No doubt about it, media monitoring is a useful PR tool.
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The problem is that media monitoring and media clipping services cost money – but a tight budget doesn't mean that you should abandon media monitoring altogether.
Fortunately, there are several free tools that equip entrepreneurs to conduct their own press monitoring. Although these tools may not have the level of sophistication of high-end press clipping services, they offer the average business owner a great jumping off point.
The most popular free media clipping service is Google Alerts. Google Alerts leverages the online capacity of the world's most powerful search engine. You simply enter search criteria including keywords, media types, alert frequency, and reporting preferences into a form field. Google Alerts then delivers periodic reports directly to your inbox. It couldn't be easier for the average small business owner to access basic media monitoring.
But despite the cost advantage of Google Alerts and other free monitoring tools, there are some disadvantages associated with a non-fee media clipping service. Although these disadvantages probably aren't deal breakers for most business owners, you need to know your limitations and adjust your expectations accordingly.
- Specificity. Media clipping services offer highly focused media monitoring capabilities. Google Alerts lets you enter your own search terms, but their search mechanism is more basic than the ones utilized by their fee-based competitors. The result is reporting that requires an extra level of screening on your part. It's not impossible to do – it's just inconvenient.
- Scope. Google Alerts clearly benefits from the fact that Google is a high-powered Internet tool. But even Google has its limits. Unless message boards, user groups, or other online media outlets have sufficient Google rankings, it's possible that they will be excluded from your monitoring reports. Additionally, you'll need to be aware of the fact that Google Alerts is incapable of providing non-Internet (i.e. exclusive print and broadcast) media monitoring.
- Access. Google Alerts may also be limited in its ability to provide full text access to restricted media sites. Fee-based media clipping services sometimes negotiate agreements with subscription news services that let them pass full text and graphics views through to their clients.