5 Reasons You’re Still Using Google Alerts for PR

Katy Perry has a Google alert set for her own name. This information was revealed recently by singer/songwriter SIA, who worked with the pop superstar on a song for her 2015 album.

Given the number of online complaints we’ve seen about Google Alerts over the course of the past few years, we at Gnowit were surprised to hear that one of the world’s biggest celebrities is still using the service. Then again, Katy Perry is most likely monitoring her name out of curiosity, not as part of a rigorous strategy to protect her brand. Truth be told, we would be more interested in hearing about the monitoring methods her publicist employs.

This story got us thinking about some of the recent conversations we’ve been having with communication professionals. It seems that many in small and mid-sized public relations firms are still relying on Google Alerts to perform at least some of their brand-monitoring tasks. Do you fit into this category? If so, you’ve probably considered using something more robust. Here are a few possible reasons you haven’t made the switch.


1) Google Alerts is easy

When it comes to setting a notification, what could be simpler than Google Alerts? You go to the webpage, enter the term you want to track, and then wait to start receiving alerts in your inbox.

There’s a reason you’re partial to the format of this page, which features just one empty search field. As it turns out, human beings don’t really like making choices. Studies suggest that, when faced with many options, we tend to become paralyzed, and are often unable to make any decisions at all. This principle applies not only to significant life choices, but to actions as simple as purchasing jars of of jam.

When it comes to digital tools, most users want to be pointed in one clear and unambiguous action. We understand this. We’re all for simplicity. But if using a product or service becomes more complicated over time, a good first experience is essentially meaningless. In the case of Google Alerts, the site’s lack of filtering options can cause confusion later on, when irrelevant results start pouring in. Granted, users can access a handful of additional settings – alert frequency, language, etc – but there’s been no shortage of complaints about problems with these features.

The good news? There are brand-monitoring options that combine ease-of-use with truly relevant, customer-specific filtering options. Doing a bit of research to find the right solution will provide you with better results, which will save you time in the long run.



2) You’re risk averse

Have you ever wondered why seemingly rational people keep gambling after they’ve lost money at a casino? For most of us, it’s easy to walk away from the table after we’ve won. But often, the frustration we feel after losing compels us to keep betting in hopes of recouping our losses.

This reaction has to do with a principle know as “loss aversion”. Loss aversion – developed by economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – holds that, as a general rule, people would rather avoid the pain of losing than experience the joy of winning. This may also be a big part of the reason we’re reluctant to make purchase decisions, even when the potential benefits of switching products are significant.

In the public relations world, finding the right media-monitoring and alerting solution can create a huge advantage. Whether you work as a sole, in-house practitioner or as part of a branch of a multinational agency, you’ll be shocked by the time and resources you can save when you (or your analysts) don’t have to skim through and analyze large volumes of online content. Unfortunately, many firms and departments think they have to make do with Google Alerts until they have the time to devote to a full software assessment.

To take risk out of the equation, try out media and brand-monitoring solutions offered by companies that provide free trial periods.


3) You’re busy

There’s a reason why public relations often appears near the top of “most-caffeinated professions” lists. Between the fast pace and endless responsibilities, PR isn’t for the faint of heart. But even those who make it work aren’t superheroes. When it comes to your to-do list, things inevitably get bumped.

Shopping around for media and brand-monitoring software may never seem like your most urgent priority. You may think that putting this task off is buying you time. The truth is, if you’re using currently using Google Alerts or monitoring the brands you represent manually, you’re almost certainly wasting hours of your already hectic workweek.

Imagine opening your laptop to see all of the media intelligence relevant to your brand in one easy-to-navigate screen. Are you interested in seeing how visuals can help you to understand important trends and events at a glance? do you want to know how easy it is to take action with real-time alerting or instantaneous report-creation features? Take a few minutes each day or week (depending on your schedule) to explore a new software. Doing it right requires some attention, but it doesn’t have to be a full-time job.


4) Change is hard

Why is it that some habits are so hard to break? From taking a second serving of a salty snack, to checking Facebook at regular intervals throughout the day, the power our habits have to guide our actions is undeniable. In recent years, science has begun to explain this power.

In a recent blog post, global business consultant Sue Langley draws on her extensive knowledge of neuroscience to describe how the human brain can thwart our attempts to change behaviour. Langley notes that, due to the structure of the brain and the way it reinforces well-worn actions, it can be “uncomfortable and quite literally painful” to override old habits.She references a startling conclusion from Mount Eliza Business School: over 70% of change initiatives fail because of “people resistance”.

Is checking your Google Alerts (or merely cleaning them out of your inbox) a part of your daily routine? Perhaps decision-makers in your organization have had difficulty convincing employees to upgrade to efficiency-enhancing technologies in the past. Either way, it’s worth noting that overcoming stubborn impulses to stick to the status quo is far from impossible.


5) They’re Google

We all know that Google is the world’s most popular search engine. When you start turning the name of a product or service into a verb, it’s safe to say that using it has become second nature.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the ways that tech giants have raised the
bar (for example, the algorithms that produce Google’s search engine results are extremely impressive by any standards). But assuming that every service created by one of these companies is going to be the best in class simply doesn’t make sense. How many consumers preordered the Apple Watch because it was developed by Apple? While many were happy with the watch, it received a lot of unexpectedly lacklustre reviews.

Let’s face it: web alerting just isn’t Google’s strong suit. Problems with timeliness and relevance – along with a complete lack of media context and analysis for results – are commonly-reported problems with Google Alerts. We haven’t heard anything about future plans to fix these issues.


Exploring your Options

While it’s clear that Google Alerts is still a big part of the monitoring strategies employed by many PR practitioners, we contend that there are better solutions available. Once you figure out what’s preventing you from trying something new, the process of assessing and adopting an efficiency-enhancing technology becomes much easier. When it comes to monitoring and alerting software, the benefits of making an informed decision will far outweigh the minor disruption that might accompany change.


Feature image courtesy of Nadine Miller

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