Time to spend doing more meaningful work? Time to spend with your family? Time to work harder so you can get that promotion?
One of the best time-savers is the plethora of online tools that have sprung up over the last few years. Productivity tools that will help you and your PR team do things better and faster.
But what if – ironically – you don’t have THAT time to get to know all these tools. Don’t have time to read posts like this one.
What if someone asked your peers – the world’s top technology PR pro’s – what they (and their teams) used?
Asked them to name their top three. Then announced the result.
Would that be useful?
Yes, I thought so too.
Can you name your three favourite online comms tools (the ones that make your life easier).
And state the reason for your choice in one sentence per tool.
Even though I’m something of a productivity tools power-user myself, I was impressed by their answers.
And the calibre of the respondees blew me away.
Senior in-house folks and agency founders from across Europe and North America. Applied Minds, Bateman Group, Brother, Burson Marsteller, Freuds, Google, Hotwire, Samsung, Sparkpr, and 5WPR, to name but a few.
The experts’ top tools and what each helps them with.
Results: the top PR tools as voted by the world’s leading tech comms pro’s.
Five key takeaways (in case you’re skim reading).
The Internet! We’re a technology PR firm so every technology makes a difference, but the advancement of PR tools such as media databases and measurement tools have certainly made life easier for us.
New channels of communication such as social media and the plethora of new devices enable us to inform and engage with a wider community.
LinkedIn – LinkedIn is an excellent tool in PR, we use it daily to research our media and analyst targets to make sure that the information we have is up to date. We also like to use it to research any new business leads and how they like to describe themselves.
The Hemingway App – This app acts as a virtual editor and reviews our content for us before we hit send. It can flag common errors and things like run on sentences to make sure that our writing is concise and grammatically correct.
Nuvi – Nuvi is a real-time social media monitoring tool that we like to recommend to our clients to help keep track of the conversations happening around them and their competitors.
We would never make a recommendation to a customer without being able to support it and the data we receive from Nuvi helps us to properly analyse and engage with followers on behalf of our customers.
Slack – We were one of the first companies to use Yammer, then moved to our client TIBCO's Tibbr, and finally switched to Slack a couple of years ago. It's become more than a tool for collaboration and fun; for many of our teams and groups, it's now the primary vehicle for day-to-day communication.
Google Apps – Fairly obvious, but being released back in 2008 from the shackles of Microsoft has freed us up to live in a far more convenient, efficient and enjoyable work environment.
Twitter – For all its recent struggles, the bottom line is Twitter is the best RSS feed ever created. It's not a fantastic business, but as a public good for distributing and consuming information, it is unparalleled.
Google Docs – Get rid of the frustration of having 10 different versions of the same document, and work real-time in that comms strategy or press release with a dozen co-workers. Regardless of their location.
Google Hangouts (video calls) – We have lots of people across the globe, yet even though we're a tech company we still value face-to-face communication. And Google Hangouts make it possible to interact with colleagues as if you're sitting at the same table.
Google News Lab – We recently set up a team that helps media organisations to use our tools to enrich their reporting. This website gives a great overview of those tools, and communications professionals can benefit hugely. From data journalism to YouTube for storytelling – insightful and free online classes for everyone that cares about finding new ways to tell a story.
WhatsApp – We use it for client-specific and team-wide internal comms. It alleviates email traffic, and is a great avenue for quick-fire comms. It's also great fun.
Google Docs – Perhaps an overly obvious one but being able to collaborate on documents has changed the face of PR in many ways. One joined up press release or article that everyone can see, instead of perhaps tens of versions all on numerous confusing emails, makes life a lot simpler and straightforward.
DocuSign – Everything is online now, and not many people have scanners, and so being able to sign documents quickly and easily without ever having to print, scan and send, is a massive time saver and pain relief.
From the New York Times to media coverage of major tech shows such as CES and SxSW Interactive. And, after you’re done reading the current news, read everything in between. The more you learn, the more you can contribute to your clients’ communications goals.
The who, what, where, when, and how. And then, connect the dots to future stories and trends. There is no substitute for institutional knowledge but being ahead of the curve puts you light years ahead of the rest.
Create a top storytelling model from a macro perspective but add a bottom-up, customised message strategy so that the story is unique to its subject.
There are no short cuts. You must do your due diligence otherwise you run the risk of sounding like everyone else.
And, isn’t the purpose to be unique so that you can rise above the chatter and distinguish yourself as a communications expert that is able to speak to any idea, any subject, and at times, give a perspective on a subject matter that is not necessarily part of your wheelhouse?
Here’s what I live and die by:
Clicktime – For managing the agency. We worked with them to build out advanced features that all types of agencies can leverage to manage their business.
ITDatabase – For media lists, editorial calendars and seeing all the stories on a specific trend or topic on one page.
Google Docs – Real-time collaboration on blog posts, press releases, briefings etc. Life without it was a pain.
Google Hangouts – Chat, calls and (group) VC's on mobile and desktop no matter where I am; gives freedom and flexibility back.
Doodle – Finding a date which works for everyone to have a meeting/lunch/dinner/event/whatever.
My Outlook mailbox and calendar are one of my most important working tools. It is where I start and end my day, plan the meetings to get the information I need for my PR actions, respond to press requests, and organise my most urgent personal to do’s.
Larger projects are planned via Asana, a great project management tool that I share with my other PR colleagues and our agency. I started working with Asana a few months ago, and it has definitely improved our project management.
Because of the hierarchy in the tool, you can organise several smaller tasks per project and it still allows you to keep the overview. It also allows you to communicate via the tool by the comment section below the tasks and thus limits the use of email (and an overflowing inbox).
We have been using Prezly for almost a year and a half and it has made a huge improvement to our PR actions since. Not only do we no longer struggle with our Excel contact lists, it is also a great way to communicate with journalists and stakeholders. And on top of that it is beautifully designed (and allows for a great personalised newsroom).
Since we can now track our email campaigns, we manage to better target our messages. It definitely makes our lives and that of our stakeholders easier.
PR and communication are also continuously evolving, and what I really appreciate is that Prezly also continues to evolve which makes it a must-have for any PR professional.
I would say our most important software tools would include the following four:
Cision/Vocus – A basic tool I'm sure every PR professional will list.
ITDatabase – At Bateman Group, we use ITDatabase more frequently because its tech-focused and goes deeper into the IT publications than Cision.
TrendKite – For measurement - we like Trendkite because it has great features for determining message penetration and brand association with key terms.
Sysomos – Also for measurement because using two tools gives us more credibility and shows we're not gaming the numbers. Also, Sysomos excels at measuring share of voice in traditional media outlets, blogs and Twitter. It’s the only service that measures social and the Twitter data goes back 13 months.
Another up-and-coming service we're using for tracking media relationships is Highrise. This has proven quite popular with the team although does require quite a bit of data entry and maintenance to exploit its value.
I've had a lot of other suggested tools come up as I provoked everyone's thinking. In addition to Highrise, Slack, Trello, Evernote and Google Docs have all been mentioned as indispensable tools of the trade.
Evernote – Having all my notes accessible across my phone, iPad and computer is incredibly useful, particularly when you’re working in different environments and have to access your notes remotely.
Feedly – This is my first stop most mornings. I probably don’t spend quite as much time as I should on adding and organising feeds, but I have about 30 feeds in there that give me a good rounded view of the news across key sectors
Stratechery – A subscription email written by Ben Thompson. This is brilliant value considering the depth of the daily update you get – it’s not about a sweep of the top headlines but Ben gives a real in-depth look at one or two key issues each day.
It’s also great to see an independent writer cracking the subscription model. And an added bonus – Ben’s podcast ‘The Exponent’ which he hosts with James Allworth is great for a Sunday listen.
Slack – For managing internal communication and to facilitate flexible decision-making between leadership teams at the speed of, and volatility inherent in, fast-moving growth businesses.
Google Search – External communication these days is really all about getting on page one of any Google search return, so knowing how to use Google, its myriad of associated tools, and constantly changing algorithms, is essential.
TweetDeck – As more internal and external communication becomes social, such dashboards are necessary for effective managing, measuring and prioritising – one of the originals and still one of the best.
Evernote – No more notes on paper snippets and napkins. The contemporary cloud-synced Moleskine.
WhatsApp – My personal favourite when it comes to a fast exchange of brief updates, pics and/or video with teams or groups. Especially in crisis situations and when mobile networks aren’t available. Emails don’t get this job done.
Prezly – One stop shopping tool for whoever wants to share news and stories with journalists, stakeholders and other intermediaries. No more wasting time and energy with a separate database, mail software, and uploading heavy attachments on some server.
Flipboard – A useful tool to browse, discover, and share news and content based on particular topics of interest to my clients and teams.
Slack – A helpful collaboration and messaging platform for working with team members spread across multiple geographies and time zones.
Google Translate – For those moments in the back of a taxi while visiting a foreign city, when you don't know where you are and your driver doesn't seem to care.
Traackr – This is a great influencer analytics and management tool that enables me to identify key people, network of influence, what they have written about, angles and perspectives. And then manage the interaction with them.
YouGov Profiles – A really useful tool to give us some insights into buyers of brands, so you can compare and inform creative ideation and campaign targeting.
Releasd – A great visual tool for sharing stand-out work or internal initiatives with clients, teams and prospects. We are using it more and more.
For research I use Google and my network (still being dull here).
And for online media and social media monitoring I’m currently using Coosto.
Editors note: while Koen worked at Toyota, he also used Prezly for media communication. Read his case study.
Grammarly – Having grammatical and spelling errors is a nightmare for every PR professional. Grammarly is an online tool that finds and fixes more than 250 types of errors.
It helps the user improve word choice too! The tool isn’t perfect but is still useful. If your proofreader is on vacation or busy working on other pieces, this online service does a good job.
Evernote – Evernote is an excellent tool to save research. I love it for note-taking too. You can quickly categorise clips, notes, audio and photos into different “notebooks”.
Try it out to gather research and organise it all in one spot. Great ideas for content seem to spark when you’re nowhere near a notepad. Evernote allows you to store your thoughts on the go and tap into them later from any of your devices.
Skype for Business – Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Hopping into your car or heading to the airport isn't always workable. Skype is the next best thing. I use it for media interviews as well as for meeting with my PR staff.
Slack – For communicating in real-time with colleagues – from handling last minute issues to having a little fun.
ClickTime – It’s about more than just tracking where our time goes; we use it as a snapshot for how we are doing in managing our team’s resources, as well as making sure we are doing right by our clients.
And a bonus – Pandora – My stations range in genre, but there’s always a good option depending on the type of work I am doing – pitching, writing, research, etc.
Gorkana – Its media database brings valuable information about all relevant journalists on notebooks, smartphones and tablets, combined with background details and papers.
KM+ – Kantar’s new media monitoring portal, supplying us with all relevant cuttings on Vodafone, most of them in real-time.
Lync – Microsoft’s unified communications solution that we use all over the company, replacing all fixed line phones within Vodafone, making us available under one single caller ID. This lets us chat, VC, and send data in real-time.
Twitter – No other tool offers quick access to evolving opinions and live insight into events and stories. I also use it as a messaging tool with certain clients and media.
Facebook – I have always used Facebook as a sort of CRM platform because it gives me the clearest view of what’s happening in the lives of colleagues, media and influencers. That information is invaluable in maintaining relationships.
Adium – We use Instant Messaging (IM) as our primary real-time communication platform so Adium allows us to homogenise across various platforms. We should probably use Google Apps or Slack, but for now Adium’s a reasonable alternative.
Without further ado, the results.
The world’s top tech comms pro’s go-to time-saving tools
Slack wasn’t even around three years ago.
Just like the other top three tools, Evernote and LinkedIn are not PR-specific.
Of the 15 tools with two votes or more, only three are built for PR's.
David is a United Nations award-winning senior communications director. Owner of Glasgow PR consultancy Zude PR, he helps clients across the UK and internationally sell more through digital public relations.
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