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Metrics are critical to the success of a project. But how do we track marketing and communications results? 

The standard answer is that technological advances have made showing results an increasingly automated process and then many have built their own technological solutions. (We here at Cognito even done some work in this space.)

But let me, former Intern of the Year, tell you the honest truth – much of this is still done by hand. Some of the largest companies in the world, are still doing their monitoring and tracking in Excel.

Let me explain why this is and what a technology product would actually have to do to track and show the impact of PR activity in today's world. 

Licensing integration

Our clients work with specialized industries. They frequently need to reach small, targeted audiences. This means that a long tail of trade publications can play a critical role in a communications campaign. 

A problem I often run into with media monitoring or reporting tools is licensing integration. Unfortunately, many services are unable to load licensed content from publishers, making an automated process manual once again. If we can’t show Waters coverage alongside a piece from Reuters, the value of tracking system is diminished. This would also come in handy when presenting the impact of an earned piece of coverage by automatically pulling audience metrics.

Personalized activity tracking

Every client and even every announcement requires tailored contacts with unique needs and interests. Most communications people still have to keep track of every interaction on their own Although many media research database tools have an option to add private “notes” on specific journalists, this is not enough. 

We should be able to log specific campaign activity like interviews, coverage and requests in a centralized platform. Many services, especially for influencer marketing, are even able to track activity such like this throughout the campaign’s lifetime and integrate into their reporting. Why, I ask, not PR too?

Social media integration

Many journalists have very impressive followings on social media, which can elevate the reach of earned media when circulated through their channels. This organic exposure is very hard to track and report in a centralized hub. 

Transforming the data

Excel is unparalleled in being able to take raw data and easily export it to other forms. While some tools provide limited visualization tools, frequently our corporate clients need to use a specific visual language in either Powerpoint or Word based formats. Impressive but off brand visuals may not be presentable to internal stakeholders and therefore are relatively useless. 

Putting it all together

This isn't to say companies don't use systems. What I mean is that far more than you expect don't or have even gone from an expensive coverage tracker back to some sort of spreadsheet based solution.

I can already see the monitoring providers protesting, “but, but… we are already these tools.” The key differentiator is integration. A truly effective monitoring device would include monitoring, reporting and metrics in a single place. 

Internal communications departments and external agencies already spend a large portion of their budget on licensing, databases and reporting. A centralized service offering these services would eliminate redundancies and reduce costs that come with multiple service subscriptions as well increase the effectiveness of PR teams by reducing time spent manually logging data.

Jazmin Beltran is a senior account executive in Cognito’s New York office