Defensive Monitoring: How to Monitor What is Being Said About Your Company

In today’s world where news, good and bad, spreads like wildfire, what can communications professionals do to stay on top of what’s being said and quickly respond when they need to?

While there is no silver bullet, knowing what is being said about your company, organization or brand in real time is a critical first step to reputation management. But before you set up just any monitoring tool, you first need to determine what to monitor. Here are some suggestions:

  • Company name, any legacy names, abbreviations for your company
  • Brand names, if your company has different products
  • Company’s senior leadership team and any spokespeople
  • Slogan or commonly used marketing phrases
  • Competitors’ names
  • Industry, including recent trends
  • Vendors or partners
  • Key customers/clients

Paid monitoring services, while thorough and potentially necessary in a crisis, can be expensive, and there is no one service that will capture everything that is being said online and through traditional media channels. Google Alerts is a simple and free tool that does an effective job in many instances. Here are some quick tips to help set up Google Alerts:

  • Include keywords (e.g. public relations, public relations + Denver, communications firms + Colorado)
  • Set up different alerts depending on urgency  (e.g., for your company you’ll want to receive all mentions as they occur; for your competitors you may choose to have only the most relevant information sent once a day or even once per week)
  • Examine your own analytics (Google Analytics) to see how people are finding your site, looking at the search terms and then monitoring for those terms

You can use Google to search online for crisis-related terms, such as “ABC Company” + “lawsuit”, “scam”, “sucks”, etc. People who have an ax to grind with your company or organization sometimes purchase URLs with these names and set up their own websites.

Other free ways to monitor online include subscribing to RSS Feeds through news websites or company websites, or setting up Google Reader – this will help you consolidate key blogs and news updates from reporters and bloggers who write about your company and your industry frequently. Additionally, it is helpful to follow reporters and bloggers who cover your company or organization through Twitter and Facebook.

Use Twilert to keep track of tweets containing your brand, product, service and more; you can add certain search terms or hashtags to track conversations and determine how frequently you want to be notified. Using social media dashboards such as Tweetdeck or  Hootsuite, allows you manage and monitor multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts.

While Facebook doesn’t provide the same search capabilities as you can find on Twitter, you can “like” reporters and other influences and organizations/businesses to monitor what they’re saying. Remember that only about 20 percent of the conversations taking place on Facebook are public, so even with thorough monitoring practices, you won’t be able to see every relevant mention.

As you set up your monitoring tools, you’ll need to readjust the search terms depending on the amount and appropriateness of the content that you’re reviewing. I only shared a few of the more popular free monitoring tools above – there are many others that are free and you may find equally useful. The old adage, the best offense is a good defense, is never more true when it comes to managing an organization’s reputation. Don’t be afraid to dive in and see what is being said about your company, organization or brand; you’ll feel more in control and will be much better equipped to respond when a crisis strikes.

~ Barb Jones

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