MY BRILLIANT CAREER
From scissors and glue to mining big data from media
Tonya Khoury, MD of media-monitoring company ROi Africa, tracks brand trends
What is media monitoring?
Monitoring the output of print, online, broadcast and social media. For example, cellular companies in South Africa are often under attack. They invest millions in protecting their reputation by using a public relations strategy. The good news you read about a company in the newspaper is not there by magic - someone has to write, lobby, report and measure that publicity. An unhappy client might vent on Twitter or Instagram about a negative customer experience, prompting "brand slamming" in a few minutes or seconds. In the same week, a person might be interviewed on radio and mention their experience of a certain brand.
That is where a media-monitoring company comes in: we measure everything that was said or written about a specific company or brand (whether positive or negative), count the number of times it was mentioned/placed and how many people it reached. These are compiled into monthly reports, which are presented to the client along with the circulation and reach from these platforms, and a monetary value attached to it.
A huge part of media monitoring used to be done manually: literally, the newspaper article would be cut out with scissors and glued to a backing sheet. It was then measured with a ruler to work out its size and a value was assigned. Thank goodness today we have technology that makes the process a great deal quicker and more accurate.
What do companies gain from monitoring their appearance in the media?
They can check their company or brand's reputation and how it changes. Immediate media monitoring also offers them the opportunity to quickly respond to crises and negative publicity and try to counteract or minimise reputational risk through their communication. Media monitoring allows companies to measure the effectiveness of their PR.
How did you end up doing this?
I worked in recruitment 20 years ago, and was recruiting for a job for Newsclip, a client service agent. I cried every day at my job in recruitment because I couldn't help most of the people who walked through the door. I took the chance and went for the job at Newsclip myself. I walked in, and my first thought was: "Do these people make money out of simply cutting up newspapers?" More than 700 people were guillotining papers, sticking articles on backing sheets and filing them for a monthly delivery. Each time a brand was mentioned it was highlighted with a yellow Post-it note and highlighter. I thought it was ridiculous and fascinating. I fell in love with the power that can be harnessed from reading big data.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
The end result, the joy of a happy client, the challenge of a difficult project, outshining competitors, doing things differently. It takes big, big balls to be a business owner. It isn't glamorous and it isn't easy. It's much harder than clocking in and out and taking your salary at the end of each month. But if you want to make a difference, and if you are dead set on a dream, you have no choice.
What is the best career advice you have received?
I have received various pieces of advice that have had an effect on my life, including:
"Don't jump like popcorn." Think things through (I still haven't been able to harness this advice); and
"Business is easy, people are difficult." I've never encountered a technical problem that can't be fixed, but I've encountered human problems that are unsolvable.