1. Make sure the service fits your needs. A free service like Google News can sometimes track what you need. However, you have no control over what publications they cover. It can sometimes be more than what you need and other times can miss what you are really looking for especially with television and radio. The paid services offer many good options but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Get free trials from the well-established news monitors like NDS, Cision, Vocus, Lexus-Nexus, National Aircheck, CyberAlert, and Critical Mention .
2. Check Your Coverage. Almost all monitors vary on their coverage. Some may only do the top 50 or 100 markets. Some may not have a local office in the markets you are interested in which can be helpful. Some monitors may just do local and not national news. There are some that do just about everything. Radio coverage can greatly vary depending on the monitor. Some monitors will get their content form a newspaper’s website and some actually have the complete printed content. Some monitoring services offer a really nice user interface with very little substance. So it is important to take a test run before making a decision.
3. What do you want to get back? Many monitors offer useful information like Audience Numbers, PR Values, run times, tends, etc. This can be useful especially to justify the cost of a Public Relations Campaign. In some cases client may be interested in the video as well. Check with the monitor and make sure they can provide you the format you need. The clips can used in PowerPoint’s, DVD players and on websites. Make sure the monitor can provide the format(s) that work best for you. There are many options with varying quality and file size.
4. How fast do you need it? Many monitors now offer online access to coverage shortly after it runs. This can be a premium feature for someone who is constantly in the news and needs to be able to react fast to coverage. In some cases you may only need daily, weekly or monthly reports and don’t need the extra cost of the online dashboard. Some monitors can get you a clips within the hour and some may need till the next day.
5. How much? They all have varying price tags. Once you take your free trials, you will need to access what you really need in a monitoring service. The costs for subscriptions and clips greatly vary. Don’t be pressured into signing any contracts. A good monitor should give a good 2-4 week trial before you decide. It’s always best to do a side-by-side test using the same search terms for the same time period.