Best Practices for Tracking News Coverage

04.17.2018 | Cameron Ficca

One of the many tasks that public relations (PR) agencies perform on a regular basis is tracking editorial coverage. In most cases, we track coverage that is expected, such as a story based on a press release, or a by-lined article placement. On other occasions, we may be looking for unexpected coverage, for instance from a crisis. Whatever the scenario, coverage tracking is important and can take significant time.

Luckily, there are quite are a few tips and tools to make coverage tracking and analysis more manageable. For those starting out in PR, here are some of my tips:

  • Set up Google Alerts. Google alerts are a terrific way to track coverage. To set these up, I recommend brainstorming key words on the topic you want to track. For instance, say you are interested in following breakthroughs around treatments for Glioblastomas. In this case, in addition to setting up alerts for “Glioblastoma-Treatment,” you may want to create an alert for the name of the doctors or institutions working on finding a cure.

The next step is to consider how frequently you want to the receive the alert. Google allows you the option of choosing when to receive the alerts: as they happen or at a specific time. When following a breaking news story or crisis, it may be best to have them delivered as they happen. For less serious matters, having all coverage appear in your inbox at a specific time may be more convenient. Google allows you to choose how many times you receive the alert as well: at least once a day or at least once a week.

  • Create a coverage tracker. Once you have flagged the coverage, you’ll want to keep track of it in an Excel workbook or Smartsheet. I recommend when you set this up that you consider the information you’ll want to review and analyze over time. For instance, I like to track the article headline, date, the name of the journalist who wrote it and the publication’s domain authority. According to Moz, domain authority is “a search engine ranking score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs).” I like tracking domain authority because it provides me with a way to easily evaluate the strength of the publication relative to other news outlets. I can then see, for instance, if my client is receiving coverage in news outlets with the higher domain authorities. It’s always nice when we can show a client that they’re securing positive coverage in tier-one publications.
  • Double check your links. When sharing coverage with others on your team or with clients, it is important to double check that all links are accurate and working. The client expects us to do the work in a timely and accurate fashion. Any inconsistences in accuracy may hurt our credibility and diminish a client’s trust in us. Taking the extra step to double, and even triple check work before it is sent out is a safety net that eliminates most mistakes.
  • Identify themes. While tracking editorial coverage is good, you also will want to review each article to ensure it is accurate and to gain an understanding of the information contained in it. Some questions to ask yourself as you read the articles include: What information is presented? Are there any biases around the presentation of the information? If so, what are they? Finally, if multiple news outlets have covered the same announcement or event, you may want to describe the range of narrative themes explored across all the news outlets.

Being aware of coverage is important to a client on many levels. A lack of awareness of editorial coverage could catch a company and its spokespeople off guard. Being ahead of the media storm can potentially make or break the public perception in a crisis. Tracking coverage for clients can be a very helpful task, which allows them to focus on other internal activity. Feel free to drop a comment and let us know how you and your team tracks/monitors editorial coverage.


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