Whether you're working in-house at a startup or running your own shop, you'll discover one fundamental truth about PR: It's changing faster than ever. These shifts include everything from the implications of brand journalism on the PR function to the dwindling number of journalists filling established newsrooms.
As someone sitting squarely in the midst of these seismic shifts, which include the bubbling up of an entire marketing category called PRTech, I've had the great pleasure of speaking with many of the industry's leading minds and picking their brains for best "tips and tricks" for upping your PR game.
From automated-marketing tools to modern skill sets, check out what the best and brightest are using to keep them winning.
Gmail plugins that will have you embracing email
Ugh. Email: the bane of many business professionals' existence. It's not that email isn't useful; it's just that there is so darn much of it. So how can you turn your email, or shall I say Gmail, into a mecca of usefulness?
According to Kristen Tischhauser, managing partner at talkTECH, Rapportive is one of the greatest inventions to date for the PR pro.
"This free, social CRM tool plugs right into your Gmail and provides a photo of your contact, an overview of their LinkedIn profile, company, title, location, Twitter, and connections you have in common," she says.
I've used it, and she's right. Rapportive saves minutes (those precious minutes!) of time because you can get all the pertinent info directly in the sidebar of your email.
Nora Wolf, a New York-based publicist, makes a good point: "Being a good publicist means diligently following up and not allowing any emails to slip through the cracks."
For her, it's Boomerang that does the trick.
"Boomerang helps me keep track of the numerous emails I send every day by letting me set a date and time for the email to return back to me. It works really well for long lead stories, reminding me to check back three, four, six months later when an article finally is published. A lot happens in six months and I want to make sure I always send thank-you notes and get a copy of the publication."
This is another one I can put my "stamp" on. Boomerang has literally saved me from myself on numerous occasions and has reduced my anxiety around forgetting to follow up.
Business productivity at is best
"One app I highly recommend is called SignEasy which, as its name suggests, makes it easy for you to sign documents via phone or tablet," says Sarah Rose Attman, who launched her own PR firm two years ago.
In this fluid, mobile 24-hour business cycle environment, being able to get documents signed quickly is often the difference between a client who's happy or not.
Beyond basic business functions like putting together proposals and signing contracts, the PR pro's job largely depends on the ability to stay on top of conversations and keep up to speed with the type of news that influencers and journalists are most interested in covering.
On the social front, the ability to monitor Twitter conversations for multiple clients at once is critically important to stay on top of any potential issues or opportunities.
Jennifer Donovan, founder of San Francisco-based Nova Communications, swears by TweetDeck: "I have columns that keep track of keywords, topics, hashtags, and client Twitter handles. I also create columns to keep an eye on influencers I follow to ensure I know what's important to them on a daily basis and engage where appropriate. Overall it's an amazing tool for monitoring breaking news, client conversations, influencers, and trends."
Muck Rack, a rapidly growing industry staple, is yet another platform that many PR pros use to track what I like to call "the journalist shuffle"--a dance in which journalists and bloggers change publications and beats faster than one can say "Newsflash!"
"Muck Rack allows me to see, in real time, which reporters are tweeting about topics that are important to my clients' business," says Alysha Light of Flight PR. "You can do a search for keywords and phrases, and you can also set up alerts so you'll get a notification anytime a search matches the tweets and articles that journalists share on social media. It's a great listening tool to ensure your pitches are targeted."
This is a PR boon. And the journalists can be grateful for this, too. Bonus: The founder and CEO, Gregory Galant, is one of the nicest human beings on the planet and has a heart for making the industry better.
Another Alysha tip (she's full of them) is Tempo.ai, which turns your calendar from a repository for events into a smart productivity app. It'll even give you directions to your meetings and provide drive time!
Turn up those skills
There is no doubt that PR now requires an increased awareness of technology and the ability to filter hundreds if not thousands of data points on a weekly basis. So what are the Top 3 skills that PR pros can agree are fundamental to remaining relevant?
With all brands becoming technology brands in some shape or form (think iBeacon, Bluetooth, and Bitcoin), the ability to learn a technology very quickly and be able to understand its implications are key.
Chathri Ali, a Denver-based PR consultant and strategist suggests: "Technology is driving business and PR pros need to hop on the high-tech train to best understand how tech can impact their clients and increase their own productivity."
#2--In-Depth Market Research
According to longtime industry vet Emily Scherberth: "It's crucial that PR pros become skilled in market research, just as advertising agency folks have been for decades. I never start a new project with a client without conducting a competitive review and a market analysis so I better understand the landscape in which they're operating."
In other words, good PR can't be executed in a vacuum.
Last but certainly not least, is the adjustment the PR industry has had to make with the emergence of visual storytelling.
"In our world of getting-shorter-all-the-time attention spans, pictures (videos, infographics, etc.) really do paint a thousand words," says Kathy Wilson of Tier One Partners. "Traditional storytelling isn't going away per se, but today visual is the new black."
In aggregate, these PR advancements require pros to equip themselves with tools and skills that didn't exist even two years ago. On the upside, for those willing to take the plunge, there is a tremendous opportunity to learn new tech, increase your Digital IQ, and ultimately put yourself in a position of modern PR expert.
Are you ready to up your game?