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In his talk, If a Press Release Falls in the Forest, Does it Make a Sound?, Matt Denner of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement gave a crash course on free ways to monitor media coverage of your nonprofit.
At the beginning of the session, Matt polled the audience in ways that we were currently monitoring media coverage. Many mentioned paid media monitoring agencies, and a few mentioned free tools like Google Alerts. Matt posited that although no solution is perfect, you can build your own media-monitoring solution for free that's almost as good as ' or maybe even better than ' a paid service. The session was an example of the kind of content that I love to see at NTC. Through tinkering and trial-and-error, Matt had found a set of solutions that worked for his organization. Rather than pitching a single solution or service, he was simply sharing what he'd found with a room of fellow tinkerers.
Most of us were already familiar with Google Alerts: I use it to keep an eye on discussion of TechSoup online, as well as my name and various other words. It's free, it's easy, and it can get a little overwhelming. Matt demonstrated ways to filter out some of the noise, like having separate alerts for news coverage and other content.
He also briefly touched on G'lerts, a brand new tool that augments Google Alerts with analysis and trend monitoring. I've played with G'lerts a little bit, and although it's not as full-featured as I'd hoped, it's nice to see a service trying to turn raw Google Alerts feeds into more useful analysis.
Google Custom Search
Many websites have a site search powered by Google Custom Search, but it's also a useful way to monitor media sources in the community you're working in. Matt showed us the Custom Search that he uses at Iowa CCI, covering a litany of newspapers, magazines, television networks, and radio stations in Iowa. Matt said that although it took some time to compile the list of sites to include, it's now an invaluable resource for his entire organization. The organization uses it not only to monitor its own media coverage, but also to check for coverage of similar organizations, campaigns, and issues.
Anyone who's spent much time with Google Alerts and similar services knows that the most annoying thing about them is duplicate entries. Depending how a newspaper's website is formatted, you might get hundreds of old alerts sent to you again when it changes its web design. How do you filter out those duplicates and get a more accurate picture of your day-to-day coverage? That's where Pipes comes in.
Pipes is the most difficult of the tools Matt covered in the session, but it's potentially the most useful. By funneling your Google Alerts feeds into Pipes, you can filter our duplicates and sort stories by various characteristics. Pipes is an extremely powerful too, but unfortunately, Yahoo! doesn't provide a lot of documentation for it. To get you started, here's a screencast by Marshall Kirkpatrick. TechSoup co-CEO Marnie Webb created a Pipe a few years ago to monitor nonprofit technology news; click "View Source" to see how she put it together.
As social media becomes a more important part of nonprofit strategy, it's tempting to ignore traditional media coverage altogether or simply lump it in with your social media strategy. Matt warned that developing strong relationships with the press is as important as it ever was to getting your organization's message out. As Matt put it, reporters are people too. If you want to develop relationships with your community, strong relationships with the press are an important foundation. I was curious to hear more about how developing connections with the media had helped Iowa CCI get its message out, so I asked him about it after the session:
Matt created a Google Group for follow-up discussion from the session; there hasn't been much discussion on it yet, but it would be great to see a community of practice emerge around media monitoring and analysis for nonprofits.
Photo: Teresia, CC license
Staff Writer, TechSoup
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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