3 Steps for Creating Great Media Monitoring Reports
I think a media monitoring report is an intelligence product and its main purpose is to inform the decision-making processes at executive, operational, and even at tactical levels. Like most of the intelligence tools, media monitoring report should occupy a space at the “observe” phase of the strategy cycle. Therefore, it should provide information on both the landscape and the climate.
Climate is a very dynamic part of the system. Media Monitoring Report’s main purpose is to see the changes in climate. The shifts in the climate should be observed carefully – not just because they are the main dynamics in a system, but also the changes in the climate changes the landscape in the long term. The landscape is generally stable so it doesn’t change much and when it does it is not very rapid. But every now and then, there will be shifts. And when the landscape changes it creates huge impacts on everything. So being able to sense the changes in the landscape before they happen is crucially important. I know it from personal experience – an organisation I worked for suffered greatly because it missed some very little yet very important changes in climate and landscape.
Of course, to be able to inform on the decision making of the organisation, first, you should understand the business and be aware of the organisation’s strategy. Sometimes there is no real strategy to the organisation, then you should just lean on the business acumen. (But as a rule of thumb, if there is no real strategy in the organisation, I would advise getting the hell out of there as soon as you can.)
The above points are important to understand to create a strategic product. Let’s now dive into the 3-steps: “Purpose and Consumers”, “Preparation and Curation” and “Presentation and Delivery”. If you follow this framework, I do believe you can create a great media monitoring report.
Purpose and Consumers
Understanding the strategy and the business will help you answer very basic questions about our product’s audience, consumption and goal:
- Who is this report for?
- What does the product aim to achieve?
Both of these questions are equally important to answer for our product to be useful and successful. Generally, if we can answer the first question well, then the second question is easier to answer.
Let’s see some possible answers in our three defined levels of organisation: executive, operational and tactical.
For an executive-level product, the audience for the report is probably high management and heads of units. The use case for a media monitoring report at this level would be informing on mid- and long-term planning. I think at this layer, the product should focus on insights, radar and weak signals.
Insights: A brief, executive summary of the past term. Practically what you can deduce from the happenings around your industry, political sphere, geographical area etc. Describe how and maybe even why the climate and the landscape changed.
Radar: From your readings into the media, what are you expecting to happen in the next term. What happened in the past term, that would definitely affect the next one? This part should be as precise and as certain as possible. Weak Signals: This part is more like speculative fiction. This very important part should focus on the opinion pieces, quotes from policy-makers and gatekeepers and maybe even what you can gather from barometer-type survey results. What you foresee here might not come to pass, and should be marked as such, but should be definitely included as they might be so-called black swan events.
Since the executive team would not make steering decisions every now and then, depending on your organisation’s strategic terms, a quarterly, bi-annual or an annual product should be enough.
For an operational-level product, the audience is heads of units and some higher-grade individual contributors. But depending on your organisation, informing high management on operational level data might be helpful too. Again, depending on your organisation’s practices at this level, releasing this product every week or every other week would be reasonable. An operational-level media monitoring report should showcase pieces that are directly about products or services, supply-chain, resource-generation apparatus, human resources and maybe security. Items touching on these subjects could be presented on a headline plus short summary plus a link to the piece order in a roundup format.
A tactical-level product would change greatly depending on the operation. It might not be necessary at all but then again, it might be as well. I think at this layer daily roundup would be enough with just a one-sentence summary plus link to the piece. Anything that might have an effect on the daily movements or activities of the organisation should be included in this report. A report at tactical-level should be distributed to individual contributors and maybe the heads of units, again depending on your organisation.
These levels are what I would personally prefer but again your organisation might need reports on different levels. At that point, I’d advise going back to the original questions on the audiences and goals. Answering those couple of questions will guide the shaping of your end-product.
After understanding the product, we can start thinking about gathering and filtering mechanisms.
Preparation and Curation
After establishing the user of the product as well as the purpose, we can now decide on how to gather and filter the materials. The tools will not change per the level - I’d advise using the best you can access with the available budget. Going cheap won’t help you here. That said, don’t go after each new and shiny thing. Try tools out but decide and settle on one. And even if you don’t have the budget, simple Google Alerts would be enough for a bare-bones product.
For a good end-product, you need to cast a wide net. Your selected keywords will need to capture a good snapshot of the landscape and maybe the long-term patterns.
Start with your organisation: Put the company name with the miswritten and misspelt versions. Add the names of executive team and board members, maybe even other visible people.
Continue with the sector and industry-related: Not just what you are doing but also keywords from connected areas. Think your supply chain and go from there. Proceed with the geographic: Think about what kind of factors there are in the locations you operate, try to find keywords that would capture the pieces with that information. Don’t rule out the most basic: earthquakes, floods, wildfires, etc.
End with the policy-scape: Add the names of laws on and around the industry you operate in. Also the legal committee names as well as the names of the members. And if you are paranoid, add the NGOs and trade bodies that operate and lobby in the sector, and maybe even their spokesperson and high-level members.
Now that you have an exhaustive list of keywords, if you were through, you will be left with a lot of material to sort and filter each day. Unfortunately, for a quality product, the machines are not enough yet. That means a human has to go through the collected items, which is tedious and hard work. You can not just go ahead and share those hundreds of items with people and expect them to understand them.
No, you will need to refine them in a way that would include all the necessary information but no more information than necessary. It is a game you need to play and get better at. There is no silver bullet, no exact formula for this. It will change according to the landscape, the agents and will greatly depend on the organisation that you are working. The better you understand the business, the more you know about the decision making processes in the organisation, you will be able to create a better product.
My main bit of advice would be: Don’t filter out the material that is seemingly similar. Not all items have all the necessary information. Try to find the most exhaustive pieces on a single topic and, well, present them in an effective way.
Presentation and Delivery
Now, you will have to shape and present the material you have in a form that would make sense. We are trying to find a narrative in multiple data points, the order in the chaos.
As with all communications products, presentation and delivery are completely about the audience and their consumption habits. Since we already defined that, the form of presentation and delivery should be clear.
The most important thing here: every moment you pay here with your time to make it more concise and easier to grasp as a whole will save the organisation that many minutes times the number of recipients. Meaning, if you need to put an hour to make a bunch of items more understandable which then you sent to 10 people, amazing, you have just saved the organisation 10 hours. Good job! Depending on the consumption of your products, the best delivery mechanism might be a printed document, an e-mail or a bunch of slides or a Slack message. Just try to understand which kind of medium will make the most sense for the recipient and use it. The less the friction for them to consume, the better! If you can’t figure it out by yourself, go ahead and ask them.
Great media monitoring reports might help organisations immensely, even without they realize. To be able to create that great product:
- Start with understanding who will consume the product and how;
- Cast a wide net to collect the materials and use smart filters to classify;
- Present and deliver in a way that makes sense.
Just don’t forget, understanding how people work at different levels and how the decisions are made in the organisation helps immensely in all those steps.