Over the years, I’ve worked with just about every media monitoring platform out there. You name it, I’ve either used it for clients or I’ve at least given them a spin.

There’s so many. Cision. Meltwater. Gorkana. Trendkite. Critical Mention. MyMediaInfo. TVEyes. Zignal Labs. LexisNexis. And on and on and on.

Every single one of these platforms incur costs and for an agency, that makes sense because you can’t be hands on with every account and you can diffuse costs across your clients.

But here’s where it gets a bit tricky. A few years back, a client was paying an agency I worked for a boatload for monthly monitoring and they were getting these monster reports as they neared a seriously important merger deal. So to keep up on brand mentions online across all the platforms, in the news media, in blogs, TV, radio and so forth, they paid us to keep them up to speed.

HOWEVER, despite paying these large sums and us even adding a more robust tool to what we had, our monitoring was NOT REAL-TIME. If you’ve never monitored your company before, you may not realize how big of a problem that is. But when you’re in a potential crisis mode 24/7, your heart races every time your device buzzes.

The closest we could get with any platform was 15 minutes, which is still pretty darn good. But it’s not immediate.

Add to that problem: our platform was constantly dumping in non-related news about other brands and with the volume of stories that pulled through, we missed a number of stories that had nothing to do with our clients.

Even worse: our platforms could not pull through Facebook mentions and was constantly missing even news stories that were SEO’d well enough that our free Google News alerts to pick them up. And Google News alerts are rarely reliable, so if that’s what you’re using right now, please keep reading.

When you’re paying someone for that level of service, you expect it to be perfect and rightly so. My client got frustrated and started hunting for real-time alert systems with better crawling to pick up everything. They also came up empty handed.

It was a massive headache for everyone. And I just could not believe in this technology age, we could not figure out a way to get what we pay for in monitoring services.

After I went out on my own, I knew my smaller clients could not afford those big budgets. I also knew operating without monitoring was a non-starter. I asked a group of trusted PR pros for some ideas on what might work for me.

As you’d expect, I got the list above and bunch more with all these new-fangled bells and whistles that frankly, don’t mean a hill of beans when all you want to know is “When is someone talking about my company and where?” It’s simple enough.

Then, a company I never heard of before came up. “Have you tried Mention? They’re pretty good and I think they have real-time alerts.” WHAT???? Where has this been my whole life?

I signed up for a trial. I was SOLD immediately.

Not only does Mention have real-time alerts (so fast, in fact, that I will post a story on Patch just to see a pop-up alert one hot second later) but they have some of the sleekest, most easy-to-understand analytics for listening or competitive analysis, AND they monitor EVERYTHING. INCLUDING FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER! They offer automated reports, data exports plus they recently rolled out TV and radio monitoring.

And what’s that basic monitoring? For one user, $29 a month just for online monitoring – which is an incredible value. For $99 a month, you add in some incredible analytics and you’re really cooking with gas. Customized packages go up from there and seriously, it’s the best deal in the industry.

With one of the top-tier brands, I was paying $8,000 a year for the same amount of clients and relatively similar budgets. And again, no real-time alerts, clunky crawling and it constantly pulled non-related stories while missing actual client news.

I have a PR friend who does very little media monitoring for clients and she told me she uses the free version of Mention. “It’s incredibly fast,” she gushed. “I thought I’d get a lesser deal for the free and nope, it’s pinging almost as soon as I post an article.”

If you’re a PR consultant or a company looking for a monitoring solution, give Mention a try. Want to see what the dashboard looks like without going through a trial? I’m happy to do a screen share demonstration of my account.

NOTE: I am not being paid by the company for this love. They’re just THAT awesome.

Erica Holloway is the Founder of Galvanized Strategies and Chief of Strategy of Mouth Marketing.

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