In the coming weeks, many agencies will begin the process of developing annual plans for themselves and their clients. There will be plenty of discussions about strategy, tactics, budgets, and contracts.
The start of this yearly cycle usually involves some degree of research. Information will be collected, and brainstorming sessions will be held. There will be time to review the past 12 months and look ahead to the goals for the next.
For most PR agencies, media intelligence can play a vital role in helping to inform better decision-making during these exercises.
Start by reviewing your results for clients
If your agency already has a comprehensive monitoring and analysis program in place for client work, then you can start by reviewing the ongoing data that you have been collecting to look for insights about what has worked and what has room for improvement.
For those who may not already have the kind of program that they want in place, you can still acquire data about relevant media coverage from the past year. While you won’t have been benefitting from the ongoing insights that it can provide to enable real-time course corrections, you will still be able to glean information that you can use to inform your planning process.
Focus on metrics that help you understand how you translated your plan into results. For example, you might look at the percentage of your target publications that carried favorable coverage. It can also be worthwhile to examine the percentage of articles that included key messages that you were seeking to drive on behalf of your clients. Knowing how the last plan worked will help you create the next one.
Help your clients understand their results
Now that you have a clear understanding of the results that you have produced, it’s time to share those results with your clients. Organizations of all kinds and sizes increasingly focus on ROI and similar metrics, so you need to be prepared to explain how your agency’s work fits into that framework.
If you have access to client web analytics, you can look at referrals from targeted media publications and the user behavior that ensued. With access to CRM data, you may even be able to attach revenue numbers to media-motivated behavior.
Even without this access, you can create compelling reports by looking at things like share of voice and focusing on improvement tied to your agency’s work.
The media intelligence reports that you have developed will provide you with the foundation for communicating those results effectively but remember that all of that raw data is just a starting point.
You should be looking to leverage the quantitative data to tell a compelling story that will paint a picture for your client about how the work that you are doing contributes to their results. If you are working with an individual department at your client’s operation, remember that part of your job is also to help them look good so consider how they can take the media intelligence reporting that you provide and share it up their own reporting structure.
Design your monitoring and analysis plan for the new year
Although you can always do retrospective analysis, it is best to have an ongoing media intelligence program that delivers regular insights and perspectives to help improve the work that your agency does for clients.
Now is the time to think about what data will help you to make better decisions and improve the ROI for clients. If you start by mapping out what you want to achieve with your media monitoring and analysis efforts, you can design a customized program that maximizes the benefit while minimizing the cost.
If you don’t have access to client-managed data in the form of Google Analytics or CRM reporting, now would be the time to explore how you might be able to leverage that additional reporting in the new year.
Use your prior work for the client to help guide your setup. What events or milestones do you need to prepare for? What strategic initiatives deserve more focused attention? What client priorities can be better reflected in the tracking and analysis that you are doing?
Identify messaging opportunities and outreach targets
As your annual planning process moves forward, you will progress from the goal-setting and strategic vision to more tactical details.
By incorporating key elements of media intelligence – including competition research – into the mix you can more easily identify areas where you may be able to reach new media outlets or influencers. Look for individuals and publications that may be carrying your competitors’ messages but not your own. See how other organizations – in your sector or elsewhere – are using the media to convey the kinds of messages that you want to get placed.
While databases with the names of journalists, podcasters, and influencers can be helpful, the insights gathered from an effective media intelligence program can help to better identify key outreach opportunities for the year ahead.
Don’t forget to assess your own agency
Agencies often pay too little attention to their own plans as they invest heavily in preparing clients for the new year. While that’s understandable, it is also short-sighted.
Media intelligence can help your agency to grow and serve clients more effectively.
Agency owners commonly tell me that they grow largely by word-of-mouth. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can help aid the process by raising the profile of your firm with well-targeted thought leadership – the same kind of thing that you probably already do for your own clients.
If you treat yourself as a client and create an annual planning process that mirrors it, including a self-assessment, forecasting, and tactical planning, then you will be well-positioned to achieve better results.
Figure out where similar agencies have garnered media attention to see if those reveal opportunities that you might take advantage of. Use your media intelligence to track key trade press activity, not just in the PR space itself but in the sectors that you aim to serve.
Media intelligence applied to the agency itself can not only help with media coverage but can often be leveraged to identify business development opportunities if you understand the triggers that often cause your ideal clients to search for an agency.
Learn from the past to inform the future
It is often said that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” I prefer thinking about it more optimistically as “if we know how we got here, it will help us get to where we want to go.”
If your agency uses media intelligence mostly as a simple reporting tool, you are missing out on a wealth of opportunities – especially as we begin to prepare for annual planning season.
Use the data that you have today to prepare for the next 12 months – and then tweak the data that you plan to collect and analyze to give yourself even more access to insights in the year ahead.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Measurement Standard.