26 PR software tools to help you get better at creating and optimizing content
You have found our stash of 140 of the best PR tools.
Getting a list of PR software is easy though. The hard part is motivating your team to asses your workflow and to change your processes. That's why this guide starts with tried and trusted methods for assessing PR software and rolling it out.
Technology has transformed the way we live but it can only take us so far. The first step to working smarter is separating man from machine.
The chart below looks at each step of the PR process and divides out responsibilities between humans and the technology we’ve created to do our bidding:
You can see how the machine provides the foundation. Humans have to be the driver. By thinking about every step in this way you can supercharge the way you work. Throughout this guide we’ll explore each of these areas, explain why it’s important and outline the PR communication tools you need to do the job.
But before all of that, why does any of this matter in the first place?
A BRAD media directory was a must have back in the 1980s. Press kits on CD were a revolution in 1990. But neither of these would get you far in today’s world. Part of the challenge is that the appropriate mix of tools that can be used is changing more rapidly than in the past.Andrew Smith, PR, Social Media, SEO & Analytics consultant.
I'm not entirely convinced about the need to use tools being about 'protecting' PR from other management, marketing or communications disciplines. They really just enable us to do things better, faster, easier and cheaper.Stuart Bruce, International Public Relations Adviser
There's a lack of leadership – too many senior people are willing to talk the talk, but don't do it. The reason they've become a PR leader is because in the past they have mastered the hands on and can now use this experience and expertise to lead strategy. But now there are a whole new raft of tools that they've never used so they can never fully understand how to benefit from them.Stuart Bruce, International Public Relations Adviser
Profit is always the reward for risk. There is always some level of risk involved, but there are smarter ways to mitigate the risk of changing tools and processes. Doing nothing though is probably the riskiest strategy of all. Agencies who take that approach can expect at best, marginalisation. At worst, obsolescence. Simple as that.Andrew Smith, PR, Social Media, SEO & Analytics consultant.
A more interesting question is what are the consequences if they do improve their toolkit? The answer to that is that they are more likely to be taken seriously by the c-suite, can take bigger slices of the marketing communications budget and can win budget from elsewhere in the company or organisation.Stuart Bruce, International Public Relations Adviser
Now we’ve heard from the experts it's time to understand each step on the path to real PR prowess.
Let’s start at the beginning. Without proper preparation, PR projects start life fighting against the tide. The PR business has struggled along thus far with proprietary tools and a huge reliance on spreadsheets: but just as the ways of working are changing, it’s time to up your game.
So what are the key challenges when it comes to managing your PR?
Execution is essential – but if not focused toward clear and consistent goals, your team can turn into a supermarket trolley, swivelling its efforts without purpose and only coincidentally stumbling across success.
Proper use of PR software can formalise your project’s goals, not just into a document but into the very working process itself. We have talked before about products like Asana and Trello for bringing this structure to the core of what you do. This is a big step to putting form and content on the same page with your objectives.
How do you keep teams tied together? How do you keep other stakeholders informed? This is a key area where you can feel the benefits of smart automation.
Fundamentally, we have driven from a world of manual updates and synchronisation, to one of transparency and automation. There’s a reason the communication tool Slack is the fastest growing piece of workplace software: internal email sucks.
Slack gives enterprises an instant messenger style interface split across multiple channels. But it’s the intelligence gathering and integration aspects that make it interesting. Pull everything related to a certain topic into one place from your Google Alerts to your Twitter mentions and Trello posts.
If someone wants to know the latest on a project, there should be somewhere they can look and find out rather than have to chase you. If something happens with a brand that you are working on, systems should alert you immediately, instead of you having to conduct repeated manual searches.
Machines and platforms were literally made for these examples. In both cases above, the best PR software allows you and your team to be more human and focus your talent and attention on aspects the robots can’t help with. Then use your own intelligence to bridge the gap between these tools. We’ve written before about using tools like IFTTT to join the dots between different web applications but it’s worth mentioning again here.
This area has the most overlap with the broader business world. Companies of all shapes and sizes are learning how to work and communicate better – and PR has the opportunity to lead that charge, especially in the case of agencies, where clients rely on such innovation from outside sources.
From press releases to social statuses to podcasts to video – content takes many forms. But increasingly, at the strategic level it is the same: Translate a key message into a format suitable for your audience and goals.
Some suggest a clash between thinking of content as a cog in a corporate strategy delivering ROI and crafting it into something with real value for a specific audience. But this clash is a mirage. If you put in place sensible software to track the efficiency and effectiveness of content, you can free up your team to simultaneously work on the quality for a reader. And these are two sides of the same coin.
If the author has taken care over the construction of a piece of content, the very least you can do is use smart technology to push it to its maximum potential with audiences. And if that takes a little A/B test here and there, who are we to argue.
The world of creating written material seems to have sharpened in two distinct directions thanks to tools: drafting and collaboration.
On the basic drafting fronts, there’s a trend toward simplification. Apps that create a basic blank page are a dime a dozen, with some hiding surprising complexity beneath the surface for structuring or exporting that content elsewhere. Some of our favourite examples include WriteRoom, Editorial and Byline but there are many more out there.
Scores for marking the quality of writing are nothing new – but tools that integrate these provide a new way for less confident writers to quickly output text with clarity and impact. Writing optimisation web app Hemingway is a prime example.
To illustrate this, let’s try that paragraph again after we have run it through Hemingway. Based on the app’s feedback:
While some may not agree with a robot becoming our editor the fact remains: better tools can help you become a better writer in a way that previously may have required expensive editorial expertise and training.
If video is still a few steps too far for you then illustrations, infographics and charts can be a great way to break up text and attract a reader’s eye. Tools like Canva allow you to quickly create graphs, headers and even images for social media. Learn more in our comprehensive guide to visual press releases.
Video and podcasts are an absolute walk in the park once you know how. There are about two or three important tools for each and once you have those down it’s about only one other important element: practice.
So, if you’re broadcasting live snippets straight from the floor of an event, viewers may not expect the absolute highest production standards – as long as what is being said is truly valuable and feels near live. By contrast, if you’re developing a case study in a private scenario, there’s little reason not to take the time and care to make to put it above most casual material.
Currently, the overwhelming majority of broadcast material is either not very well executed on either the quality or the quantity – and sometimes both. This is an area where hardware pays. Whether it's customer testimonials or interviews at events, make sure you have a lavalier (lapel) mic to elevate even simple smartphone recordings. Pair this with a small gorilla stand or tripod and you’ll banish shaky cam to the Michael Bay movies, where it belongs.
If you’re finding success, you may want to upgrade your core device to a Digital SLR camera, which will record great quality video thanks to the larger optics vs a smartphone. The Wistia learning center is an invaluable resource for any aspiring video producer.
Apps make editing easy – some will even automate the process for you. From Apple’s own iMovie to more professional products like Final Cut Pro, even the least tech savvy amongst us can create video with a semi professional feel.
With podcasting, the setup is even simpler. Get a decent microphone and, if you are handling it remotely, consider recording the piece from both sides and merging them in a free tool like Audacity afterwards. Learn more in Dan Benjamin’s ultimate guide to podcasting equipment.
For PR, this is the big one. The classic that the industry really built its name around. But for many outsiders, they historically confused PR’s big offering of engagement with its impact of distribution.
Some public relations software tools make the mistake of trying to equate the two. Effective distribution without the support of engagement, even just to identify and confirm the accuracy of targets, is where casual PR most often goes wrong.
It’s why newswires have become hollow ghost towns of back-slapping appointment releases from brands with nobody else telling their story. Newswires are more than just an ineffective tool, they are a capitulation to the idea that nobody wants to talk about you.
Learn more: Why newswires are killing PR from Topline’s Luke Budka.
Of course if you’re a public company or issuing financial statements, it may be par for the course. But don’t think splashing the cash on a press release no one cares about anyway is your route to recognition. This is especially important in an age when companies can control their own distribution and turn their newsroom into an outlet of its own.
Good PR pays for reach when it knows the material is working. That’s why tools like Google Analytics or Mint which give users an insight into what pages are performing can be key. Set up goals and start benchmarking.
If you can see from metrics that your content is already performing from the audiences that it has found so far, paid amplification is an extremely cost efficient way to nudge it in front of more interested readers. Find out more in these 15 Excellent beginners guides to social media marketing.
What is this if not the modern equivalent of distribution? Except far more targeted and measurable than newswires. When you think of distribution as a method of disintermediation: that is to say, removing the middleman between you and potential readers, you can effectively start thinking as your own newswire.
In the mean time, of course you can continue to engage with influencers as you always would. But finding them, tracking your progress and relationships with them, has all become easier than ever thanks to technology too.
Learn more: The 2015 Guide to Influencer Marketing success.
A fleet of discovery services use really quite simple technology to take a small sample of people that they know are relevant to a subject area – then see who they are following and interacting with frequently to unearth all sorts of influencers for your campaign.
Why trawl through a baggy, untargeted media database when this information is fresh and easily explorable by such tools? Wouldn’t you be better off spending your time actually engaging with these potential targets to see how interested they are in your story?
Good, effective engagement may be the ultimate example of where PR tools cannot replace a great human. There is no more hackneyed phrase in PR than the idea that it is all about building relationships. But that is truly something that can only be effectively achieved if you spend time understanding and regularly communicating with people you think should be interested.
Better tools are the trick to freeing up this time. And they offer the potential to maximise the impact of that time by increasing the breadth of distribution for your greatest success stories.
Learn more: 6 Stages for Social Media Influencer Engagement
There’s much talk of the importance of data in modern business – and you won’t hear us disputing that here. However, the data output by analytics is only as useful as the lens crafted by the human managing it.
When it comes to learning and improving your communications strategy over time, PRs need to embrace a lot of bad news. Lots of coverage probably doesn’t visibly send much traffic to a website. Newswires will probably send absolutely none. Most people don’t care what you’re doing.
But, using data to free PR from these old-fashioned assumptions is the beginning of its transition to better strategies and better thinking.
This is perhaps the biggest human challenge – and, if you take fantastic new PR communications tools, data and analytics but only try to measure things like AVE or the number of articles you are generating, you aren’t going to feel any real benefit.
A good measurement strategy starts with simple SMART objectives and solid, quantitative KPIs. Not based on what you’re comfortable measuring but based on what you genuinely need to track to hone the impact of your work.
This is where a healthy knowledge of Google Analytics Goals comes in. If you can identify an action that can be taken on a website, you can now attribute PR’s role in making that happen. Learn more in this guide by Rich Leigh on using Google Goals to demonstrate the value of a PR campaign.
This might be a sign up for a software product. It might be signing up for an email newsletter, arranging an appointment, downloading an app or applying for a job.
Once you think in these real, business goals, you can start to track back and build the basic measurement system to track them. And you can see how effective PR strategies can really be.
This is the most important area for PRs to grow their knowledge in if they are to achieve ever improving strategic outcomes.
Google provides simple certificates for a programme in learning Google Analytics. If you do one thing with data, Google Analytics should be it. No good PR will ever turn back once they start to see the value offered from this source. Learn more in Moz's Absolute Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics.
After exploring each of these key areas of PR everything might seem a little clearer. It is by recognising the roles both people and tools must take. Technology can help transform your campaigns from Moped to Maserati, but your mind must be the spark plugs and your hands must know how to turn the keys.
We spoke to Danny Whatmough, head of social for EMEA at Weber Shandwick and Drew Benvie, founder of Battenhall to find out a little bit more about how to implement technology and figure out if it really works. Here’s their take on implementation and adoption.
There’s lots of great technology out there and new stuff coming all the time. But having the technology isn’t enough, it’s firstly about having the people to help you manage that technology.Danny Whatmough
Having the processes and strategies in place to allow tech to make a difference are of utmost importance. If you’re not putting together an effective strategy for a particular campaign you can have the best technology in the world but it won’t show you anything particularly useful.
Drew’s advice to getting the team on board? Hold weekly show and tell sessions where new tools are introduced to the rest of the team. After a session teams can go away and start using these tools immediately to assess their value. Drew also told us how he is inspired by Google’s initiative to allow employees to spend 20% of their time on personal projects to inspire creativity and explore new tools.
If we bring a new piece of technology into the business that no one has used before, the top thing we need to demonstrate to the people on the ground is how it will make their lives easier or add value.Danny Whatmough
The number one objective when introducing tools is demonstrating value, not only for individuals but for every stakeholder in the business. This includes clients, staff and of course, senior management who have a close eye on the bottom line.
The best way we test tools at Weber is through pilot processes. We identify a client, we bring in technology for a campaign and then if it’s successful we can use that to demonstrate value. If people already see the value of the technology they are already sold.Danny Whatmough
The key to new tech adoption is showing individuals why it will work for them. This requires education around how tools will be used and how results can be achieved. It’s simple, if the value to the individual isn’t properly communicated the technology will fall flat.
Drew told us how modern agencies are attracting early adopters and these can be key on driving new technology initiatives. It’s important to have a balance of senior staff with experience and knowledge of processes with the younger wide eyed early adopters who understand the web and are excited to try out new things.
By getting a balance of both within your organisation you can draw on the talents of both to identify which tools will work, how they can be implemented and how success will be measured.
Because of the late adoption of digital tactics there has been a lack of tech aimed at PR practitioners. Traditionally tools solely aimed at PR have been provided by the big players that were born from media relations. But things have started to change...
Last year, we worked with former president of the CIPR Stephen Waddington to create the PRStack webapp, a crowdsourced directory of PR software. In doing this we learnt a lot about what works and what is actually being used by agencies around the world.
Using this knowledge here’s our own top 140 PR tools giving you the power to supercharge your next campaign. So what are you waiting for?
Bookmark this page and get stuck in:
19 PR software tools to help you get better at planning and following up
26 PR software tools to help you get better at creating and optimizing content
48 PR software tools to help you get better at engagement and distribution
47 PR software tools to help you get better at measurement and analytics
That was it.
You're at the end of this massive guide with expert advice and 140 of the best PR software tools you could ever ask for. Now you should be armed with all the weapons to improve your workflow.
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