PR Tracking: How Smart Agencies Use Mention to Improve Campaigns

Patrick Whatman
Patrick Whatman

Every PR professional is looking for an edge. The space is competitive, and clients demand too much more and more. You need to find ways to keep them happy without forcing yourself to work 18-hour days.

That's where media monitoring tools like Mention become incredibly valuable.

PR and media monitoring go hand-in-hand. Whether it's tracking existing campaigns, finding new publications talking about your brands, or tracking down new influencers to connect with.

Being able to do all this quickly and easily, and without learning a whole suite of new tools, is gold.

Here's how a few clever PR professionals deliver more on their campaigns thanks to Mention.

public relations tools, tracking, monitoring

Tracking PR campaigns

Once your press releases have been sent and you've exhausted your contacts list, it's time to see whether your efforts have paid off. This means noting down every piece of coverage won, however long and boring that job can be.

Monitoring tools like Mention do this tracking for you. They keep a clear record of every online mention - that's the whole point! - especially those on major news sites and blogs.

And as an added bonus, Mention lets you track social media mentions too. So not only can you easily monitor the big outlets (NYT, HuffPo, etc), but you'll know that your campaign received 10,000 tweets, 500 Facebook comments, as well as reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

In the old days, you probably didn't care too much about these other sources. But social media is king, and review sites are the new Yellow Pages. So whether or not these are chief goals for your campaigns, they're still important.

Monitor campaigns on major sites

Most PR campaigns start with a similar goal: get your press release (or brand name) mentioned as often as possible. And the bigger the outlets, the better.

The team at OpenSignal uses Mention to see where their stories have picked up. And they pay particular attention to bigger sites online.

"We see if an article has been published in one of our focus countries and if that article is in the top 100 of Alexa. We go to Mention, go country by country, see all the articles, and check the top ones."

This process is actually easier than it sounds. Mention lets you filter pages by country, language, and even influence. So if you only care about those big blogs and news sites, it's simple to isolate them.

"We compare the Mention influence score with the Alexa rank, and they re usually very consistent. So Mention is useful to drill down on our KPIs."

Get the global picture based on more sources

As said above, we care about more than just the most prestigious papers these days. Smaller blogs and review sites hold a lot of sway. Plus there's a ton of social media to consider.

If your job is to manage and improve a brand's reputation online, then how their campaigns are received is immensely important. You need the full picture.

Location-based dating app Happn has its PR team tracking the brand name all over the world. "Our PR team uses Mention to track media coverage. We’re running PR in a lot of different countries, so we need an international tool."

The same is true for almost any online business. If customers and journalists could be talking about you somewhere, you need to know what they're saying.

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"We are a fast-growing, worldwide company that needs to be able to monitor what people say about our brand online, everywhere on the planet. Mention allows us to have a great overview of what these conversations are.

Saving time on press clippings and reporting

Every agency struggles with reporting. That's true whether you offer old-school print advertising or new-fangled tactics like SEO and PPC. No matter how you prepare them, reports take time and energy you'd rather spend elsewhere.

But good reporting is also absolutely essential - especially if you want to keep your clients around for more than one campaign. You need to prove the value of your efforts.

It's a conundrum: the more time you spend preparing reports, the less time you have for strategy and creative output. But without good reporting, it's hard to prove that you're worth your clients' time and money.

The goal is to keep reporting to a minimum, while still keeping clients and colleagues in the loop.

It's true for full-scale PR agencies...

For Calvert Street Group, a communications firm in Nashville, Tennessee, an easy way to cut down on reporting time was to automate clippings. Their old, manual process was proving too big a burden.

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"It was laborious," says Digital Content Manager Lex Bearden. "We would set aside 10-15% of a person’s week. We were either going through a clip service, or just having folks glued to their computers, hitting refresh."

Now, Calvert Street can commit their time and resources to more important tasks. "Mention has allowed us to focus more on the work, while having this robust information served up automatically to us."

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...and for smaller firms too

Larger agencies may have interns and junior employees who can dedicate time to press review. It's still an annoying use of time, but there's a structure in place to manage it.

For solo consultants and boutique firms, it's a whole different ball game. Smaller firms definitely don't have time to waste.

The simple solution is to give clients direct access to their mentions, whether they're in major news articles, blogs, or social media. That's how Hope Alcocer of Wonder Woman Media keeps clients in the loop.

"Mention lets me showcase my progress directly. I’ll let them log in to their Mention and take a look at where they're being talked about, or what was being posted when.'"

Not only is this more efficient than building reports from scratch, it lets clients enjoy more control over their brand name. And it makes your work feel even more legitimate.

"I can tell them, ‘hey I dispersed your social media post or I had a guest blogger do a write-up about your business.’ I can tell them that, but the proof is in the results."

In the client pitch process

The only thing that might be worse than preparing reports is the arduous process of finding new clients. On the one hand it's exciting - the chance to land a big client is exciting for any business owner.

But it's also stressful, time-consuming, and there's no guarantee you'll leave with new business. So it's worth doing a good job.

Mention can't guarantee you'll nail the big pitch. But it can help you be better prepared. Simply track mentions for a few days before the first meeting, and you walk in with a mountain of detailed insights into your next client.

Tracking mentions shows you:

  • Where the brand is being mentioned currently
  • How it compares with competitors and similar companies
  • Opportunities to expand reach, whether on social media or the web
  • What customers think of the brand and its products

You can use all this information to build a thorough pitch, full of competitive benchmarks and audience insights.

Demonstrating the importance of social listening and PR

We said it above: social media is now a key focus for PR professionals. Even if your ultimate goal is major media placement, your clients can learn so much from social conversations. Only, many of them don't get that yet.

McCann brings these conversations into pitch meetings, to show their clients what they stand to gain. “We create projects and examples of how social listening can help brands develop insights that can improve their strategies.”

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They tailor these pitches to companies by creating individual Mention alerts for each prospect. “They give us specific problems they’re having, to see how we could try to solve those. We ask them for a specific case, so that we can demonstrate the deliverables that we will give them once we are hired. It’s one of our pitch tactics.”

“Mention has been very helpful for getting new clients into the business.”

Proving the value of good PR (and the risks of neglecting it)

If you're lucky, you'll also have specific social media and blog comments to fuel your pitch. That's how José Delgado of Domino Internet approaches prospects.

"We did one of these pre-meeting studies for a client that wanted to know how good the information from Mention would be. So we analyzed them against a list of sensitive words like 'bad,' 'broken,' 'rotten,' etc. After an hour, we found a tweet from a customer saying that he had found a pigeon feather inside a can of tuna. This client is a food manufacturer, so we opened our presentation with that. We said 'this is what Mention is for.'"

"They didn't want to see anything else." The client signed right away.

"90% it was Mention, and 10% is was a good idea from us. But it was breathtaking. I could show them that this is how the world works now. People don't call your 1800 number. They don't send an email. They post an image with a hashtag for the big news channels and massive media companies."

Offer new services

For many agencies - especially the boutiques - monitoring tools let them offer new services that may not have always been in their expertise. Tools like Mention are simple to use, and many agencies offer to set up and manage an account as part of their PR process.

This means that, rather than offering simple social media management or journalist outreach, PR professionals can now provide full reputation management services without needing to learn new skills.

And this not only means new clients, but also bigger clients. That's the experience for Domino Internet.

"It's helping us to open many doors that we never had access to. Huge companies. As a tiny agency with three people, we were only working with small companies. To be honest, I didn't expect to get calls from the companies we're getting calls from. They're saying 'please come in and meet us next week.'"

Find influencers and new names to your contacts list

As a PR pro, your digital rolodex is your biggest asset. You work hard to maintain it, to build strong relationships, and to make new acquaintances whenever possible.

Another happy side effect of tracking your brands and campaigns is discovering power players that you'd otherwise never have heard of.

Build an influencer list

Key to every PR campaign is the list of publications and influencer you plan to contact. And if you're working with a new client, or perhaps exploring a new industry, this isn't as easy as opening your address book.

Mention lets you find writers and publications based on the stories they produce. It's as simple as creating an alert for specific keywords (around the brand or industry), then identifying the most useful authors.

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Find influencers already talking about the brand

Another quick PR win is to find people and publications already talking your clients, and bring them to the client's attention. Show that your press release or product launch has organically built an audience online.

Red Cup Agency uses this approach to help break in new start-ups and growing businesses. “We track all internet mentions using Mention. We can pinpoint the most influential voices speaking about you or your brand and go talk to them.”

Of course, it still requires your experience and skill to build a lasting relationship - so you're definitely still earning that retainer. But if important people are already talking about the brand, there's less friction and getting more positive coverage is an easy sell.

Flexible arrangements

We've looked at a lot of the benefits to using monitoring for your clients. But how does it work in practice? Do you manage everything yourself, or hand off the account and let clients take control?

The answer is: whatever works best for you.

Mention plans are highly flexible, created specifically for you and your clients' needs. So while there aren't clear rules around how you manage your account, here are three general models that our agencies tend to use:

1. You manage everything

If you're planning to offer complete reputation management services, or have a full-time retainer, this is probably the model for you. You'll be the account administrator, and while you can add whomever you like to join you, you'll be in charge of what goes on.

This is also perfect for agencies with multiple clients. You can add new alerts whenever you like, send automated reports to different clients, and use one Mention account to represent them all.

Note: You can also give limited access to different clients, so they only see the data relevant to them. But you have access to it all!

2. You coach the client, but they're in control

This is popular among agencies with a good working knowledge of Mention, but with clients who want to be more hands-on. You can offer to help them get set up and consult them when needed, but it's the client's account.

This is perfect if you only have a short-term arrangement with a client. They take an account with Mention directly, and you're just there to support.

3. You manage everything, but the client takes the contract with Mention

This is a bit of a mix of the two above approaches. If you're going to be consulting for awhile, but you don't want the financial responsibility for the account, this is perfect.

The client will take an account, and Mention will do everything to tailor it to their needs. But you'll still have hands-on, day-to-day involvement all throughout the process.

And if you eventually part ways with the client, you can leave them in Mention's safe hands without any admin.

Dedicated PR and media tracking for agencies

Hopefully you've got a clearer picture of how monitoring the web and social media with Mention will help you serve your clients better.

You'll be able to:

  • Track PR campaigns automatically
  • Create reports and press review lists with ease
  • Build your contacts list and find people already talking about your clients
  • Sign new (bigger) clients

Whether you choose to manage everything yourself or empower the client to take control of their own brand, Mention makes all of the above incredibly simple.

And most importantly, it gives you more time to do the work you actually want to do!

public relations tools, tracking, monitoring

Patrick Whatman is Content Marketer at Mention. He lives in Paris, loves music, and writes his own brand of cultural criticism for fun. Tweet him @mrwhatman where he mainly talks digital marketing, American sports and New Zealand trivia.