Today, even an Android smartphone has more computational power than did the world’s most powerful supercomputer just a couple of decades ago. Yet, few public relations pros have updated the way they work to take advantage of the capabilities now available to them.
It is true that public relations is at least in part a people business, and human relations are naturally resistant to digitization.
Even so, the tools I discuss here have boosted my productivity dramatically. In 2015, Juwai.com generated more than $80 million of media coverage, without an agency and with just one internal person dedicated to PR (me). Moreover, I have operated in another time zone and on another continent from most of the Juwai.com team.
So, here are some tips on using productivity-enhancing tools. They have helped Juwai.com place stories everywhere from CNBC and the New York Times to China Daily and Nikkei Asian Review.
Evernote is like the notebook where your mother used to keep her recipes (or maybe it was your father – no stereotypes here).
Unlike that notebook, Evernote can never get full. You can insert any sort of document, picture or video. It is completely searchable, easy to organize and even shareable with people who don’t have an account.
I have one Evernote notebook for news related to Juwai.com, which I share with Sales and Marketing. Another shared notebook stores content that I have created, and a third holds confidential files, which I share with no one. I clip items directly from my Chrome browser, iPad and even iPhone.
Evernote makes it easy for me to store and retrieve much more information than was ever possible before.
You may prefer Android or Windows. By all means stick with what works for you.
As for me, I find Apple’s smooth, intuitive software makes work more fun.
The ease with which I can manage and produce files, photos, audio and video saves me countless hours on creative tasks. My MacBook Pro laptop is so portable that I take notes on it in meetings.
As for the iPad, it is a vast improvement over wading through a stack of newspapers and magazines each morning. Believe it or not, the iPad is also an excellent tool for writing, because it allows you to more easily narrow your focus down to the project at hand. Turn off all but the most important notifications in Settings, and you can compose without distraction.
The iPhone is so powerful that I have more than once worked entire afternoons with no other device, and been nearly as effective as I would have been with the laptop.
For greatest productivity on all of your Apple devices, in ‘Settings’ enable the dictation feature so you can compose an email or an article as quickly as you can speak the words.
Also, be sure to create official email signatures on your portable devices, so you look professional.
If you want to be good at public relations, you can’t let opportunities fall through the cracks. And, you need to make the most of the relationships you have.
After trying many, many contact and task managers, I have finally settled on this one. Officially billed as a CRM, Contactually works nearly as well for the public relations pro as the salesperson.
I use sales pipelines to track stories I am pitching. Contactually automatically creates tasks when I need it to. I rely on its built-in email templates and bulk emailing to easily send personalized messages to large numbers of individuals. Contactually could make it easier to sort contacts, and its mobile apps are atrocious. Still, it is the best relationship manager I have seen for PR pros.
Factiva and Meltwater
News databases and clipping services let you research the media environment before you pitch, and communicate the value you are generating after you collect your clips.
Factiva has much more powerful search functions, but several times a week Meltwater sends me clips that Factiva has overlooked. I recommend both if budget permits.
A subscription media contact database is helpful for those occasions when you need to reach someone new. It is expensive but useful, especially if you can share the cost among a team.
I have found Vuelio has slightly better lists for the international media I often pitch.
Skype and Viber
I place calls to every continent on almost a daily basis, which would be prohibitively expensive via my regular mobile phone service. Nor can I always wait until I am able to use a landline.
These two services allow me to call any phone, anywhere in the world, for pennies. Usually, call quality is better with Viber. On the other hand, colleagues and journalists are more likely to have a Skype account, which enables video chats and text messaging. You can even use Viber’s and Skype’s smartphone apps when you do not have Wi-Fi service, over your regular mobile signal.
One reason public relations is such a rewarding career is that you get to both work intensively with others and also spend time on your own — thinking and writing.
This is my favorite software for writing. Ulysses makes it extremely easy to organize files, but really shines in providing a clean, inviting workspace for putting down your thoughts. Just about every media release, op-ed, messaging brief and piece of web content that I create starts here.
My final advice is to keep experimenting and not let yourself be limited by what your employer will pay for. Invest a few of your own dollars to try promising apps or devices, and it will more than pay off in the long run.