One of the most exciting things about the current state of the PR industry is the vast amount of tools and solutions that are now available to us.
Here are a few class-act tools and clever tips that will give you a noticeable edge in your communications role. From handy email add-ons for media relations to mining data for more targeted and effective pitches, this list is an easy albeit effective win.
1. Use Boomerang to schedule emails and Respondable to nail tone.
Boomerang is a long-loved Gmail plugin that helps PR and communications professionals manage their inboxes. “In PR, timing is everything,” says Aye Moah, co-founder and chief of product for Boomerang. “This tool helps PR professionals get the right timing in all their email communications.” Moah suggests using Boomerang to schedule emails so they hit journalists’ inboxes first thing in the morning or just after lunch in order to increase the odds that your message is read.
Also created by Boomerang, Respondable helps communications professionals nail the right tone in their emails. For example, it can help ensure that your email to a journalist is positive without being overly sugary. Likewise, if you’re emailing a reporter who misinterpreted a quote, Respondable can help to ensure you’re not coming across too negatively.
2. Create video pitches with ViewedIt.
For those times when it’s way easier to show a reporter how something works as opposed to explaining it via lengthy text, use ViewedIt to create an easy-to-share video of you walking them through a series of actions on your computer screen. The tool allows you to track who watches it, so you’re never in the dark about if your video was received or viewed.
3. Track emails with Bananatag.
Whether you’re a member of an internal communications team and must measure how many employees read your new PTO policy or want to see if a reporter opened your pitch email, Bananatag lets you track up to five emails a day for free.
4. Create data-driven pitches with Qualtrics.
The best stories are based on data, and Qualtrics provides you with current, accurate data to incorporate into pitches, bylines, infographics, speeches, and more. I recently discovered it, and it has quickly become a PR tool I recommend to all my data-savvy PR pals.
With Qualtrics, you can easily gather data and insights on almost any topic under the sun in a matter of hours to create more compelling, timely stories for the readers you want to reach.
Fun fact: Qualtrics’ own Head of PR uses the technology to pitch everything from holiday shopping trends to what keeps Fortune 100 CEOs awake at night. The result? Hundreds of data-driven media placements.
5. Pitch or produce a podcast with tools like Audacity.
Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2016 report found that podcast listening is showing a sharp increase from years prior. This raises two thoughts for today’s PR pros: 1) Should I be pitching podcasters, and 2) Should the brand I represent be producing their own?
I spoke with Richard Davies, veteran radio news anchor, podcaster, and owner of his own podcast production firm to get his take on the topic. He suggests keeping pitch length to a paragraph or less and including a link to a sound clip of the person you’re hoping the podcaster will interview to show what they’re like on air.
If you’re considering producing your own podcast, Davies recommends starting out with an Audio Technica microphone setup which you can find on Amazon for under $80. Use digital audio recording and editing software Audacity for free to experiment with creating your own content.
Investing a small amount of time in learning to use these budget-friendly tools will make you love your job and look pretty darn smart to team members looking to streamline their efforts too. For more great tools, skim through the PRTech ecosystem at PRTech.co.
The press release has always been a go to staple in the PR pantry. It’s an ingredient nearly every PR pro busts out when they are looking to cook up something great. But if press releases are such key ingredients in PR’s recipe for success, why are so many PR pros continually let down by their performance?
It’s likely because while the PR industry and function have changed dramatically, the press release (and the thinking around it) hasn’t changed much… if at all.
Great cooking, like great PR, requires experimentation, the right ingredients, and perhaps most importantly, creativity. Let’s dig into three steps that will ensure every press release you write whets appetites, satiates story hunger, and leaves ‘em begging for seconds (a.k.a. reporters lined up at your door for more info).
1. Choose wisely.
Press releases can be a significant financial investment and often require a fair amount of human capital to generate with no guarantee of pick-up or other meaningful activities for your brand.
Before deciding to send out a press release, ask yourself three simple questions:
Content: What format shall I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, image, video, combo, etc.)
Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience? (Earned media, owned media, newswire, direct pitch, etc.)
Measurement: How am I defining success? (Story pick up, message pull-through, traffic back to site, etc.)
While your gut may crave a press release, it’s not always going to be the best PR staple to pull off the shelf. Be honest about your end goals so you can choose the channel and content format(s) that give you the greatest odds of success.
2. Lead by example.
Once you’ve decided that short-form text is the ideal format, a newswire is the perfect delivery mechanism, and success would be, for example, four pick-up stories published in target media outlets, it’s time to get cookin’.
To stand out, whip your press release into a multimedia content package equipped with high-res’ images reporters can publish, expert quotes from a range of companies (not just your own), and hopefully a video too.
Part of this preparation process should include collaboration with other in-house cooks. Share the press release with your content team so they can pen a blog post or thought leadership article that expounds on some part of the press release.
Not only does supplemental content provide additional places for prospective journalists to taste your news, it also allows you to dig into an aspect of the news you find particularly compelling while keeping the actual release streamlined and focused. This exercise may create a shining example of the types of stories your release is meant to inspire! (Show, don’t just tell.)
3. Pitch perfect.
Let’s be honest: Most self-respecting journalists aren’t trolling newswires. They’re seeking out thought-provoking nuggets on social media, looking for eye-catching email subject lines, and generally doing everything in their power to avoid reading generic press releases (the white bread of news).
If you want to increase the likelihood of a journalist gobbling up your press release, write a highly personalized pitch. Personalized pitches require that you (the PR pro) do your homework.
Review author pages and read content by specific journalists to understand how they like to construct stories. Are they more into quotes or unique data sets? Perhaps compelling visuals are their jam. Figure out what interests them and offer it up on a silver platter!
Great writers and journalists can turn solid facts and advice into thoughtful pieces. Get them 75% of the way there with the data and info needed for a compelling story and I promise the odds of your story being published increases exponentially.
So, what’s the recipe for success?
Think strategically before deciding a press release is the way to achieve your public relations goals, include key info and multimedia assets, and invest time and energy into targeting and personalizing your pitches.
A great press release doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be appetizing.
This post kicks off our four-part series on optimizing public relations fundamentals. Tune in next week when PR Engineer Kelly Byrd shares how to use data to ensure content success.
In PR, we like to draw comparisons. It helps emphasize a point, enhance a story or create a connection between two seemingly unrelated things.
Along those lines, I thought it would be interesting to make a comparison between PR and one of the fastest growing roles sweeping the SaaS industry: Customer Success.
Whaaaat you may say? What on earth does my client’s PR campaign have in common with Customer Success (CS)? As a PR Engineer at AirPR, I’m in a funky [unique] position where I wear both PR and CS hats, and it recently occurred to me that despite which hat I may be wearing, I find myself tapping a similar “soft” skill set.
Below, I’ve outlined 5 skills I’m constantly utilizing as I toggle between PR and Customer Success.The key takeaway: as long as there are people running the planet and business depends on customers to operate, there are core principles that can apply to most, if not all, service-oriented roles.
In PR, you can’t just have a one-size-fits-all approach to interacting with all of your clients and the same goes for Customer Success. It’s important to get to know your clients personally so you can better understand their business, pain points and goals they’re working towards. Understanding these fundamentals allows you to formulate a more comprehensive PR strategy and intelligently communicate with your client about their company and industry.
The same personalized attention is crucial in Customer Success. You have to put the time in to learn a customer’s business and objectives in order to be able to provide the support they need – regardless of what service or product you’re providing. It’s also important to note that the level of support required and the demands of each customer varies. Some customers simply require more TLC than others.
It is no secret that PR pros live and breathe communication. It powers everything we do for our clients and there is something “so meta” to communicating our communications. We need to be able to effectively convey the work we’re doing, while asking the right questions and staying cool, calm and collected when the inevitable s$*% hits the fan. We dance on a fine line between over communicating, under communicating and communicating just the right amount at just the right frequency.
Communication is just as important when is comes to CS. One of the major goals of Customer Success is to minimize the input of time/energy/work by the customer while maximizing the output and value they receive from the product or service. A customer’s time is precious so you want to take full advantage whenever you have it and use it both efficiently and effectively.
Since relations puts the “R” in PR, the relationships you have with your clients, not to mention with the media, creates the foundation of PR’s work. From knowing the date of a product launch to remembering their favorite bottle of wine, developing a rapport with you clients is a crucial to being successful.
Nurturing customer relationships is just as integral on the CS side. One of the most important skills Customer Success Managers need to have is the ability to understand their customers. Reading between the lines of a customer’s response, providing support when they ask for it (or even when they don’t know they need it) and being mindful of important company milestones all contribute to fostering strong customer relationships.
Paul Caine, Global Chief Revenue and Client Partnerships Officer at Bloomberg Media recently said that “Data doesn’t drive decisions, people do.” Which leads us to the next skill…
First you have to win the business, but then more importantly you have to keep it. Retaining a customer is a lot easier said than done, and just because you sip cocktails at happy hour with a customer doesn’t means they see the value in your platform. And even if your client was impressed by your PR strategy doesn’t guarantee they’re going to hire you for their next campaign.
Customer retention is always a work in progress. It’s making sure the wheels keep turning and the customer is in a sweet spot between being “stuck” to the product or service and continuing to see return of their investment plus a future benefit. Since there is no magic equation that guarantees customer satisfaction, the notion of retention keeps both PR pros and CSMs constantly on our toes.
And lastly, like most of the data driven world we live in today, we have to let the numbers speak for themselves. You can be proud of your CS team’s low churn percentage and PR pros should tout that their stellar pitches landed stories in 10 top tier outlets. However, in both Customer Success and PR there will always be room for qualitative measurement because of the human factor. You can’t always stamp a rating on a brainstorming session, nor tack on a Net Promoter Score (NPS) score to an appreciative customer email, and that’s ok. With the increasing amount of data available to help power CS efforts and the sophistication of PR analytics tools being able to more accurately capture the ROI of PR, we have more data available than ever, and this fact will help us all increase both success and performance.
We’ll leave you with one final comparison. What else do these 5 fundamentals have in common besides being crucial to both PR and CS? They all focus on the same top priority: The customer.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with ESG Senior Analyst Nik Rouda about big data and analytics trends. Nik is one of the most innovative people I know working to solve problems involving data and business intelligence, so I enjoyed hearing his insights about how to make more effective business decisions.
After our discussion, Nik and I started chatting about the many misconceptions that people have about how analysts work. It was a fascinating conversation, because although I work at a technology company that places a high premium on information analysis, I also bought into some of these myths.
The truth about analysts will surprise you. Here are some of the most surprising insights that I gained from our conversation:
Myth #1: Analysts think they are the experts on everything
Nik told me, “You definitely know your company better than I do, but I probably know the other 30 companies in your space better than you do.” Any successful analyst knows the limitations of their expertise. They are continually striving to learn more about their sector and to better understand how different companies are solving industry challenges.
As a result, if you are genuinely innovating in your industry, any analyst would love to speak with you so they can learn more about your approach and bolster their knowledge base. It’s important to recognize this when trying to build relationships with analysts. If you approach the conversation as a useful (and humble) thought leader who is genuinely trying to share their approach with the analyst, this can be very useful for both your company and the analyst.
When talking to analysts about areas that they may not be proficient in, start at a high level and then go deeper. Nik suggests, “Talk to me like I’m your grandmother that doesn’t know anything about your company.” Some topics will be new, some will be well known, you just have to find the right level of depth on the point at hand.
Throughout the conversation, also assess whether the analyst is interested in the topic. If you sense that you are losing them, ask them directly, “Is this useful to you?” This gives the analyst a chance to communicate to you whether the topic is relevant, and if it isn’t you can then refocus the conversation.
Myth #2: Analysts are only for big companies
Many people think analysts focus only on the big players in a particular industry, but this simply isn’t true. It’s probably the most pervasive myths in the industry.
An analyst’s job is to cover developments in a specific sector or industry. They often help mid-sized companies in ways that are immensely valuable–for instance, through market research, helping define market opportunities, or by making introductions to strategic partners.
Some companies will work with analysts simply to bolster their brand credibility.
Even startups benefit from working with analysts. Nik said he spends 20% of his time working with Series A or earlier stage companies. Analysts help startups craft their messaging. Analysts are knowledgeable about all of the other companies that operate in a sector, they are well-positioned to help startup companies communicate their unique value in a way that doesn’t simply echo the industry incumbents.
Myth #3: Analysts just want to rank your company’s performance
Some executives are reluctant to reach out to analysts because they are fearful of the power that analysts wield through industry reports and company rankings. In my experience, it is never a winning strategy to keep a low profile because you are afraid of how you will be assessed. It’s far better to tackle the cause of your fear head on by engaging in proactive communication. This is true whether you’re dealing with analysts, regulators, journalists, or any other power broker.
In terms of communicating with analysts, it’s especially important to know that they are eager to share their industry insights. They are markedly different from regulators and journalists in that they are motivated to share suggestions and insights. Analysts can help you discover new markets that are more profitable or they can make suggestions about where to spend marketing and investment capital.
Think about a conversation with an analyst as an opportunity to speak with a well-connected thought-leader who knows all of the players in your industry. Would you pass up this opportunity? It is not to your advantage to avoid conversations with analysts because you are reluctant to being ranked.
Myth #4: An analyst is just another kind of journalist
First, it’s worth clarifying at the outset that you cannot pitch an analyst in the same way that you would pitch a journalist. How to pitch a journalist is an entirely different topic. Many public relations and marketing professionals miss this important point.
To understand how the two professions differ, it’s important to understand how they each operate. Journalists report on recent news and noteworthy developments. This term, “noteworthy” is highly ambiguous, but it basically means that it isn’t enough to convey information. As the of an aphorism says, “If a dog bites a man that’s nothing; but if a man bites a dog, that’s news.”
In other words, reporters care more about delivering a good story than they do about detailed data and analysis. To see how this plays out to its logical conclusion, you only need to see the latest Gawker scandal.
An analyst’s job, on the other hand, is vastly different. Analysts are not looking for what is new and interesting–a highly subjective task to say the least–but rather they are trying to piece together data and bigger picture industry trends in a meaningful way. If you reach out to an analyst with the sole purpose of getting written up, then you will probably be disappointed. Only about 10% of company briefings that analysts receive will be discussed in analyst reports.
A better goal when reaching out to analysts is to share your expertise and industry perspectives so that when the analyst writes their next report, they will have a more thorough understanding of the unique contributions that your company brings to the industry.
In order to do this successfully, you need to learn to listen. When an executive or investor relations professional gets on the phone and only shares their perspectives but doesn’t listen to the analyst, they have no idea what the analyst thinks about the topic being discussed, and it will not lead to a successful outcome.
Myth #5: Analysts are pay-for-play
Many people think analysts will only speak with executives so they can sell their firm’s services to that company, but do not think it is valuable if you are not interested in hiring an analyst.
Not at all. While analysts do provide individual services to companies in their industries, good analyst firms offer valuable feedback for all companies, not just paying clients. Analysts frequently offer free consultations and advice for smaller companies.
Still, if you encounter an analyst firm that provides research or work that is far below standard rates, this should be a red flag. This is a case of you get what you pay for. Analyst firms that charge sub-standard rates are more prone to be swayed by client interests or cut corners on methodology.
The analyst firms that charge a premium rate are able to do this because they have developed a stellar reputation for delivering exceptional research. Any firm with a decent reputation is going to be very careful to not let their reports be unduly influenced by client interests.
If you focus on building long-term, honest relationships with analysts, it will be very valuable to you as you grow your business–regardless of your company’s size. Analysts have the connections and insights to help your company achieve and surpass your goals. Just like in any other situation, the best way approach a relationship with an analyst is to treat the relationship as a two-way street.
A version of this article first appeared onInc.com.
Ever have one of those late afternoons where you stop to take a breath and realize your desk has become a complete disaster area in the past week? Yeah, that was me last Friday around 5:50pm.
Since most everyone else had left for the weekend, I decided to take advantage of the peace and quiet and go on one my infamous Soza cleaning rampages which typically involves a whirlwind of Clorox wipes and an anal-retentive reorganization of our snack shelves.
During my desk disaster relief efforts, I happened upon a fascinating little doodle penned by my inimitable Chief Strategy Officer, Rebekah Iliff. Rebekah’s desk bumps right up against mine, so it’s no surprise when documents co-mingle.
Rebekah and I constantly talk about how important time management is, particularly in the lives of busy PR pros. But we also know all-too-well how easy it is to find yourself hyper focused on one or two things while other important facets of being a well-rounded professional go neglected.
The real challenge, as visualized above, is striking a balance…and committing to that balance. This means blocking off time in your calendar for stuff that typically gets pushed to the wayside and it means recognizing that if you’re always executing, you won’t have the time for insight mining or dot connecting.
We don’t live in an ideal world, but we do have a lot of say in how we spend our time. Might I suggest taking a page from the Notebook of Iliff and turning a critical eye to how your workflow aligns (or doesn’t align) with the above PR optimization pie?
If any of these slices are missing from your day-to-day (particularly the 6% where you drink wine), your work wheel might need a little rejiggering to ensure you are indeed spending your time wisely and not missing key opportunities.
Being a PR pro is so much more than the volume of output you deliver and sometimes, we all need a simple, hand-drawn pie chart to remind ourselves of that.
Got another slice of the pie you think is muy importante? Please comment below or tweet your thoughts to us! We can never get enough PR optimization tips.
One of my favorite go-to phrases in PR consultant-land was always: “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.”
Translation: “Hey, listen buddy, if you have a crappy product, a less than stellar website, and missed the market trend by more than two years, ain’t no press in the world gonna save you now.”
And yes, I was channeling my inner Tina Turner just now.
As we launch into 2015, I’d like to offer you a new way of thinking about PR, along the lines of doing awkward-type things to poor unassuming animals.
I proudly present:
You see the cow has always been one of those dependable, non-fussy animals. It just lazes around and grazes quietly, minding its own bidness. But it gives us amazingly necessary and yummy things like milk, and cheese, and beef – if you’re into that kind of a thing.
No one really ever notices zhee cow.
But throw a sexy horse mane on it and watch out Black Beauty! All of a sudden that homely beast comes to life and says: “I am to be taken seriously, looked at adoringly, and finally noticed for all of my many many attributes, including my overly exposed teats.”
So in 2015, let’s be cows with horse manes shall we? Let’s be practical and steady and produce great work…but let’s also remind everyone how udderly sexy and significant we are. And let’s milk it for all we can.
Here’s to embracing new paradigms, as weird and off-topic as they may seem.
Teat, I mean Tweet us with your thoughts. And if you have any other cow with horse mane photos, we definitely want to see them.
Ahhh, SXSW. That time of year when every startup under the sun flees to the quaint, country-loving town of Austin, Texas only to have their big launch plans hijacked by the likes of Amex and Pepsi. And this year, possibly Uber and Airbnb too.
But have no fear, despite its recent saturation and seemingly oversubscribed experience, SXSW offers many unique opportunities for those willing to plan ahead, take things with a gigantic grain of salt (with a side of BBQ), and ultimately enjoy the company of others who have figured out how to maximize their ROI: Return on Interactive.
An insider’s look at a perfectly organized schedule for AirPR execs at SXSW soon to be ruined by reality.
From one recently reformed SXSW-avoidant professional to another, here are the dos and don’ts for ensuring that [during your reflective flight home] you don’t feel like you’ve completely wasted your time, money, energy, or worse…lost your sanity.
Do make sure you attend at least 2 panels or keynote events a day. This will give you plenty of content to talk about later when you’re trying to awkwardly network with a bunch of drunk people at an after party. It will also give you plenty of stuff to Tweet about and post to your Facebook wall so that you appear to be #intheknow.
Don’t try to stack meetings with potentially important individuals between 8am and 11am because you likely won’t make it. Be kind to yourself and accept this reality. We know you are trying to impress the boss, but simply don’t do it. You will fail, which is worse than not scheduling a meeting in the first place. BONUS: Sunday, March 10, 2013 is conveniently Daylight Savings, so you better push those meetings back to noon.
Do RSVP to every party that looks halfway decent so you have plenty of party-hopping choices and can also pull the “Where’s Waldo” stunt for people you are trying to avoid. This tip is really geared more towards investors and other folks with money who end up being inundated with requests from startup founders. Journalists also fall into this category. (more…)