It’s happened to every sports communicator: a friend or family member contacts you to say that he or she saw your sports team on the news. The only problem: you had no idea the story was running. 

Media monitoring is crucial to the success of any public relations, communications, or marketing plan. By tracking the media coverage your organization or team receives, you can adjust your media outreach plan, pitch stories more effectively, demonstrate your reach to sponsors and partners and intervene if your media coverage is inaccurate or negative. 

The good news is that there are excellent media monitoring services that can provide your sports organization with up-to-the-minute results of every newspaper, radio, television, and blog mention you receive. The bad news, however, is that they’re often very expensive. In this module, we’ll answer your questions on media monitoring and help you pick media monitoring tools that are right for you.

What is media monitoring?

Media monitoring is the process of tracking what is being said about your organization, sport, athletes or league in the media, and using that information to adjust your media or communications strategy.  Traditionally, media monitoring tracked the content of radio, television and newspapers. Today, however, media monitoring extends to blogs, social media and even online reviews. If someone’s talking about your organization, you want to know about it!

What sort of information should my media monitoring look for?

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Basic media monitoring usually consists of the following fields:

  • Media type: Was the media mention in a daily newspaper, a blog, a radio station or a television station?
  • Media outlet: What outlet produced the media mention? (i.e. Vancouver Sun)
  • Reporter: If applicable, who was the reporter or other contact?
  • Media circulation: What is the outlet’s reach? How many people potentially saw the mention?
  • Scope: What geographic area does the outlet cover? (i.e. across BC)

More advanced media monitors, however, use many more specific fields, including:

  • Share of voice: How does our organization dominate on a certain issue? For example, if only 10% of news articles on summer camps for kids mention your soccer camp, you might choose to focus on pitching your camps to the other 90% of journalists writing on the topic.
  • Story length, size and placement: What kind of article was written about your organization? Did you get a brief mention in an events listing or did you get a front-page article with a photo? This field helps you track the quality of your media mentions.
  • Tone: How was your organization, sport or team perceived in the article? Was the story positive, neutral or negative?
  • Media relevance: How closely does the media outlet’s demographics match the market you’re trying to reach? For example, a mention about a soccer summer camp in a publication that’s geared towards families is very relevant.
  • Type of coverage: How was the story presented in the media? Was it an editorial, a human-interest story, a letter to the editor, an opinion piece or a news brief?
  • Message fidelity: How closely did the coverage match your key messages? For example, if you want the media to talk about how your summer camp is appropriate for kids of all ages and abilities, an article that portrays your sports camp as elite and competitive would not be very helpful.
  • Demographics: Who is the outlet’s audience? (Age, gender, income, etc)
  • Psychographics: What does the outlet’s audience think/believe? (Interests, lifestyle, attitudes, etc).
  • Engagement: How did the audience engage with the media mention? How many comments were there? How many times was it engaged with on social media?

Which fields are useful to your organization depends on your communications action plan and how much media outreach you do. If your sport gets very little media attention, you might focus solely on increasing the overall number of media mentions you receive. If, however, your communications plan has a more specific goal, such as increasing the positive media attention your national team receives, you would be interested in more targeted metrics.

How can I use Google Alerts for media monitoring?

Screenshot of Google Alerts Example

Google Alerts is the best free media monitoring tool on the market.  Simply set up an alert for a keyword and Google will send all online mentions of that keyword to your Inbox. You can even specify how often you want to receive the alert, what region you want Google to search (Canada only or worldwide) and what languages Google should search through.

Google Alerts doesn’t catch every online article, but it is a great way to do simple media monitoring without investing many human resource hours.

Above is an example of a common Google Alerts query:Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 11.13.36 PM.png

Here, I’m asking for every mention of wheelchair rugby in any language that comes from Canada.  Note that I’ve asked for ‘all results’ and not just the ‘best results.’ If wheelchair rugby was as popular as hockey, I might only choose to look at the best results.

Some common keywords to set up Google Alerts for include:

  • Your organization’s name.
  • Your sport in both French and English.
  • The name of your team(s).
  • Athletes and coaches on your national or provincial team.
  • The name of rival teams or competitors.
  • Search terms that you would like to perform well on, such as “summer sports camps” searched in British Columbia.
  • Any potential issues or controversies that may occur, such as concussions or doping.

How can I use search engines for media monitoring?

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To find articles that Google Alerts might have missed, you can use traditional search engines. Many sports communicators do a search engine search once a month for the search terms they have an Alert set up for, then use Google’s search tools to filter so that they only see content produced that month. This can be a time-consuming process, but it helps to ensure that you haven’t missed any media mentions.

What are some other free media monitoring tools?

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Google Alerts and search engine searches will provide you with online news outlets. Luckily, there are other tools to monitor conversations about your organization on social media. Our Social Media Toolkit module on Analytics contains several. Other free media monitoring tools include:

  • IceRocket: IceRocket helps you search blogs and Twitter outlets for relevant keywords
  • Social Mention: Social Mention searches blogs and social media.

How do I determine the circulation of a particular media outlet?

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If you use a paid media monitoring service, this information is often provided for you. If not, however, you can manually add up the individual circulations of the outlet.

Follow these quick links for: 

Is it better to use a free service or a paid service?

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Paid media monitoring services can save you a lot of time and can ensure that you don’t miss a single media impression. Many paid services also help you store your media monitoring data and turn it into reports, charts and graphs. In fact, it is probably not possible to achieve the results of a paid service without investing dozens of staff hours each week. If you do extensive media outreach, a paid service can pay for itself in the long run by helping you pitch effectively to the right media outlets. If your media outreach consists of only a few press releases a year, however, then you might not get the return on investment that you require.

Because media monitoring is expensive, some sports organizations use the resources of their National Sport Organization (NSO) or share the service with another sport organization.

What are some paid media monitoring services?

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Some popular paid media monitoring services are:

  • Mention: Of all the services listed, Mention is the least expensive. Plans start at $30 a month.
  • CyberAlert: One of the biggest media monitoring services. It offers extensive, customizable services.
  • Meltwater: Meltwater has been used by several sports organizations and offers customizable plans.
  • Infomart: One of Canada’s leading media monitoring services
  • MediaVantage: MediaVantage is a product of Canadian News Wire/ PR News Wire.
  • CustomScoop
  • Critical Mention 
  • Metro Monitor

I’ve got all of this media monitoring data. Now what do I do with it?

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Many paid media monitoring services will export your data into reports and charts. Even if you don’t use a paid service, you can use this data to:

  • Create sponsorship packages for events and teams by showing the number of media impressions you receive.
  • Update and revise your communications action plan.
  • Create a database on reporters and publications that have reported on your organization, sport or athletes in the past.
  • Justify your communications budget – and your job! – by showcasing the return on investment of your media outreach initiatives.
  • Identify gaps in your current media outreach.
  • Determine the success of different kinds of media outreach strategies.
  • Determine what stories were the most popular with different kinds of outlets.
  • Track how well your key messages are being picked up by the media.
  • Monitor potential controversies and intervene early to shape the conversation.
  • Identify journalists’ interests so that you can pitch more effectively to them.

Do you have a question about media monitoring? Do you have a media monitoring tip or trick that hasn’t been mentioned yet? Get in the conversation by tweeting @ViaSportBC or emailing