Metro Monitor Featured on the Public Relations Review Podcast
Metro Monitor was recently featured on the Public Relations Review Podcast. This podcast episode includes an overview of the media monitoring services Metro Monitor provides. Metro Monitor’s president, Bryan Council, also discusses how public relations professionals can best utilize their media monitoring services and news clips to manage and amplify their messaging.
Announcer: This is the public relations review podcast, a program to discuss the many facets of public relations with seasoned professionals, educators, authors and others. Now, here is your host, Peter Woolfolk.
Peter Woolfolk: Welcome to the public relations review podcast. And to all listeners all across America and around the world. Now as public and media relations professionals, we often need to track media coverage. Monitor competing events, keep track of trends, perhaps even provide media clips to clients so they can see for themselves the coverage of their project. Other similar services may also be required. My guest today is knee deep in this industry. Metro monitor, founded in 1993 is the provider of media intelligence to communications professionals. They combined TV news, radio news, online news and social media monitoring into a single platform. The client gains the ability to cost effectively monitor, manage, share, and analyze all of the media coverage. This service provides news monitoring of all local and national TV news programs, from the top markets to smaller markets plus national and cable networks. The company monitors more than 40,000 online news sources, over 5 million blogs and social media sites, thus delivering real time access to the media information necessary for reputation management and competitive intelligence. Joining me today from Birmingham, Alabama is Bryan Council, president of media monitor. Bryan has served as the president of company for the past 21 years. Over the past decade, Bryan has led Metro monitor through several technical and business modeling evolutions and has gained a reputation as a top entrepreneur, his immediate monitoring market. Bryan, first of all welcome to the podcast.
Bryan Council: Thanks Peter, glad to be here.
Peter Woolfolk: So let’s start with how did you get involved in media monitoring to begin with.
Bryan Council: Sure, it’s a little bit of an interesting story. It actually started out as and still is a family business. My dad was always in public relations and it’s kind of the business I grew up in communications, public relations, and he actually needed a service like this for his clients when he would get them in the media, local news in particular. He needed a way to showcase the coverage that he was able to get garner for his clients. So this business really started out with say four VCRs, recording the local news here in Birmingham, and then a notebook just keeping notes of what was said on the news was our first database. So since then we’ve evolved over the years to monitor coverage throughout the country, service clients all over the country, particularly focused on broadcast media. So again, started out with just a simple notebook database and now we have a pretty sophisticated database we use for our clients.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, it’s interesting when you say you attract broadcast media particularly all over the country, actually, how do you go about doing that? Because when I think of how many TV stations are, how many more radio stations they are, how do you make that happen?
Bryan Council: There are several different ways. So you’re right the US local news, broadcast news, market is peculiar compared to media markets across the world and that we have so many broadcast media outlets at the local and national level. The way we do it is we actually have hardware computer operations in each of these cities, so there are 210 DMAS across the US. We are in each of those markets with, we basically record the TV signal over the air. So we have antenna signal. This provides us with HD quality video for our clients. And the way we collect the data from the news programs is a variety of sources. Some of it we rely on the closed caption text, for us that is broadcast with the news program. Some of it is we actually visually watch the news and make notes of what’s being said. And then with radio in particular when we do that we are actually using speech to text technology, to convert the audio to text and therefore we can then import that into our main database and locate mentions for our clients.
Peter Woolfolk: Now what are some of the projects if you will, that you’ll be asked us to monitor for and get on.
Bryan Council: Yeah, it’s real pretty diverse client base, but typical use case is for the communications professional the public relations contact within a news-making organization. So we tend to work with those clients that are in the news with some regularity. And what they’re asking us to do is help them keep track of when they are mentioned in the media, good or bad. They wanna know what’s being said. They also wanna track the topics and that are interesting to them, their industry, as well as their competitors, just to stay over across the board and informed about what’s being said about their industry. Well, let’s just say the way we typically do that is in the form of a daily media digest that we deliver via email. And that gives them basically a summary of everything they’re interested in tracking delivered to their desktop first thing in the morning. They’re able to quickly digest all the news from the previous day.
Peter Woolfolk: Now when you say the information they’re interested in tracking, what sort of information do they normally look for.
Bryan Council: In terms of media types, they’re looking at local news. So the ABC, CBS, Fox, ABC affiliates in a local market, they’re looking at local radio. They’re looking at local online content and if it’s a national client that wants to content from across the whole country, they’re able to do that. But the typical morning report for a client would typically showcase here is your local broadcast mentioned from the previous day. They can click on a link actually see the video associated with that broadcast. We integrate into that radio mentions and the online mentions. But for the most part what they’re interested in is their stories, what’s being said about their brand in the media to help them. Obviously what they want to do is stay informed and they know for the most part what’s being said. But we help solve that geography problem. You can kind of keep track of what’s going on in your local market. It’s a bit harder to keep track of statewide and national coverage and that’s the problem we solve our clients.
Peter Woolfolk: Now do they also ask for things such as what was the audience size in that particular DMA, is that important to them as well?
Bryan Council: It is and those are some of the data elements we do include in our report. The Nielsen audience estimates for each news segment, estimated media values just to give them a ballpark estimate of the audience size and publicity value of particular segments.
Peter Woolfolk: One of the discussions that take place in the public relations arena is that media such as TV and radio, perhaps don’t have as much clout as other ways of information such as social media. Have you found any sort of, how do you feel your clients look at that domain? Is that obviously still important to them or is it a combination thereof broadcast as well as online.
Bryan Council: Yeah, my personal opinion is that it’s both, everything’s important. I guess I have a counter viewpoint in that I believe broadcast is still infinitely more valuable than potentially some social media updates and tweets and things like that. Obviously those things can go viral on social media. But what we found is that more times than not, stories start in the broadcast world, they start with a local news segment. They start with a local radio, Michigan, and then they’re amplified and shared through social media. And the key thing about broadcast content too, is especially when it’s proactively placed story that a public relations professional has, in a sense made happen and appear in the local News. In a sense, they’re creating that not only that one story where they’re telling their message. They’re also in a sense creating a digital asset that they can use in social media, and then use social media to amplify the message. And so that’s another service we provide to our clients, is actually providing high quality video clips, radio clips that they can then share internally with their stakeholders, with their customers, with their internal team.
Peter Woolfolk: And a lot of times, folks being clients like to have that to put in advertisements or mentions, whether it’s on their website or other other places that people can see for themselves.
Bryan Council: That’s right. And another, I guess, thing that a lot of folks aren’t aware of is that I think there’s a perception that everything that is broadcast is available online. And that’s just not how it goes. There’s so much audio and video content when you consider all the local news stations, all the various times of the day it’s on. Combine that with radio content, national syndicated programming, streaming news video, so much of that is not ingested and available online. And those clips that are posted, [COUGH] for example, on TV station websites, they may be there for a period of time, but there’s no guarantee they’re gonna be there a year from now. So we encourage our clients to keep permanent copies of their digital content.
Peter Woolfolk: I say one of the other things that maybe some clients have also found out is that they can’t call TV stations anymore to get copies of the news clips. Because a lot of TV stations just don’t have time to do that. And they farm that out to maybe some local folks to take care of it.
Bryan Council: Yep, that’s exactly right. And actually, we are a resource for TV stations. So we actually partner with TV stations and they rely on us many times as a referral source for their, it can be something as simple as a viewer who just wants a copy of their kid that hit the home run. And was featured in the sports section, all the way up to a corporate client, or a local advertiser. Rather than tell the client, no, they can’t have a copy, they’ll typically refer them to a service like ourselves.
Peter Woolfolk: Okay, let’s shift now to sort of online and social media. Let’s talk about how you do and what you do in that arena as well, and what platforms are you looking at to collect information?
Bryan Council: So for online, we do focus primarily on gathering content from news centric websites. So anybody can go to Google, do a search or set up a Google News alert. And what some people may not be aware of is when you do a Google News alert, you’re really searching against a very small universe of news sites. And what we do is, I’d like to say it’s kind of like Google news alerts in the sense that it’s monitoring online news sites. It’s just that we have infinitely more content that we are gathering from. The other thing that we do that’s a little different is we actually can do it at the local level. So if you take Atlanta, for example, and maybe there’s a client that is only interested in Atlanta media. We can drill down to just Atlanta-based online news site, Atlanta broadcast and radio, and really focus and filter out a lot of the noise, so to speak.
Peter Woolfolk: You mentioned Google searches, and obviously, I do a lot of Google searches, but how many different search sites do you use to collect this information? That’s of course, it’s something I never really thought about, that there obviously are other search sites, but I’m just not aware of them. So how many different ones do you use to collect that kind of information right?
Bryan Council: Right, so we’re not really searching like Google, Yahoo’s, different search engines as much as building a very comprehensive list of news sites. We basically are indexing those sites around the clock 24/7, and then ingesting that data into our databases from a variety of sources. Some we scrape internally, some of that data we purchase from third parties to integrate into our service. So that’s how we do it. But to our clients, it’s all one aggregated database of super focused on new sites.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, in the intro, I mentioned the fact that you monitor more than 40,000 online news sources. How do you do that?
Bryan Council: It’s really through just technology. There’s technology now that allows you to scrape Internet sites. And then what we do, is we ingest a tremendous amount of news content into our central databases. And then basically what we’re doing after that is letting our software find matches for our clients. So we actually only deliver to our clients a very small percentage of what we ingest. So we have to ingest bunch of data just to deliver the highlights to our clients. They may be mentioned on this one particular site one time a year, but we need to be sure we have that when they are mentioned. So what I like to be able to do for our clients is hopefully pleasantly surprise them from time to time, with, oh, I didn’t even know, I’ve never even heard of this site.
Peter Woolfolk: [LAUGH]
Bryan Council: But there we, our brand being [UNKNOWN]. That’s what I really take pride in, is our ability to bring mentions to our client that they may not be finding from any other service or any other resource.
Peter Woolfolk: Now when you use online resources to collect this information, what type of information do you give them that’s obviously different from the broadcast information that you provide them?
Bryan Council: Well, what we would be providing initially is just hey, here’s your mention, here’s a summary of what was said. Here’s the link to the online source for that. And then we do include some metrics, estimated eyeballs for a particular website. It’s a little harder for a particular story to drill down to exactly this many people saw this particular story online. But what we do with our metrics is to try to give a relative value and a relative understanding of the size. So obviously, if you get a mention on the New York Times website, it’s gonna have a different size audience, a different value than potentially a local blogger website.
Peter Woolfolk: Now speaking of bloggers, how do you go about identifying which bloggers to go to?
Bryan Council: Similar in the sense that we are constantly trying to refine our list of media sources, again, focused on news-related content. And frankly, a lot of those are brought to our attention from our client base, so when we onboard a new client part of the conversation is what’s important to you? Hopefully we’re delivering everything they need out of the gate. But there could be some few niche sources or things that we’re not aware of or currently not monitoring that are important to that particular client. It could be, like you say, a potential blogger that’s local in nature. Maybe it’s a food blogger that is important to just that one client. If that’s the case, we will add that to our media index. And the same with, there’s a particular radio station a client needs indexed that we’re not currently doing or streaming news content. We try to capture all that for our client. So we’re adding to it each day, but a lot of that is client-driven based on their needs.
Peter Woolfolk: Now, would that also include influencers? Because they, depending upon what the topic is or issue is, they can have a lot of influential input on people’s decision making.
Bryan Council: Yeah, absolutely. And that is something we were not focused on for us. There are plenty of services out there that do more of that, what I’d call influencer engagement, social media monitoring. And frankly, a lot of our clients can do that on their own, build their list of influential people within their industry to follow on Twitter, follow on Instagram. So there are plenty of tools out there for that. That’s just not one of the tools we provide.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, give me a range of types of clients that you have, because I think in terms of universities, obviously, and you got corporations. But just give me a range of the types of clients or the industries that you cover.
Bryan Council: Sure, so our client base is really as diverse as the news itself. So if you look at the typical newscast, you’re right. You’re gonna have, and for this I’m talking about a local newscast, you’re gonna have the local university, the local hospital, the city council, the state health department, all the way up to large organizations that do business in a particular geography. So our typical client does tend to be somebody that’s interested at the city, state level in a particular region. So it might be the local hospital, it could be on up to the hospital group that has a footprint in several states, or it could be a national brand. But our company, we do tend to focus on the state and local level of client.
Peter Woolfolk: Okay, so what are the-
Bryan Council: Not so much the big Googles and Amazons of the world.
Peter Woolfolk: I’ve got you. Now, one of the things that happens I guess with any of us is that some client, once in a while, a client presents a particularly, I might call it, challenging request. What would you think has been perhaps your biggest challenge that you had to figure out? How are we gonna solve this and make them happy and get it done right?
Bryan Council: Yeah, some of the challenges have been in actually the broadcast space. So broadcast is evolving and becoming more of a streaming medium, in a sense. So we’re seeing really a large increase in local and national streaming news content. So if you look at, for example, CBS, they have local brands, they have a national product that they do. But now they’re starting to create CBS local versions for New York City, Newburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco. Those things are only available streaming. So one of our challenges has been, how do we technically capture that? So if you think about it, if you’re at home watching a streaming video and you wanted to record that, how would you go about it? There’s no consumer way to do it. So we’ve had to kind of invent our own technologies and methodologies for capturing streaming content. And then, importantly, converting that to text and content that we can incorporate into our database. So a lot of that has been on the recording side and then also on the indexing side, converting audio to text, which we can then search against. And the same thing with audio content. Increasingly, there’s podcasts that people are interested in proactively knowing about. We can index with that audio, just the same as the way we do radio content.
Peter Woolfolk: [COUGH] Now, do you use any particular, because, well, from time to time, depending on what it is, I also do the text to audio conversion. Any particular platform you use to do that?
Bryan Council: Yeah, we have our own internally built tools that run against those speech to text engines. But yeah, you’re right, I’m a big fan of kind of the consumer-facing tools that are out there. If you just have a podcast or a speech or a press conference that you’d like indexed, it’s amazing to me now what we can do. You can just upload the audio file, and within a matter of minutes, you can have a fairly accurate transcript created.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, I agree with you. On occasion, I do that, and I would say those that I’ve used, a couple in particular, maybe are 80, 85% accurate. Depends upon how clearly you pronounce the word. There might be some issues there. If it’s not clear, it might put something in there. So once you get it back, you do have to go through it, just to make sure what you’re reading is what you said.
Bryan Council: Absolutely, and then some of those service also obviously have a premium level service where you can actually get a human transcription. And the nice part about those is because it’s competitive and technology is helpful, the pricing has come down significantly over the years for converting audio to text.
Peter Woolfolk: Now, I asked you about one of your bigger challenges. How about bigger successes that perhaps somebody obviously made a request of you and it went beyond expectations? What sort of success have you had in that arena?
Bryan Council: Well, I think our biggest successes have come on the broadcast side. Again, just our comprehensiveness of broadcast content. So we’re not only recording the local news, we’re going deep in a local market. So we’re recording those tier two and three local TV stations, the public access stations, we do the deep dives on the radio. So that’s what I’m most proud of, is when our clients say, you know what, it would be great if you could add this for us. And it may be the radio station that has two listeners [LAUGH] in a particular market. But the fact that we can actually find a way to receive the signal, get it recorded, get it indexed and delivered to them. I know we’re working on a project for a client in New York right now that they have a pretty big demand. They want a particular radio program, they need the audio delivered every day by quick turnaround, and they need a transcript to go along with it. And we’re able to, for just that one particular program, deliver that just to that one client every single day. Here’s your audio, here’s your transcript. And more importantly, we can archive that for them in such a way that they can go back and search against that content any time they want.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, Bryan, you provided us with an awful lot of information. Is there anything perhaps that we haven’t covered that you think should be addressed?
Bryan Council: I don’t think so. I mean, well, the only thing I would encourage, and I think obviously most public relations professionals know this, is to engage with a media monitoring service of some sort. I think one of the things that makes us a little unique is that we are easy to use in the sense that we’re willing to work with clients of any size. We’re also budget friendly, and importantly, we don’t require contracts or anything like that. We believe our clients should be able to use our services on a as needed basis. So as long as we’re providing value to the client, that’s the kinda relationship we wanna have. If ever their needs change or we’re not servicing them the way they need, they ought to be able to go somewhere else if they need to. But we believe it’s important for PR professionals to get that morning report. And then also importantly, to collect those digital assets in a sense, those video clips, those radio clips, those own long stories that they can then share and leverage in other ways.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, Bryan, I really wanna thank you for being on the podcast today. And let me say to our listeners that this happened because Bryan actually sent me a note how much he appreciated the [UNKNOWN] the podcast. And once I found out what he did, I said, wow, this is a topic I think that PR folks would be interested in. So here’s the eventual outcome of Bryan doing that outreach. So let me say again, thank you so very, very much for one, having that outreach. And secondly, for also coming on the show.
Bryan Council: Thanks so much to you, Peter. That’s important information, and I’m glad there’s a podcast specifically to the PR industry. I think it’s fun.
Peter Woolfolk: Well, thank you again for coming.
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