Communications audits: Media Analysis



Last week I provided guidelines for assessing the communications that you control. But that’s only half of the story–especially in today’s conversational Web 2.0 environment.

This week, attention turns to what the media is saying about you, and next week—what the Web is saying about you, and what your peers and competitors are up to.

Media Analysis

You all know your local media outlets, and you should be continuously tracking coverage of your organization and issue in them through Google alerts. But for this exercise, collect all the major coverage you’ve had in the past year—online and in print. (If possible, make this exercise an annual one so you can track trends over time.)

Don’t just read through the coverage, create a spreadsheet and answer the questions below for each story. There are two ways to approach this: 1) start with the media that you most wanted coverage by and work down to the media that covered you that you didn’t aim for, or, 2) start by tracking the coverage generated by your specific media relations efforts/news releases and work down to coverage that you didn’t generate yourselves. Both of those collection methods will yield insights.

For each story:

  • Where did it appear? (name of specific medium plus whether it was print, electronic, or online)
  • What date did it run?
  • Who wrote or produced it? Do you have any kind of relationship with that person?
  • Was it long, medium, or short?
  • Did it feature a photo, or a side bar?
  • Was is positive or negative about your organization or its work?
  • Did it include a quote from your organization? Who was quoted?
  • What was the main message about your organization that came through? (state this message in one simple sentence)
  • Was that the main message you wanted to come through? If not, what was the message you were aiming for?
  • What was the genesis of the story? Your news release, a call to a reporter, etc.
  • Were any parts of your news release repeated in the story?
  • Was the issue framed in the way your organization is framing it? Did media use any of the same language you are using in your frame?
  • Was there any measurable ROI for each of your major media pushes, e.g. attendance spikes at media-promoted events, a sharp increase in website hits from a media article, a rise in donations following a media feature, etc. Always try to track tangible results for your organization during and after a media push.

Glean trends and insights

Now, look over the spreadsheet for insights into how effectively you met your media relations objectives.

  • Are there any reporters writing about your issue, especially on a regular basis, that you haven’t built a relationship with? If so—start a relationship now, when you aren’t pushing a story. These relationships are as much about helping reporters/bloggers as they are about getting a story.
  • What was the biggest source of coverage—your news releases? your phone calls? other kinds of media networking you did? partners’ media relations? etc.  (If the biggest source wasn’t your organization, think about the implications of that.)
  • How does the coverage match with your strategic communication media goals? (e.g., If you’re trying for big hits every quarter—did you achieve that? If you’re trying to up your coverage in one particular media outlet—did you achieve that?)
  • Are there any media “holes” that you need to focus on: media popular with your key audiences that aren’t covering you at all.
  • Did your photos end up being used? (If not, consider why that may be. Are they of high enough quality? Are they compelling and relevant? Do they include human beings, especially faces? Do they tell a story?)
  • What’s the ratio of negative to positive stories? If there were negative stories you think were unfair and inaccurate, try to analyze what happened and consider how you can improve your credibility with those reporters.
  • Is there a recurring negative message or meme out there about your organization or work or issue you need to be aware of and try to correct? Is there a recurring positive message you’d like to reinforce?
  • Are the positive messages that appeared actually the most important messages you would want people to hear about your organization and its work? If not, you need to work on your message platform so you’re repeating the most important positive messages every chance you get.
  • Who is most often interviewed from your organization by the media? Does that person do a great job every time, or could they profit from media training?
  • Is your frame is gaining traction?  Are your language and metaphors being used by the media.
  • Were the correlations between media channels and ROI what you wanted and expected? e.g., did smaller, niche media deliver more than mass media? did online perform better than print? did TV disappoint?
  • Does the media seem more interested in some topics than others? Ask yourself why that might be and how you can use that knowledge.

You may even want to write a little summary of the image of your organization as it’s portrayed in last year’s coverage to clarify what you need to focus on changing. This whole analysis gives you a rich context to start planning the media relations component of your next strategic plan.

If you have additional ideas for things to watch for in a media coverage analysis, please add them below!



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