© 2001 Jonathan Bernstein
JUST A THOUGHT
Predators prefer weak prey. Better than that, they like unsuspecting
prey. I'm not talking about a jungle water hole scenario -- just ask
anyone who's ever been surprised by the roar and sharp teeth of
plaintiff's attorney who attacks from in front of media microphones.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
How Good Are Online Clipping Services for Crisis Prevention?
by Jonathan Bernstein
The beauty and occasional curse of the Internet is that "everything is available to everybody." News about a crisis in one small U.S. city can and will be read around the world by anyone using the right keywords in a search. That's why tracking news as it appears online is vital to crisis prevention and management. I've been conducting online research for almost 20 years and the knowledge gained that way has been invaluable to serving my clients. It's only in recent years, however, that quality and quantity of clips retrieved online began to equal or, often, exceed the results produced by "hard copy" clipping services (which, at best, seemed to retrieve maybe half of actual coverage).
This short article is a HIGHLY subjective analysis of four online clipping services, compared using the same two search terms: (1) crisis management (2) paintball. The latter term, in particular, was good for comparison purposes because the need for search refinement was very low -- either a story is somehow about paintball, or it's not. I have previously, via a client firm's research department, also tried out Lexis/Nexis, which might actually produce more clips, from more sources, but which absolutely requires that search parameters be VERY well defined to ensure that the user doesn't receive many irrelevant clips. In other words, it wasn't very "average user friendly." Lexis/Nexis pricing compares with Dow Jones News Retrieval and CustomScoop -- in other words, it would be considered "pricey" for a smaller business unless the charges can be passed on or shared in some way. And if it's pricey, I think it be very easy to use, versatile AND produce reasonable quantities of relevant results.
ClipGenius (www.clipgenius.com): cheap but essentially useless, no meaningful hits using search terms selected. Did deliver summary results to email.
NewsTracker: free service from EXCITE!, was never very good and now it's being discontinued.
Dow Jones News Retrieval (www.djinteractive.com): This is the service I've considered superior to anything else -- until I tried CustomScoop. Provides excellent depth and scope; gives option of selecting the level of relevance user wants for clip screening; option of having resulting headlines, with or without short summary, delivered directly to email with the frequency of user's choice.
CustomScoop (www.customscoop.com). Produced five times as many results -- of high relevance -- as Dow Jones. Covers almost 5,000 Internet-based news organizations. It delivers results to email and the best feature, by far, is the built-in database that allows users to sort and export results in many different ways, allowing for analyses of the type described in this issue's case history. Dow Jones is just raw data -- CustomScoop gives users the power to manipulate, reformat and retransmit the data in many ways. And they have a free two-week trial offer going -- see the note at the end of "The Role of News Analysis in Issues Management," below. Whether or not you ever sign up for the service, the free trial will give you useful results (can you hear your grandmother saying, "try it, you'll like it")!
Editor's Note: I received very positive feedback -- and some teasing -- about the use of the Paintball Products Manufacturers Association (PPMA) case history in my last ezine. Some find my personal love of this sport incongruous with my "business suit" image on other matters. But make no mistake, this industry is VERY serious about issues management and continues to afford us an unusual opportunity to discuss a "work in progress." Just in the past two weeks, a new analysis tool has become available to me and was immediately applicable to the PPMA's needs, as described in this case history.
The Role of News Analysis in Issues Management
by Jonathan Bernstein
The newly formed Paintball Products Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has a daunting task ahead of it. With a relatively limited start-up nonprofit budget, and as the only public voice of a sport that serves more than 7 million players (10th most popular sport in the U.S. now, 6th most requested category on eBay), it has to pick and choose where to focus its communications efforts. Are there regions of the country where public perceptions are better or worse? Are there certain types of media worthy of special focus? What perceptions are being created by existing media coverage, which is where most non-paintball-players get their impressions and misimpressions?
I have been using our account with CustomScoop (www.customscoop.com) as well as information obtained from Dow Jones News Retrieval, to help formulate recommendations to my new client. This is what I know and have concluded, to date, from the reports produced by the CustomScoop database (92 clips garnered over a two-week period), with only some of my conclusions listed due to space requirements and the fact that I'm still analyzing the data:
- Report on Types of Media (eight types listed in current report, not reflecting all types available) -- 78/92 clips were from daily newspapers, six from non-dailies, three from radio (announcements of paintball events from their online community bulletin boards), two from college pubs, and 1 each from the online, technology and wire service categories. Since college age kids are a high percentage of paintball players, to include a growing number of competitive college paintball teams, there's one clear void in coverage that the PPMA may be able to fill.
- Report on Geographic Areas of Coverage (states and foreign countries, 59 total being listed in the current report) -- The PPMA's mandate covers North America only, but the sport is quite popular overseas, so what's happening there is important to track.
In the U.S., cross-checking this frequency report with the types of stories actually retrieved, I learned that, for example, paintball is both a popular news subject and is received quite positively, in North Carolina. So if we want a friendly reception to a story angle, we'll go to a reporter in that state, knowing that any significant coverage there could get "fed" to wire services and websites worldwide. And, of course, we now have the names of some paintball-friendly writers. We've already put out a call for local case histories from every state and will use those, combined with the media analysis, to garner positive stories. We also know what states are a "hard sell" right now, re paintball, and will act accordingly.
I'm sure that, given more than two weeks of coverage, we'll be further refining our approach. But what we have already relieves us from the need to use "best guess" tactics.
Are there some clipping services that already conduct both clip retrieval and analysis? Yes. Besides the cost involved, I cannot imagine a "neutral" organization being able to analyze clips relevant to issues or crises with the same perspective as the primary crisis managers involved. Ratings of "good, neutral, bad" are useless, but even more sophisticated evaluations by those not involved with the client and/or situation would not be sufficient for my purposes nor, do I think, for the purposes of my clients. For routine PR, yes, for crisis management, no.
Finally, if any reader would like to submit a guest article with a differing or additional viewpoint, please send it in!
Two Offers to Crisis Manager Readers: (1) If you would like to see the full Excel report on my first two weeks of Paintball news clips, as exported from the CustomScoop site, you can either VIEW it by left clicking on the following link (assuming you have Excel on your system already) or you can SAVE it by right clicking on the link and using the "Save Target As" function. Click Here to VIEW or SAVE the report. You will be able to retrieve the actual clips from within that report. (2) Any organization interested in two-week free trial of the CustomScoop service can go to Click Here, which will tell them you read about it here, or you can just go to www.customscoop.com. The free trial gives you a choice of up to five keywords or phrases, and keep in mind that, if you understand how to refine searches, you can use Boolean phrases -- for example, I've already modified "crisis management" to "crisis near management."
CRISIS MANAGER ON THE SPOT
Q: I want a number of members of my staff to learn more about crisis management and already make reading "Crisis Manager" mandatory for them (editor's note: now you know why I like this reader already). Are you doing any other online educating?
A:Yes! Online education, for those in many professions, is on the rise, a hot industry post-9/11. Phil Cogan and I are the featured presenters at a December 6 "webinar" about crisis management that is actually focused on telling law firms how they can build their business by helping "bulletproof" their clients. They get CLE credits for attending, but attendance is open to anyone wanting to learn more about the subject, not just attorneys. More info: http://www.internetbar.org/crisis. That site is still under construction, so some copy may be a little rough yet.
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with PIER Systems, Inc., PR Newswire's ProfNet service and CustomScoop. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about how we're using these services for crisis and issues management. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of their clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Jonathan Bernstein is president & CEO of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., a national public relations agency specializing in crisis response, issues management and litigation consulting. It is also the only national PR agency able to create crisis- and issues-specific websites for its clients in as little as five minutes by employing proprietary PIER System technology. Information on the firm's services can be found by Clicking Here or by calling (626) 825-3838. Information on its PIER capabilities can be found at www.crisiswebsite.com.
The PR and Legal Team Approach To Crisis Management
Bernstein Crisis Management is capable of providing a joint PR/legal presentation team to train any organization wanting education on both components of crisis management. If interested, write to: email@example.com.
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