In the 1500s, poet John Donne taught us that “no man is an island”. In today’s increasingly connected and global market, this rings truer than ever. For this reason, many companies rely on PR firms to build a better brand image and boost visibility. But, PR firms need tools and resources to lean on, too.
Check out our list of 10 tools and resources to make any public relations specialist a true guru in today’s competitive market:
- Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
In most fields, people continually stress the need for networking and building relationships. However, in an era built on the power of engaging consumers and building a bond, no one knows this more than public relations specialists. While PR pros should aim to better relationships with clients, consumers and the general public, they should also build solid relationships amongst each other.
To do this, PR experts should consider turning to the professional body which represents them. In America, this body is the PRSA. The organization ranks as one of the world’s largest, in the field. In fact, over 20,000 PR specialists and 10,000 students turn to the PRSA for guidance and support.
The organization offers opportunities for professional development, and encourages ethical business practices. As a non-profit, it remains committed to serving the needs of the people which rely on it, rather than itself. PR experts join this growing group of members to learn from mentors, enhance skills, and meet the right people to drive careers forward by make them better assets to their clients.
- National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA)
The NSPRA provides workshop opportunities ranging from half-day programs to two-day shops. Workshops provide a cheaper and shorter way to study PR, thus freeing up PR hopefuls to study other things that may complement the industries clients work in.
Due to the growth and popularity of public relations, many schools now encourage students to specialize in PR. However, many PR professionals actually discourage this. The truth is, while PR degrees offer benefits at the graduate level, an undergraduate degree in PR has few benefits.
The reason for this lies in the fact that in order to do well at PR, experts need many different skill sets. PR professionals need talent and skill in public relations, as well as, experience in the field in which their clients do business. PR firms also need specialized skills in various areas. For this reason, many PR firms prefer to hire workers from other backgrounds, like communications, programming, health, journalism and fashion.
Networking and building skills are great ways to get ahead in PR, but one thing that sets the best PR firms apart from others is ‘reach’. How much reach do you have as a PR pro? In other words, what influence do you carry over key people who do not work in PR, but who still play significant roles in making PR miracles happen.
Short of a lucky birth in the right family or circle, or spending decades building experience, Cision provides an option. The company’s software gives access to the world’s most comprehensive media database. This helps PR specialists to reach the right people to share messages, and can later analyze the public’s reaction to these messages.
The ability to not just broaden reach, but judge campaign success, allow PR specialists to gain practical knowledge. They can later use this knowledge to improve on methods or mediums, or change the target market altogether. It also provides a means to show clients a good return on investment, thus ensuring their continued business.
There is a reason almost every PR firm – large or small – has a LinkedIn page. Just as relationships and communication continually move to online platforms, so does networking. For smaller companies who do not have the luxury of making headlines around the world, LinkedIn gives them the opportunity to increase visibility outside of their company’s website.
LinkedIn also provides a pool of resources to share content and press releases. The search engine allows PR specialists to search for other professionals, such as journalists, by name and make valuable connections. PR professionals can also tailor specific posts to reach audiences based on age, location and fields of interest. Sponsored updates also increase exposure to the right people.
Firms can also use LinkedIn to fill in gaps in other media databases. They can do this by creating an Excel file of LinkedIn contacts, which includes personal information like name, email, current position and the company they work at.
While most PR professionals do not hold a public relations degree, journalism and communications degrees remain prominent in the field for a reason. PR involves a good deal of writing, to build content, formulate strategies and create press releases.
Still, not every good PR pro studied journalism or communications. For these professionals, Grammarly helps to check for spelling and grammar issues. In fact, since even journalism and communication graduates can make mistakes, Grammarly is a good tool to check any written work created for clients.
Not only do typos change meanings, but it also makes clients look silly, disorganized and inarticulate. Prevention is better than cure in this scenario, as it is in all others. Use Grammarly to ensure this happens very little or preferably not at all.
Google knows everything. It also provides a wealth of tools and resources for PR professionals, ranging from a reliable operating system to shared documents. Use Google to search client names and see what trending topics come up about them. This shows how clients fare in the media and can inform future media strategies.
Google also shares information on what’s going on in the world. This helps PR specialists to craft messages that engage, rather than enrage the public. Often times, poor marketing and PR choices cost companies bad press and lawsuits, because they don’t stay in touch with what’s going on in the world, and what happened in the past.
Urban Outfitters present the best example of this when the company offered a bloody Kent State shirt for sale. This stirred up bad memories of the Kent State Massacre in 1970. Outraged, the university stated, “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit… This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”
A simple consultation with Google would have saved the company from embarrassment and bad press. Still, Urban Outfitters issued a formal apology for the product and offered an interesting explanation stating the product “was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection… [and] discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.”
- Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
A favorite of many PR specialists, HARO provides a database for journalists and public relations. Journalists use the site to source leads for upcoming stories, and PR specialists link up with journalists to secure a spot in the media for clients.
HARO’s connections with media outlets involve some of the most popular in the industry. The list includes Reuters, Chicago Tribune, Mashable, ABC, the New York Times and TIMES. Today, the company boasts over 475,000 sources and more than 35,000 journalists.
Even companies without PR representation say good things about HARO. Legally Nanny, a small law firm, said of the service, “Thanks to HARO, I was quoted in The Wall Street Journal. For a small law firm like ours, that is a major coup.”
Bullhorn provides Consumer Relationship Management (CRM) support for clients. This company brought the first PR platform to market which helps to manage and report media relationships. This improves the likelihood of acceptance for pitches and helps companies to expand reach and develop more effective strategies.
So many CRM systems only provide old database functions with new designs. But Bullhorn allows PR specialists to track emails, see where it’s headed, and provide a more rounded view of how relationships with different key influencers progress in a day or over longer periods of time. This helps PR specialists to learn and remember who to contact for what, and when, or even how best to reach to them.
Bullhorn even provides tables and charts to help illustrate these analytical results. The results help experts to measure what strategies work and identify “problematic bottlenecks” before it impacts companies and clients for the worse. Some reports include opportunity-specific reports, and salesperson activity reports. PR pros can also create reports to track specific business goals.
Great work often calls for equally great teamwork. And as PR firms and clients open new branches spread out across the globe, these teams must find creative ways to work together from different locations to meet common goals. ISEBOX provides solutions to problems that arise in this situation.
Firstly, it allows companies to move all content to one location. Content may include images, video files, word documents and spreadsheets. Journalists, marketers, project managers, clients and PR pros can then access these documents to carry out the work needed to play their role in the creative process. Team members can upload files up to 5GB large, and distribute videos in HD quality.
ISEBOX also embeds tracking information into files so firms can keep track of who downloads what files and when. This helps to keep track of sensitive and confidential information. ISEBOX also alerts companies when videos become embedded in URL addresses, and let the company know how well – or how poorly – the video performs.
Additionally, the mobile features ensure that executives who need to travel can work on the go and track team’s progress. Because of this, processes and approvals experience fewer delays. This in turn helps PR specialists and the journalists they work with to make it to the market first with the message they want to share.
- Social Media
Surprised? Why should you be? Social Media continues to take both the marketing and public relations worlds by storm. As more people move communication to media platforms, businesses must join them there in order to connect. With a whole host of social media platforms to choose from, companies must decide which platforms best complement their business model.
Even so, organizations and public figures in all fields and industries use Twitter and Facebook to increase visibility and connect with fans and customers. Other platforms like Quora, YouTube, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr and even Instagram also prove useful for some. But companies should choose platforms mostly used by the target market they hope to reach.
LinkedIn could also be grouped here. However, company profiles for mostly business networking serve a different purpose. Business to business interactions do not create the same effect as using social media platforms for engaging with consumers. This is more the aim of traditional social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
According to Engage PR, “social media spend[ing] within marketing budgets [is] expected to increase 128% to 21.4% in the next five years [and] social activity is becoming more integral to brand perception and business performance…
“While some may still see social media as a ‘risky’ marketing channel to pursue or even something to ignore, the reality is your #business is already being spoken about somewhere in the social ecosystem. And if you’re not listening or acting on these conversations then not only are potential opportunities being missed but brand reputation is at risk.”
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