No bullsh*t, clear writing and a good story
How Aviasales used Prezly to unify its workflow.
What we have with Prezly is really different. We still get feedback from media saying, 'Oh, I love your press releases. They are so meaningful, colourful, handy at the same time.' This is what we always hear from journalists.
What was the biggest problem Prezly helped you solve?
"I'd say it's all about unification. We have a few team members working on different markets with different products and it's priceless to have the one framework for all of them."
Aviasales is the largest travel metasearch engine in Russia, helping savvy travellers find the best airline tickets or hotel for their budget since 2007. The business operates across nine main markets, chiefly Russia, CIS, Eastern Europe and Africa, while continuing to build relationships with USA and UK media. As you might imagine, the global scale of Aviasales' operation leaves little room for miscommunication.
Before adopting Prezly back in 2016, Aviasales relied on Google Docs and MailChimp to handle its PR. While they made it work, the team realised there had to be a better way.
"What we have with Prezly is really different from the way we used to work, with Google Sheets and so on."
That's Jānis Dzenis, Aviasales' PR Director.
"I love that Prezly allows us to unify our PR process. We still get feedback from media saying, 'Oh, I love your press releases. They are so meaningful, colourful, handy at the same time.' This is what we always hear from journalists."
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"When we talk to media relations, it's about maintaining a database; it's about the whole range of communication tasks, like writing the story, editing nice visual materials to that particular story; it's about delivering all these stories and at the end, implementing some sort of progress tracking.
"Having a team of five, it's extremely valuable that we have a one-stop shop for all these tasks because in our industry, especially in developing markets like Russia and CIS, people are still using Google Docs to pitch their stories. People still use tools like spreadsheets to maintain their database of media, which is horrendous. I'm really glad that we have this 21st century tool, especially comparing with what other people use."
I'm really glad that we have this 21st century tool, especially comparing with what other people use.
Jānis is 100% right – in 2020, no one should be torturing themselves by using spreadsheets to manage contacts. So why does just about everyone do it?
Like a great many things in life, this issue comes down to a simple misunderstanding: that a database and the table you see when you open Excel are the same thing.
They are not the same thing.
A database is a set of functions and rules that determines the relationships between different items of data.
The problem is, when you look at the output of a database, it looks like a simple table. So, people assume that they can achieve the same value as a relational database by opening a new file, sticking in some column names – First name, Email, Phone number – and hey presto! a working contact manager. But that's not how it works. That's like taking a photo of a Maserati, printing it lifesize, and then trying to hop into the picture and wondering why the damn thing won't start.
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Spreadsheets aren't a finished product; they're a tool designed to build the product. More to the point, a spreadsheet isn't going to integrate with your email, social media, coverage tracker or anything else even tangentially related to the PR profession unless you build it out into a piece of software (the people who do this are called database administrators, work full time and receive upwards of €50,000 a year).
So yes, technically you can use spreadsheets to build a database. But unless you're a software analyst or an applied mathematician, you aren't going to be able to build one that works.
That's why services like Prezly exist. We've spent the past ten years and have a full-time staff of 17 people dedicated to building a system that integrates your contact database, email client, analytics, newsroom publisher, coverage tracker and more into a single straightforward tool.
Let's find out how that combined integration helps Jānis nurture relationships with his contacts.
"I really love that Prezly keeps a signposted inventory of campaigns. Without proper tracking, you don't even know what's going on. You send the message and you don't know if someone opens your email or what's happening on the other side," says Jānis.
"With the statistics from Prezly, we have a really clear picture of whether a person opens our email or ignores it, and use that information to improve things if this feedback is not what we expected."
Jānis could not be more on the money. After all, what would be the point of using modern technology for communications if you couldn't get to those insights? Any campaign tool you use needs to relate how your contacts engage with your content, otherwise you might as well be pitching by snail mail.
This year's survey focused on the topic of Contact Management, tapping into the experience of 412 PR professionals from across the world, identifying their biggest pains and finding that most PRs can save hours each week by making one simple change
Still, while it helps to see that someone's opened your email and not responded, it can leave you in the dark about what went wrong.
So Jānis came up with something a bit different.
"In the very last part of the email, I'll include some sort of warning, like 'Please, even if it's a strong "no" to our story, to our pitch, please give us some feedback. If we could do better, if we could be of more use for you, tell us.' That way, even if the journalist doesn't pick up the story, we still have that engagement and an idea of how to approach them in future.”
"So with all that – with statistics, with this nice look and feel – we can perform better. We deliver better," says Jānis. "When we talk about usability for both the PR professional and the media, Prezly is way better than what we experienced earlier."
But Jānis doesn't go in for all the newfangled advice on communications – for instance, even working on a global campaign for a range of different audiences, he doesn't believe in spending hours eking out a new angle for every geography. You wouldn't be alone in wondering why.
Want to know his secret?
"Because there is some sort of universal button that works the same every time," says Jānis conspiratorially. "It's just no bullsh*t, clear writing and a good story."