The audit you ought to do

The audit you ought to do

A free DIY kit for tracking media perceptions 

By Shane Schick

There is one kind of media interview in which no questions are submitted in advance, nothing is scheduled and no one is on message: when it is the media being interviewed by

PR professionals.

When we get called for a media audit – and lately we seem to be getting a number of them – you know that some agency shakeups are imminent. Usually we get these calls when one firm is preparing to bid for a rival’s client business, or when a client, frustrated by their lack of coverage (and/or market success) wants to be more proactive in their marketing and media relations strategies.

Some journalists are put off by media audits – they aren’t prepared to have flacks turn the tables on them after years of being at the other end of a tape recorder. If they haven’t been in the business very long, they might not be comfortable offering their opinion and feeling unqualified, somehow, to be writing about this industry. I generally don’t mind it, provided I’m not required to offer the sort of detailed evaluation that market analysts offer to shareholders. Like many editors here at the IT Business Group, my main excuse for not participating is lack of time. 

Given how many PR people have helped me, I feel guilty when I can’t respond promptly. In the interim, I’m going to offer some general comments that may apply to future audits, based on an actual questionnaire that was recently e-mailed to me (with the client’s name removed, of course):

What are your thoughts on the flow of news and information from our client?  Is the volume too much, or not frequent enough?   

If your client is winning new customers who are willing to speak to the media, there’s no such thing as too much. If it’s a company appointment (other than a chief executive), it’s generally going to be deleted out of hand. Product releases may be useful, but only if sent to the right people. These change a lot in many news organizations, but it’s worth an agency’s time to find out who’s in charge of new product sections and reviews.

Some firms favour sending out their own e-mail newsletters with roundups of recent press releases. The idea, presumably, is to make it easier for us to process the latest news in one fell swoop, but for daily or even bi-weekly publications, the news may be too time-sensitive to be saved. If you’re sending out the releases as they are written AND a monthly roundup of the same material, it’s probably too much.

How about the quality of the news?  Is the information useful to you?

If we’ve written an article in response to something you’ve sent our way, it was useful to us. If nothing has happened – and if you’ve had people calling us for days on end in a follow up to no avail – it probably wasn’t. As a rule of thumb, releases trumpeting figures from IDC or Gartner that put your client at the top of a market quadrant aren’t really useful; we can get that information from them directly, and without the self-aggrandizing made-up quotes.

From a PR and communications perspective, is there something we can do better/more effectively to get you the information you and your readers want and need?

Yes. If you’re pitching to us, think like a CIO or an IT manager – you can get a sense of what’s important to them by reading our magazines (and not just scanning for your clients’ names). If you’re pitching to the Globe or the Post, think like an investor. Yes, this will probably mean tailoring unique pitches to different kinds of media outlets, but that could translate into more billable hours.

Where are our client’s strengths in the market?  Are we well positioned?  What are our weaknesses?

You know, I write an editorial almost every day where I make judgments on all sorts of companies and their strategies. Much of what I’ve written in the past, I no longer agree with. In other cases, I thought I was wrong, but decided my initial instincts were correct. That’s because I’m watching, I’m learning, and in covering this industry I am thinking out loud. That’s why I, and many others like me, shy away from giving your client’s a report card. Our coverage has already done that.

sschick@itbusiness.ca

Shane Schick is the editor of IT Business Pipeline.

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