It’s a classic statement that no craftsman can do their job without the proper tools, and this applies to the world of PR as well. Whether you’re having trouble creating effective PR content for clients, with your outreach, or organizing your internal communications/team, there are many platforms that simplify and refine a lot of the processes behind PR.
We’ve curated some of the top tools that can help take your PR initiatives and teams to the next level, and also reached out to a lineup of PR experts and people at companies who use PR services often to see what it is that they value most about them.
Cision, PR Edition
The PR version of the Cision platform is a full suite of software that is designed to help PR professionals both expand their outreach and monitor what is going on with their clients. For example, it connects you to a database of over 1.6 million contacts, including major influencers, bloggers, and journalists—all the type of people who can expand your clients’ base. In addition, the software also makes it possible to monitor media channels for both trending topics as well as mentions of your clients’ brands. This empowers you to react quickly to potential opportunities and issues. This versatility is why Kim Plyler of Sahl Communications Inc. says “It is by far the best tool for starting, tracking and maintaining our relationships with the media. We’ve been using it since our company started and we’ve watched it grow and evolve into one of the best tools in our industry.”
A major part of the PR game is getting out email notifications of events relevant to your client out to influencers and journalists, and MailChimp is one of the top tools to make this process easy. Along with making it easy to send out customized emails to your list of contacts, the platform also has inherent tools to track audience engagement. By seeing who has opened, clicked, or unsubscribed from your email campaigns, you can get a better idea of what changes you need to make to your email PR.
Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics adds that “As retailers across the world are working tirelessly to improve their public relations, MailChimp offers a simple solution by effectively promoting your brand and products/services with captivating and digestible content.”
It might be easier to say what Hubspot doesn’t do rather than trying to pin it down into one category. Similar to Cision, it’s a suite of different software, but where Cision was specifically focused on PR, Hubspot is more geared towards inbound marketing in general. This still is very useful for PR, though.
As Stepan Lavrouk of Gyana puts it, “What makes Hubspot so great from a PR point of view is that it collects a lot of functionality usually offered by several different apps in one website. It allows us to post the same information across Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn without having to individually log onto each platform.” This is only the beginning, though, as Hubspot can build conversions on websites, grow web traffic, and fill various other voids through its diverse set of services. For agencies who offer PR as one of their many services, this may be an ideal match.
Boomerang for Gmail
Your average email user spends roughly a third of their workday working in their inbox. This can be due to having a lot of email traffic or being disorganized, but Boomerang for Gmail helps with both issues. Boomerang for Gmail helps schedule emails as well as remind you when you need to follow up with people. If you’re juggling a lot of different clients and contacts, this eliminates the worry of forgetting a potential opportunity or sending an email at a time where it will be missed.
For Krystal Covington of Women of Denver, this was a natural fit.—“I’m terrible at tracking spreadsheets for follow-up to journalists, so Boomerang allows me to program it to remind me if a person hasn’t respond to my pitch,” she explains. She adds that this helps keep her inbox at a lower number and increase productivity.
Ahrefs is something well known in the SEO community, as one of the foremost software suites out there. By looking at both the domains of their clients and their competitors, Ahrefs makes it possible to create custom keyword strategies that are guaranteed to drive traffic. It’s also very useful when deciding how many backlinks you need in order to increase ranking.
However, it has applications outside of the basic keyword research, as Frank Strong from Sword and the Script Media, LLC points out. “Many PR pros use Google Alerts to monitor and get email notifications of news or blog mentions of clients or employers. Ahrefs is similar, but far more thorough. The product monitors domains, so if a third-party site links to a client site for example, without mentioning a brand name, you’ll still get a notification.” As an added note, guest blogging is a great PR boost, and Ahrefs makes it easy to find sites with high domain authority to pitch.
In many cases, PR teams need to be able to communicate with each other more in a more efficient way than calling emergency meetings. This is why conference software is so important in the field, and something like Uberconference stands apart from some of the other markets. There’s a reason why Andy Abramson of Comunicano, Inc, calls it “the easiest, and most useful conferencing solution we ever used…It’s cloud-based and works on any mobile or desktop device. This also keeps cost down.” He adds that since it’s reservation-less, it’s also possible to set up conference calls in seconds.
Some of the features of Uberconference include quality-of-live innovations like call controls to help mute background noise for remote teams, as well as super-intuitive screen sharing to allow teams to discuss designs, data, and even make edits in real-time. In addition, it can be integrated with social media profiles and call recording is free in case you need to store or playback essential chats.
Dealing with media lists can be a headache for any PR professional. Not only are these massive databases sometimes unwieldy, but points of contact and publications are constantly changing, rendering your outreach methods out of date. PressRush is unique in terms of PR software in that it doesn’t try to be a “jack of all trades,” instead focusing on online media outreach specifically. By targeting this niche specifically with built-in media monitoring, PressRush makes it far easier to keep track of journalists for future pitches.
For David Martin of Heed PR, PressRush was an essential fit in a time where he needed a more cost-effective platform for his PR agency. “With PressRush, I’m able to find the best writers and reporters for my pitches, construct unique media lists for those pitches, and set up alerts (delivered straight to my inbox) for keywords of my choosing. He also adds that if the email request for a certain contact happens to be missing, it can be requested so it can be found later.
One thing that many PR agencies have to struggle with is providing design materials when they don’t have a designer on staff. Canva is designed to make this easier, a perfect platform to put together social media graphics and presentation materials. With thousands of different layouts available and a versatile but accessible interface, it’s possible to combine your outreach efforts with stunning visual content for a full package for your clients.
Jennifer McDermott of Finder.com says that she has bonafide proof that using Canva helps with her company’s outreach. “We’ve found that the reports we’ve published using Canva have definitely had a bigger impact with media pick up than those that have been more basic text. Being visually compelling not only encourages media to report on our figures, but their audiences to share,” she says.
SEMRush is a digital marketing suite that combines a lot of smaller tools to handle important tasks like SEO, social media, and (of course) PR work. One essential thing that SEMRush does is gather data about your clients’ websites to see how their online strategy is progressing. In addition, it has applications for outreach as well. For example, a lot of PR is finding the right media outlets to partner with. By seeing the top-ranking outlets in your niche, you can figure out who is worth your time as far as targeting goes.
Fittingly, David Erickson of Karwoski & Courage treats SEMRush as a multipurpose tool, first for “ learning search behavior regarding a client brand. I use the tool to understand the types of searches people are performing about specific brands generally. For media, I use the tool to understand what kind of articles are driving the most traffic to a specific media outlet I may plan on pitching.”
Anyone who uses remote teams or even teams across different offices knows how difficult it can be to get messages across quickly. In the PR world, where one development or piece of news can completely change the course of your day, communication is essential, and this is where Slack comes in. This communication platform is an alternative for long email chains, with the ability to organize conversations and search through history quickly.
Heather Adams at Choice Media & Communications was a bit skeptical of Slack at first, but was quickly sold when trying it out for herself. “It’s much more user-friendly when searching and structuring your communication. There are public and private channels in case you need to share something confidential. You can upload documents easily and it also connects directly with Google so, for us, that benefited shared documents and calendars,” she explains.
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovations changing the world of PR. Be sure to read industry publications and news to see what new PR tools you may want to use next. In addition, recruiting top PR professionals is a good way to help your business get the outreach it needs.