At PR-it we’re passionate about learning new things and discovering new tools, so when a client tasked us with capturing their media results each quarter and reporting how they were faring against competitors, we set about finding a smart tool to help us do the job. As any healthcare communications agency knows, media coverage can range from a few articles per week to hundreds of articles per month, so we needed a tool with a large capacity for storing data and an accessible, user-friendly interface. Enter Talkwalker.

So, what is Talkwalker?

Talkwalker in their own words is, ‘The Conversational Intelligence Platform’. In our own words, it’s an online analytics tool with the potential to capture media coverage from over 150 million sources (print, online news, broadcast, forums, etc) and 20 social media channels in 187 languages across 196 countries – impressive. The tool allows you to filter data by company, country, language, media type, sentiment, etc and create a dashboard to visually display your data. You can scale the tool up or down and expand the number of search strings and geographies depending on your needs.

Sound good? It is. But getting to grips with any new tool can be tricky and often more time consuming than you expect, so here are a few of our key learnings since using Talkwalker this year.

  1. Decide what you need from a PR measurement tool early on

 It might sound obvious, but as a tool that has the capacity to crawl millions of different sources, it also has the capability to perform countless functions, and it’s very easy to get bogged down in trying to know everything about it. From the outset, find out which types of data you need to collect and work with Talkwalker to customise the platform so that it meets those needs. We spent many hours at the beginning of the project trying to fully understand the functionality of the platform when we probably only used ~50% of it. The more specific you are at the beginning, the quicker you’ll know if the tool can do exactly what you need or if you’ll have to add another layer of research/analytics to complete the task.

Talkwalker recently made some tweaks to the interface functionality and as such the platform boasts a simple layout with clear transitions between data. Helpfully, the platform is viewed online so is accessible anywhere in the world – ideal when you are part of a virtual PR agency! Each team member can log-in remotely, at the same time, and access the same data. 

  1. Keep in mind that the data is analysed by artificial intelligence

Not surprisingly, a tool with the capacity to trawl over 150 million sources is driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This means that the information you input must be specific and clear – there isn’t a human operator reading the articles and deciding if they are positive, negative or neutral in tone, you need to tell the AI bot how to do that. As with the search strings (or Booleans), we learnt that less is more and using concise language, messages, and phrases generated more of the results we were looking for. A top tip is to think about the words/phrases that you might expect to see in the clients media articles and ensure they’re included in your search terms. Try to avoid overly verbose phrases or a rehash of brand objectives or a boilerplate!

What you might be surprised to know is that Talkwalker cannot trawl all sites. It is limited by website pay-walls and in some cases website terms that prohibit tools like Talkwalker trawling the site. This is not unique to Talkwalker, but it means that you may need to run additional manual searches to find your media coverage. Keep a running list of these websites if you run recurrent reports.

  1. Manual data generation may be required

During the analysis of our results we noticed that Facebook posts were appearing on the Talkwalker platform but not in the downloadable excel report. We later learnt that due to data privacy issues, Facebook restricts access to its data externally from platforms like Talkwalker, so it’s possible to see the posts online but not to view them outside of the platform (e.g. in an excel report). Whilst our clients media coverage was mostly published in traditional (online/print) outlets, this didn’t impact us too much, but if you were to use the tool to analyse a social campaign then you might want to discuss this with Talkwalker.

In addition to the Facebook data, we found that the circulation/readership figures for several online/print outlets was unavailable. Talkwalker uses Alexa to source reach data, which meant that data for many of the non-English language outlets was missing. We filled this gap by conducting manual searches of websites and working with local affiliate teams.

  1. The volume of data is vast!

No matter how many articles you need to analyse, the volume of data that Talkwalker provides is vast. However, Talkwalker’s functionality for exporting the data is refreshingly simple, a few clicks on the tool and a comprehensive excel report is available to edit. The excel report contains a wealth of information ranging from URL, publication date, title, summary, language, sentiment, country, reach, source type, author name and much more. So, before you download the excel report, decide what data you need and be prepared to edit the file accordingly. With the vast amount of data available, it took us some time to remove the columns we didn’t need, a process you’ll need to do every time you export the report as there isn’t the option to create a bespoke excel file. Keep this in mind as a final step in the process and only export your data when you are sure it’s ready.

  1. Have a question? Ask the Talkwalker technical team

If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself asking more questions after using the platform than at the beginning. The more you use the tool, the more you’ll want to know and the more you’ll realise you can do. We created a list of questions each week that the Talkwalker technical team helped us to answer. They sanity checked our thinking, helped with search strings, and advised on how to get the most from the platform – handy for an online tool.

So, you may be wondering how Talkwalker compares to other media analytics tools on the market. Whilst this blog isn’t the place to evaluate the tools available, we can say that the vast number of sources Talkwalker trawls and the depth of data it provides is second to none. The support of the technical team is better than we’ve experienced with other tools and the simplicity of the online platform makes it accessible to most. The challenge with reach figures and Facebook data is certainly not unique to Talkwalker and with any tool driven by AI you should expect a level of manual data generation.

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