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Time to get real about stakeholder perception tracking

To protect their reputation, companies shouldn’t just rely on media monitoring, social listening, or periodic research – they should track stakeholder perceptions in real-time.

Most companies have many stakeholders, from employees and customers to investors and media. Knowing what their stakeholders think of them can help businesses build and maintain good relationships — and communicate more effectively — with them.

To find out what stakeholders think, too many companies believe it’s enough to use a media monitoring service. Or do “social listening” to see what people are saying about them on social media. Or commission periodic research like an annual survey. 

Despite their benefits, all three methods have serious limitations. All three paint an incomplete picture of what stakeholders think. All three are of limited use to communications teams looking to demonstrate the impact, value, and ROI of their work.

Below is our guide to the pros and cons of each method – and why tracking stakeholder perceptions in real-time is the only way to get a complete picture of what the audiences that matter think. 


Man in glasses reading newspaper


  • Media-monitoring services provide companies with reports of how keywords are mentioned in the media. Keywords might include the name of the company, the names of its spokespeople, senior leaders, and competitors, and other words relevant to its sector or interests. In other words, media monitoring shows what people are saying about a company on television or in the newspapers.


  • Knowing what people are saying about you is helpful — but good media coverage doesn’t guarantee you’ll reach key stakeholders and shape their perceptions. Nor does it reveal how stakeholders are responding to that media coverage or how it makes them feel about you.
  • Media monitoring also provides an incomplete picture of what stakeholders think. Results are based on an automated search, meaning they’re limited to the keywords used and reveal only where, when, and how often those keywords are used. Any analysis of tone or sentiment is usually done by AI and can be inaccurate and unreliable.
  • Results reflect what the media chooses to cover – and how – rather than what the broad swathe of stakeholders think. Indeed, media monitoring does “what it says on the tin”: it monitors what the media says, not what stakeholders think.



  • Social listening is another common way to try to ascertain a company’s reputation. It relies on tools that automatically monitor social media for mentions of keywords — like the name of the company and its competitors — and assess their sentiment. As such, it provides a snapshot of what people are saying on social networks such as Instagram or Twitter.
  • It allows companies to spot trends, keep tabs on conversations on social media, and determine what’s being said and in what tone — especially if something goes viral.


  • Social listening provides a skewed perception of what stakeholders think. For one thing, it reveals only what a minority of “active” users of social media are saying. It can’t tell you what the majority of users think — in other words, those who rarely, if ever, post content. That means social listening doesn’t provide a true reflection of what your stakeholders think and feel.
  • It reflects only what the most vocal or dissatisfied voices are saying — which can distort any sentiment analysis. Those voices are unlikely to represent your target audience, meaning they are significantly less relevant.


A woman interviewing another woman on the street


  • Periodic research involves commissioning occasional analysis of how a company is perceived by its stakeholders — like a quarterly, annual, or event-specific survey. These surveys are typically conducted using a very large sample, in order to collect enough data to make the study valid during such a short period of time.
  • Unlike media monitoring and social listening, periodic surveys get direct feedback from stakeholders. To that extent, they are usually a more accurate measure of stakeholder perceptions.


  • Given the sample sizes required to carry out short-term analysis of meaningful data, a lot of time is necessary to collect, process, and analyze that data. By the time the results are available, the data may be out of date and the window for taking action may have passed or been interrupted by a new issue.
    • Using outdated data can lead to the sort of poor decision-making that can impact a company’s bottom line.
  • When periodic research covers long periods (such as a full year in the case of annual surveys), the validity of the data can be affected by distorted memories; confusion over topics, issues, or events; or survey fatigue, if the research tries to capture too much data at once.
    • It is very difficult to correlate any perception data with all of the communications activities conducted throughout the survey period.
  • To ensure it’s expeditious, periodic research can be prohibitively expensive.


  • It allows companies to continuously monitor what stakeholders think of them.
    • There’s no need to rely on the incomplete picture painted by media monitoring or social listening. They get up-to-the-minute data instead.
    • Nor is there any need to wait for survey results. Instead, companies get up-to-the-minute data about key audiences and what they think.
Real-time developments of Trust & Like Score on Caliber's Platform
  • A company can see how it’s perceived by stakeholders at any given moment.
    • That means they can steer their communications accordingly — course-correcting to amplify positive news or to mitigate a crisis or negative reactions to their activity.

That’s priceless if a company wants to know how well, say, a product launch or crisis response is going – and tweak its communications accordingly.

This nimbleness is especially critical for companies required to react to unforeseen external events — especially macro-events such as wars or natural disasters. To inform their stance and gauge reactions to it, real-time data from target audiences is priceless.

The bottom line?

  • If you’re interested only in what people are saying about you (and your competitors) in the media, you need media monitoring.
  • If you’re interested only in what people are saying about you (and your competitors) on social media, you need social listening.
  • If you’re interested only in an occasional snapshot of what stakeholders think, you need periodic research.
  • But if you want the full picture and an up-to-the-minute understanding of how stakeholders think and feel about your business, you need real-time tracking.
    • For many companies, of course, the smart play is to combine real-time tracking with media monitoring and/or social listening. 🎯

Learn more about the topic in the eBook

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