By Hugh Atkinson
One of the many avenues through which NGOs and human rights organisations seek to have an impact is through direct public communications or by distributing material to actors who can share their work to a wider audience or actors who can strategically drive change.
This process of external relations and distribution is often long and complicated, and there are many factors which must be considered, such as the need to balance the interests of those stakeholders who have been involved in the work, verifying material for public communications, and having legal teams proof material prior to publication. So, what happens after a report, story, or video has been released to the public?
As evaluators, it is essential to consider how publications and communications are being consumed, who is consuming them, what actions, if any, are taking place as a result of the work, and identifying key learnings that can be used to inform future distribution.
These recommendations can serve as a useful starting point for any organisation looking to monitor media reports, articles, or publications that they have released, as well as work that they have contributed to or published through a third party. A lot of media monitoring can be conducted using free, open-source investigation tools, however, there are a vast range of advanced social listening and analytics platforms available on the market that can be tailored to more specific needs.
1) Understanding your objectives
Before starting your media monitoring and analysis, it is essential to establish exactly what you or your organisation is trying to achieve through publication/distribution. Examples could include raising public awareness of censorship, or putting pressure on a government to address human rights violations in their country. Having established what the key objectives are for distribution, you can then start collecting evidence of whether these objectives have been achieved. There is not catch-all method for media monitoring, and the approach taken will be informed largely by the specific objectives for each instance of distribution or publication.
2) Develop your indicators
Once you have established your objectives, it is important to develop clear and measurable indicators to help you understand whether the objectives are being met. These indicators could relate to the reach of a report for example, in which case you might set out indicators based on views, number of page visits, or readership. Another example could be audience engagement, in which case you might develop indicators relating to number of comments on an article, likes, or shares.
3) Establish parameters
It is vital to establish a structure or set of parameters that your media monitoring will be built on. Media monitoring and evaluation can be an endless task (there are always more articles, more tweets and more shares which could be of interest), and establishing these boundaries helps to make the process manageable. This includes deciding on the types of media platforms that will be monitored, whether you are looking for qualitative or quantitative insights (or both), and how long you wish to monitor for.
For example, if an organisation is looking to understand how the UK public reacted in the to a recent documentary that it helped produce – the monitoring parameters might look something like this:
|Monitoring period||3 weeks following release date|
|Platforms||Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, blogs.|
|Data types||Quantitative – Viewership figures, numbers for different demographics. Qualitative – sentiment analysis on social media posts, prominent themes of discussion emerging on social media, main topics of debate.|
4) Build a toolkit
When you come round to conducting your media monitoring it is important to have a strong sense of the tools that you can use to both collect and analyse key data. This could be a combination of social media tracking tools such as TweetDeck or Crowdtangle, data visualisation platforms like NodeXL, and media alerts systems like Talkwalker or Google Alerts. Building a suite of tools will help address the different needs that you or your organisation might have for monitoring media content and help to identify useful learnings that can be implemented into your work. Best of all, these tools are all free (or at least have some free versions) and are openly accessible to any individual or organisation that wishes to use them.
5) Emphasise learning
It’s all well and good tracking the reach and reaction to media articles or publications, but understanding what this means is key. Consider how the insights gathered from media monitoring can be used to improve or adapt your distribution strategy or help to improve future publication of a similar nature/theme.
Whilst you might only be able to scratch at the surface of the online or media discussion, using media monitoring data provides an opportunity for reflection on who you are reaching and how.