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Look inside any marketing or PR agency, and you'll see an abundance of data. From social media monitoring to sentiment monitoring, traditional media list services, and Google alerts—new tools are popping up each day to help marketers collect data. As a result, agencies are swimming in data, but that data doesn't always translate to insight, let alone intelligence.

In all areas of market research, there are growing disconnects between data gathering, data analysis, and action. There's little doubt that media lists, large datasets, and cool charts are important to understanding the media landscape. But, frankly, in the era of Google and social search, data has become a commodity.

Truly successful marketing firms can't just dump data on their client's doorstep. They need to tell clients something they don't already know by putting the information into a meaningful context, and then creating a strategic action plan based on that data.

In short, data is only as good as the strategic mind that does something with it. Understanding that is one thing. Being able to do something about it in day-to-day business is another.

Here's why...

The average PR or marketing job has gotten harder over the years. With the explosion of a 24-hour news cycle, blogs, Twitter, and countless niche networks and sites, there are more voices out there than ever before. The noise can be downright deafening. And marketers simply haven't had the right set of tools to cope with today's media landscape.

These circumstances force you into one of two suboptimal workflows.

Dilemma One: The Traditional Media List Service

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Gary Lee is the CEO of mBLAST, which provides cloud-based solutions to help PR and marketing professionals better identify and engage with their key influencers.