Are you the person on your team who sets up news alerts? If so, this week’s article by Angie Herrington is just for you. Angie has spent more time than she can count becoming an expert on news alerts, and in today’s article she shares all of her top tips and tricks with you. ~Helen
Researchers have relied on news alerts for decades to help us avoid missing something potentially transformational for our organization. The problem is there isn’t one perfect resource to catch everything. Sophisticated algorithms are gamed to skew or create biased results. Most products are now curated for digital marketing professionals and focused on tracking brands, social media mentions, and analytical trends. This is great for marketing or public relations purposes but not so wonderful for what the traditional researcher needs.
I provide daily updates on board members for one of my clients. Fortunately, this is a top priority because it’s more time consuming than any other group I’ve tracked in the past 20 years. The board of directors is made up of 50 high profile executives ranging from chairs or board members of public companies, distinguished academics, public policy experts, and other daily newsmakers. In addition to the usual updates on employment or philanthropy, I look for public statements, interviews, awards, honors, published papers, op-eds, conference attendance, or speaking engagements.
I know that many of us spend time doing this, so I thought you might like a peek into how I do it.
Start with a plan and you’ll avoid a lot of duplicate work or wasted time. Talk to your development officer about who’s the intended audience and what’s most important to them. For example: do they want to know if Masrani Global Corporation’s 5-year bond YTM tumbled by 15.0 basis points? When Victor Newman sells $5 million in Newman Enterprises but not when he’s granted 5 Restricted Stock Units of Jabot Cosmetics? It’s inevitable you’ll still see these results in your feed but you can quickly scroll past them if you already know they’re not a priority.
In case your development officer doesn’t know (or say) specifically what they want to see, you need to think about their needs. Are they raising funding for specific projects (decarbonization or housing for veterans) or waiting for the right opportunity to solicit (the prospect sold their company)?
It’s also important to know you need to set up alerts with more than one service. It can take a lot of time upfront but it’s worth it in the end. Start with general searches and refine as you go. Keep track of your search strings as you’re using different products because one Boolean search isn’t equal to another. I also keep notes so I don’t accidentally overlook (for example) Tyler Durden who is a soap salesman in Los Angeles and owner of several Average Joe’s Gymnasium franchises but not the board member of Unilever or the restauranteur.
Consider their company, spouse, or anything potentially relevant. Search Elizabeth Holmes but don’t forget she’s commonly known as Liz and Betsy. See Marcy Phelps’s blog post, Not enough Google results? – Time to get creative or HBG’s Prospect Research Links Library for help to improve your searches. There are dozens of search engine optimization experts and librarians with blogs and Twitter accounts, including Tara Calishain’s ResearchBuzz – more on her in a minute.
There are some names with overwhelming notoriety. Take for example Jeffrey Epstein – no, not that one but Dr. Jeffrey S. Epstein, a plastic surgeon in Florida, or Disney’s publicist Jeffrey Epstein. Your development officer wants alerts on Mark Zuckerberg? Talk to them about what’s the best use of your time and manage their expectations. Sometimes you need to “let it go” (sorry, Disney Epstein) even if you try every creative Boolean string imaginable.
- I was initially uncomfortable including negative news. I now see it as due diligence and one of the most important services I can provide. Your organization is going to want to know if someone representing or connected to the prospect is in the news and may reflect negatively on the organization.
- Always verify news sources for legitimacy, extreme bias, or reputational history. I keep Media Bias/Fact Check on my toolbar. On the other hand, don’t let your personal biases affect what you do or don’t share. You may completely disagree with anything reported by Highlights magazine, but don’t automatically dismiss it if it has factual information or quotes and not conjecture. Check for another source to corroborate the information or include a note if you have a hunch it’s important.
- Check. The. Date. An article may have today’s date but as you read through it you realize it’s an article from two years ago. I can’t stress this enough. Avoid any embarrassment or potential doubts about your credibility.
- You’re going to run into articles behind paywalls. Search the headline or similar words to see if another site has the same article or comparable. Yahoo!News frequently includes full articles from Business Insider. BloombergQuint and BNN Canada have included full articles published on Bloomberg. Check your library or with your client to see if they have a subscription.
- Make sure you have a good anti-virus security program on your computer. Trust me.
Products and Services I’ve Tested (alphabetically)
EDGAR/SEC Filing Notifications is free and provides an immediate heads up if your person filed with the SEC. You can do the same if you happen to already have a subscription to SECDatabase or similar.
Google. I know, I know. It’s not consistent and legitimately has a bad rep. BUT it’s a rare option with unlimited free searches and has often given me better results than products with selling points that theirs is better than Google. I’ve found the bigger the name you’re searching the better the results. When you set up your alert it’s possible you’re missing a key step by not double-clicking under the Sources drop-down menu. “Automatic” doesn’t include everything. If you are getting meh results from your Google alerts, make sure you read ResearchBuzz’s Backstop Your Google Alerts with Bing News RSS Feeds. She gives you a step-by-step guide on how to export your Google alerts and turn them into a Bing News RSS feed.
LexisNexis is a subscription with unlimited searches and has a consistent number of useful results. If you need help setting up a complicated search, I’ve found our account representative is always helpful. Although full articles are generally included, some only have a link and are behind paywalls.
MarketWatch Alerts allows up to 25 emailed alerts for free. You can search by keyword, ticker symbol, industry, and price and volume. When you set up your alert, make sure to select ‘All Services’ to include CBS, CNET, AP, and others. I was most interested in searching a person’s name by keyword. Right when I was about to give up on MarketWatch, they emailed an article about a prominent name that I didn’t get from other products. I’ve found this is best to track public companies and monitor price/volume changes. For example, if your donor said they’ll make a gift once Berkshire Hathaway Series A stock goes over $421,000 per share.
Mention is a subscription service and frequently talked about as a go-to product. It’s one of the oldest social media monitoring tools and we’ve been using this at HBG for several years. Mention is described as “a product that enables brands and agencies to monitor the web, listen to their audience and manage social media.” You can limit your results to News, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Forums, Blogs, Videos, and/or Web. I’ve limited mine to only News and still get a lot of independent websites with opinionated news stories. A nice feature you don’t get with the others is you can block a source and never see something like Patrick Bateman’s Lifestyle Tips blog again. My searches are for daily newsmakers so I get a lot of “opinions.” Your results will depend on who you’re tracking. My colleagues have found it very helpful and the volume of results more manageable for less controversial or high-profile people. Meltwater and AlmaConnect are other popular subscriptions. Check with your communications or public relations departments to see if they’re already using one of these or a similar product organization-wide.
ObitMessenger is free and a quick way to enter your organization’s name to track any mentions in an obituary.
ProQuest is one I’ve been using for decades. It’s accessible through most public or university libraries. It picks up wire feeds and usually displays the full article, sometimes even subscriptions like the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, and Financial Times. A nice feature is you can download and save an article as a .pdf. If your person is an insider, it’s heavy on stock exchange and corporate earnings information but easy to scroll through the email digest if you want to skip “Sirius Cybernetics Corp. Buys 35 Shares of Hooli, Inc.”
Talkwalker is mentioned frequently on PRSPCT-L. I can’t speak to its subscription service but it allows 50 free alerts. You can limit your results to news, social media, discussion boards and/or blogs. Similar to Mention, its primary audience is for monitoring social media so you should know it’s also going to include biased and colorful results and the occasional reference to the deep state or a creative conspiracy theory. I may not personally agree with some of the political sites or opinions, but I questioned the product when 4chan, URLs with words that were clearly adult entertainment, and some URLs redirected me to spam. I emailed customer service to ask about their policies for including links like 4chan and they responded they do not have any site crawling policies. I’ve gone back and forth about using it but the pros outweighed my concerns and it’s given me several useful results I didn’t get from others. Although I still get some questionable links, I suggest limiting your results to News only. As you should do with any product, always verify the sources and think before you click.
I’m still fine-tuning my alerts most days, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is to not only manage my client’s expectations but also my own. Contrary to what you or your client might think, it’s not an automated process like some services advertise. You have to manually verify the results just like you would with a wealth screening. Keeping that in mind, I include a disclaimer section at the end of my news digest to remind everyone of the limitations with monitoring the internet. It comes in handy when there’s the inevitable question of how could I have ever missed Ron Burgundy’s op-ed in the bimonthly Weakley County Press on the binomial options pricing model???
DISCLAIMER: Every effort is made to evaluate automated alerts efficiently and manually from multiple resources for the most accurate and relevant information. Please keep in mind:
- Alerts aren’t guaranteed to capture all information found electronically on websites, news services, social media, discussion boards, blogs or similar.
- Updated information from LinkedIn or personal websites won’t be captured through an alert.
- Information from international sources or those not written in English aren’t guaranteed to be identified.
- Some information may not be found immediately and/or delayed due to algorithms.
- Some articles might be identified with a current date but are actually outdated information. Every effort is made to manually screen and remove these from the news digest.
- Information provided in this digest comes directly from a source which could have bias or inaccuracies, specifically results from social media or discussions. Per request, Research can further validate or research through multiple resources any questions or concerns.
Focus: Employment, Boards, Awards, Honors, Speeches, Public Statements, Interviews, Significant Donations, Wealth Changes
Resources: Google, Lexis Nexis, MarketWatch, Mention, ProQuest, SEC Edgar, Talkwalker