for a long time. Despite these conversations occurring practically under your nose, prior to social media, hearing them wasn’t easy even for the most vigilant organizations. Maybe a customer complaint here, or a comment in the comment box there, a focus group or survey every couple of years communication managers could get glimpses into what audiences were thinking.

Using the info gleaned, the organization could communicate with its audiences but the communication channels were traditionally “one way” – brochures, media relations, websites, events, etc. – and focused on the topic that the organization wanted to talk about.

Fortunately for modern day communicators, we have the ability to easily, and continuously, listen and monitor. You can listen in on those conversations that people are having every day about your organization, its products and services, and even more significantly, the lives that those audiences live, the communities they participate in and how your organization can be a part.

Listening has two aspects: the first – understanding the big picture (what are you listening for) and the second relates to the specific technology or the tools that you use (how you listen).

We’ll start with the big picture. In public relations, we’re often responsible for “issues management” and “environmental scanning.” Through these functions, we can help organizations understand what’s on the horizon and what they need to pay attention to for the sake of preparedness and response. When launching a social media listening and monitoring strategy, the same principles apply, but, as you might imagine, the tools differ.

David Alston from Radian6 wrote a blog post in 2008 outlining the top 10 things an organization should listen for. Besides being a great read, the post provides a useful start when thinking about your approach to listening.

Alston suggests listening for each of the following (see the post for a full description of each): the complaint, the compliment, the expressed need, the competitor, the crowd, the influencer, the crisis, the return on investment, the audit, the thread.

The top ten list can open your mind to the breadth and depth that you must think about when starting to listen and monitor. But let’s take it a step further. In an effort to help you conceptualize listening and monitoring, we developed this chart that depicts the “three levels of listening.”

 

 

I created this chart when I was setting up a dashboard for a small start-up company. It captured what I was trying to explain and it provided some shared vocabulary with the client as well as a meaningful structure.

Level 1: At the center of the chart is your organization. Level 1 listening is focused on those terms and keywords that are most closely related to your organization.

Level 2: Level 2, as the chart implies, is slightly more broad and focused on keywords and phrases related to your market and your industry, but not necessary specifically about your organization.

Level 3: Level 3 lives another concentric ring out from the center and focuses on those topics and issues related to the lifestyles and interests of your audience, but probably not specific to your industry or market. Some of the most valuable insights about the “topics” that your audiences are interested in live in Level 3.

We could even combine Lebrun’s top 10 list with the three levels of listening and come up with something like this (note: they don’t all fit perfectly and some overlap).

Level 1: the complaint, the compliment, the crisis, the ROI, the audit, the thread

Level 2: the expressed need, the competitor, the crowd, the influencer, the crisis, the audit, the thread

Level 3: the crowd, the influencer, the crisis, the thread

(you can see more about how to apply this chart in this post about “what to listen for.”)

This basic categorization works to establish a listening and monitoring strategy that helped find the pulse of the audience for your market or industry – what are they thinking about, talking about and interested in. I’ve used it over and over and over for organizations I work with.

To create a listening and monitoring strategy that’s broad enough to be useful, you must think beyond Level 1. If you don’t, you’ll miss much of the conversation. People aren’t necessarily talking about YOU. Certainly if they are, you need to know. But the conversations you must tune into to understand the change in topic are much broader.

Moving beyond Level 1 can be challenging. We “get” Level 1. As communicators we instinctively understand that we need to know if and when conversations about our brands occur online. That’s easy. It’s harder to understand why (and how) to listen and monitor more broadly.

Getting to Levels 2 and 3 takes knowing your organization – and its industry – inside and out. It also takes some creativity, lots of trial and error and patience. But if you don’t get there, you’re doing little more than customer service (which is important) and missing the opportunity to use social media to manage issues, track trends and participate in conversations and communities in a meaningful way.

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Guest Post, Listening & Monitoring, Media Relations, Professional Advice,

Guest Post: Simple Yet Savvy PR – Disciplined News Monitoring

This is a guest post from Jamie Szwiec, a PR colleague I connected with on Twitter. More about Jamie at the bottom of the post.

I can remember when I went client-side and my boss gave me the task of personally monitoring the news, daily, through Google news alerts and RSS feeds.

Something along the lines of … “Spend an hour a day, first thing. I’m not talking about those third-party monitors that charge an arm and a leg. Do it diligently, for competitive analysis, tracking trends and sharing ideas with the team. Most importantly, media relations.”

The internal dialogue in my head was along the lines of … “Dude, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Fine, I’m client-side and don’t have to worry about the lingering 0.25’s and billing my time now.”

At first, it was daunting. More than a dozen Google alerts to sift through every morning followed by 30-plus relevant publications in the RSS reader.

After about a month, I got it down to an hour worth of time. The internal marketing folks loved it.

And, in a short amount of time, the sea of headlines, news alerts and RSS began to generate tangible and intangible results, including:

  • Breakthrough with reporters – I’m sure many savvy media relations people can attest: it’s an awesome thing when you email a reporter with their recent story in the subject line, info and idea(s) for future reference.
  • Data – Pulled right from the news, saving time to dig up facts later and giving us hooks to support pitches. Some times, a single piece of data can hold a newsworthy angle together.
  • Better writing – Reading all that news, over time, will make you a better writer. As a PR pro, it will gradually show up in your work when you start to notice you’re writing like a reporter. And, it will give you plenty of story ideas. If a story has worked nationally, why not tie it to a client locally as well.
  • Media list building – Done right. Done organically.

The “I don’t have time to this everyday” dialogue in my head was turned off.

I quickly realized it was one thing to monitor the news on an as needed basis. But a whole different ballpark to do it with discipline.

Going agency-side again nearly two years ago, the practice continued. Spreading the news across industry pubs for the agency and keywords for PR clients. The benefits are still endless. From breaking the ice with national reporters to gathering story ideas for local media to establishing an organizational RSS feed and gathering solid Twitter material.

In more than five years, Jamie Szwiec has ventured with organizations across industries to deliver PR solutions and quality editorial coverage on mainstream Evening News with Katie Couric, the pages of newsstand magazines such as Cosmopolitan and People, the front of target daily newspapers, the cover of client wish list publications, online with major media outlets and on-air with 24-hour cable news. He currently lives and works in Milwaukee, Wis. You can learn more about Jamie at his site: jamiePRszwiec.com.

Listening & Monitoring, Social Media,

Summer Resolution #1: Start Reading, Listening

If you’re thinking about getting started in social media and have designated “this summer” as a chance to do so, the first thing you should do is start reading. Find 10 or 20 (or more) blogs that cover areas of public relations, marketing and social media that you’re interested in and start reading.

Not sure how to begin? Two PR agencies (and me) have created tools to get you started.

Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence’s Daily Influence: Powered by Netvibes (also my feed reader of choice), Daily Influence has tabs for categories in advertising, public relations and social media and subscribes to a lot of the most influential blogs in each. You can create an account on Netvibes and customize your page based on Daily Influence. Keep what you like, delete what you don’t and add in your own.

MWW Group’s M.Insight is a mobile app, which rules. You can get it on the iPhone, Blackberry and phones with Windows Mobile. Again, the application is a starter pack of the best blogs to read – and now in an on-the-go variety. The application is free (yay, free!) and is also customizable. I have it on my iPhone and really like it. It’s a good mix of stuff, most of which I subscribe to and the application is quite intuitive.


Finally, I’ve taken my social media, PR and PR educator tabs and created a public site. It works a lot like the Ogilvy Daily Influence because it’s on Netvibes, too. Compare all three recommendations here and you’ll get a very full list of PR and social media blogs that are worth reading.


Create a habit of checking your feed reader regularly (make it your home page!) and you’ll be on your way! Questions? Just ask!

For those of you who are vets at this stuff, leave your tips!

Listening & Monitoring,

Are You Listening?


Participating in the blogosphere and social media requires that you have an ear to the ground. But where do you start?

Active listening is the first step to establishing a blogging or social media strategy (or any communication strategy for that matter…). As you think about blogging for a class or for a client or for your company, start with the basics.

Some resources:
Ogilvy Blog Feeds: A collection of some of the most influential blog feeds out there, from one of the most influential agencies.

Constantin Basturea: Blogger & PR Guru with Converseon has a variety of PR-related social media projects. My favorites: PR Blogs (a massive 600+ feed list of the PR blogs being published), The New PR Wiki (a collective knowledge base and collaboration tool) and his Google Co-Op project (a Google search that searches PR-related blogs, sites and wikis).

When you find a great blog like Communication Overtones or Spare Change, spend some time checking out the blogs on the author’s blogroll.

Of course, if you’re looking for something industry specific, give Technorati a go, too.

What resources did you find useful as you began blogging?

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