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News Monitoring: What Does Unlimited Mean?

You may have heard of the value proposition, which means “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers”. That proposition usually comes in the form of a hook designed to close a deal based on something specific like features or cost. In the world of news monitoring, and the associated media monitoring industry, many news monitors will use the word unlimited as their value proposition. I thought I would do a bit of a dive on this term “unlimited”, and explain what it can really mean to the consumer of news monitoring. The goal for this post is to illuminate some of the marketing words you may see when shopping for a news monitoring service, and hopefully take some of the hot air out of misleading sales pitches.

Unlimited News Monitoring

There are three common areas you may see the term unlimited used in order to entice you to use one news monitoring service over another. Two of these uses have underlying weaknesses, while one can be of great value to the public relations professional or business communicator. Let’s look at each of these three uses of the word unlimited in detail.

  1. Unlimited Results: Of all value propositions this one is often the most attractive hook when taken at face value. I would say this is like noticing an attractive man or women when you first walk into a restaurant, bar, or gym. The target looks great from a distance, and sometimes they look great up close. But more often than not there is something that just doesn’t click for you once you get to know that person. Similarly, the promise of unlimited results aren’t always a great value to the news monitoring client after the service begins.
    • The Good-Unlimited results are nice when you have an issue, message, or event that will generate a high volume of media exposure and you want to track all of it. Understanding reach, amplification, spread, influence and other measures often require a news monitoring client to track it all. And if all of that media exposure is a lot of coverage, you don’t want to bump up against a costly cap on results.
    • The Bad-We see some news monitors, especially those focused on online news monitoring, promote unlimited results because there is either little value to the effort they expend on tracking your news or their results lack significant specificity. Both of these situations are bad for the news monitoring client. For one, if the vendor is providing little support or training to the client, then they may be trying to make up for that lack of service by giving away unlimited results. Or, and often times connected, the results lack specificity or are otherwise too broad and therefore the vendor knows they have to push a fire hose of data on you hoping you’ll find the stories you need. In this latter case the client can be overwhelmed with unrelated hits, resulting in a great amount of wasted time (money). A good vendor will be able to add greater focus to your searches when needed, thereby reducing bad hits.
  2. Unlimited Searches or Keywords: This value proposition straddles the fence between being helpful and harmful, depending on you and your vendor. For some users it is helpful because they can get exactly the results they want. And if their news monitoring vendor can customize how those results are sorted and delivered, the client can easily review those many subjects. But, if the news monitor doesn’t provide skilled search strategy design you can end up with an overflowing inbox with various subjects mixed together. To elaborate on the good and the bad of unlimited searches, here’s a bit more detail.
    • On the one hand, it is nice if you need to search for many specific people, services, products, or companies. In this way you can have your professional news monitoring service design Boolean search strategies to specifically target those many terms for which you want results. This type of monitoring service will also have the ability to customize how your results are sorted and presented so that you can quickly work with your results.
    • Getting refined and accurate results are key to successfully using a news monitoring service. Equally important is how those results are displayed and presented to you or the client user. The best news monitoring services have great flexibility in how your media coverage portal can be designed so that you can see the type of results, in the buckets you want, and presented in a way you can efficiently review them. Time is money, so having good results you can easily review is the goal.
    • If you have to be responsible for creating your own search agents, or set up your own filters, you may want to think twice about how good you are at those tasks. Each monitoring service has a different search syntax, with operators that can be combined to truly refine your search. If you are not accustomed to setting up searches, or building a portal environment, you should look for a news monitor that includes that work within their pricing. The best services will provide setup and support for your searches and portal, the others will promote how great it is self manage. Be careful with how much you can realistically handle yourself.
  3. Unlimited Support and Training: This is a must have proposition whether you are new to using a news monitoring service or you’ve been using such services since the 90’s. As mentioned at the top of this post, the value proposition is something used as a sales tactic. The service after the sale is where the rubber hits the road, and that is where you should find an unlimited effort to train and support you, the client user.
    • Actual service and support, unfortunately, is something most news monitoring subscribers can’t evaluate until after they have signed a contract. However, there are two simple steps you can take to learn if your prospective news monitoring service has a strong reputation for service and support.
      • First, go to search.twitter.com and type in the name of the company, not their profile because you’ll get mostly their own content, but just the name of the company. Scroll through these results looking for tweets from users complaining about the service. It is unfortunate, but many of the positive tweets you will see are paid tweets on behalf of the service, so they are not credible as a means to determine satisfaction of a news monitor.
      • Second, ask your peers. The people you know in PRSA, IABC, or even friends at other companies may have already walked the path you are on and therefore would be happy to share their experiences. Asking specific questions like, “Were you able to get answers and solutions quickly?” and “Did they make things right when there was a problem?” are both great questions.
    • I would also suggest you discount the importance of a service quoting a large number of clients. That is no indicator of satisfaction, especially for the vendors that offer mostly a “serve yourself” model. To put this another way, would you rather pay a company that has 30,000 customers and churn rate of 15% or a company with 1000 customers and a churn rate of less than 1%? You don’t have to be a data scientist to know that 99+% of pleased clients beats a company with only an 85% retention rate. When it comes to service satisfaction, size doesn’t necessarily matter.
Universal Information Services provides expert guidance for business intelligence and customer support

Every consumer is different, therefore knowing which value propositions appeal to each consumer is nearly impossible. Because of this most news monitors will use the same 1-2 propositions repeatedly. For example, our sales team leans heavily on the fact that we have a more comprehensive set of media outlets from which we search. We feel that our ability to generate more accurate results, from more sources is one of our key values. We also stress the unlimited support and training proposition. We’ve found these propositions to be attractive to the type of clients we help. Knowing what you need as an end user will help you find the news monitor you want, and then receive the level of service you expect. And now this post is done. Nobody wants to read an article with unlimited words.

Todd Murphy Universal Information Services

Todd Murphy, CEO Universal Information Services

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