Public Relations is an ever-changing industry. What PR tools those working in the communications industry now need to succeed has changed dramatically in the last few years.
New challenges are consistently being presented to those working in the field. Today, a nicely put together press release and your little black book of media contacts no longer cut it. This article will give you a detailed look at the wide range of tools PR professionals can now use to keep up with the ever-changing industry and ensure story success. We’re focusing on:
- Media Database
- Press Release Distribution Service
- Press Release Reports
- Great PR Software
- Content Calendar
- GDPR Compliance
1. Media Database
A great media contacts database is one of the most important elements of most PR and communications campaigns, making it a valuable PR tool. Your press release is written, you’ve chosen your day to send it out, you’re spokespeople are prepped and ready to go, now you need to know who you’re sending it to. A great media database should have all of the contact details of the journalists you want to contact. You should be able to search by topic, location and sector to find the right journalists for you story. If your story is a tech story based in Wales you don’t want to send it to a sports journalist in Scotland. Filtering out your journalists by topic and location saves you this grunt work. From these results, you should be able to easily build media lists full of these journalists. Better still, a high-quality media database will have pre-built media lists on a range of topics. All you have to do is copy over the list and edit as you see fit. A big advantage of using this approach is the list may have journalists in it that you might not have thought of, widening your reach and increasing the likelihood of your story getting picked up. Having a media database ensures that the contact information for the journalists you want to read your story is up-to-date. You no longer have to worry about doing some last-minute research or calling around to make sure you have the correct email address. The journalists you think will most enjoy your story will get it and hopefully publish it. Helping you make your mark in the media.
2. Press Release Distribution Service
Thankfully, gone are the days of sending journalists press releases one by one via email. Today, PR tools like press release distribution services allow you to send your story to multiple lists of journalists in a few simple clicks. This not only saves time but gives you the confidence of knowing your press release is going where it’s intended.A press release distribution service should allow you to personalise your emails to the journalists in your media lists. When sending an email to multiple people at once your recipients shouldn’t feel like they are one name on a list. Each email should read “Dear X” personalised with their name.A good press release distribution service should also allow you to schedule your press releases. If you want to ensure your press release sits at the top of a journalists email when they start their day you should be able to schedule it so that it is sent early in the morning without rising at the crack of dawn. You should be able to send press releases with minute accuracy at any time of the day or night. The service should be easy to navigate and easy to use. A few simple clicks and your press release should be on its way.
3. Press Release Reports
Sending your press release marks a new stage of your campaign. You’ve done all the creative brainstorming, planned out your execution, written your press release, prepped your spokespeople and found the right journalists to target. Now it’s time to follow up and ensure your story gets the coverage it deserves.A few minutes after sending your press release you will be able to see exactly who has received it, whether it has bounced or not, who has opened it and how many times and who has left it unread. A great reporting system will constantly update these stats so you will have consistent and up-to-date information. You can use PR tools like Press Release Reports to tailor your follow up outreach:
- If a journalist has opened your email multiple times - you know they’re interested, follow up with another email, phone call or even a DM on Twitter to see if there is anything else they need.
- If a journalist has left it unread - they might not be interested or the email could have gotten lost in their inbox. Follow up with a phone call or DM to see if they got the story.
- If your email has bounced - you know you need to find another way to contact the journalist. A phone call here is always the best option. Explain the story and ask for their correct email address to send on the details.
4. Ability to analyse the media
Knowing the right journalists to contact can be difficult. Knowing exactly who writes about your topic or who would be interested in your product is often like finding a needle in a haystack. Where do you even start?A media analysis tool eliminates this grunt work. In a few simple clicks, you can find out what the media are saying about your topic right now. Who is writing about it? What are they saying? How are people reacting?A great media analysis tool will allow you to simply search through the stories and Twitter feeds of thousands of journalists with keyword search to find media opportunities related to your topic. These results can be added to a media list of journalists you can pitch your story to. Or you can pitch a journalist directly. Knowing these journalists are writing about the topic allows you to personalise your pitch. “I saw a great article you wrote about X, so I thought you would be interested in Y”. Doing your research and putting effort into your outreach impresses journalists and makes them more likely to pick up your story allowing you to make your mark in the media.
5. Content Calendar
Knowing the perfect time to strike with your story is powerful. Some PR and communications professionals rely on gut instinct, which isn’t always reliable. While others use tools to help them find the perfect time and opportunity for their story. One PR tool that can help you find the right time for your story, or the right story to hook on to is a content calendar or news diary. A content calendar lets you know what anniversary dates or stand-out days are coming up, allowing you to create stories and pitches to fit in with the news agenda.For example, if you are a flexible workspace provider, or you do the PR or communications for them and you know National Co-working Day (5 June 2020) is coming up you will be able to craft a story around the day. Knowing when days of note are happening allows you to flex your newsjacking skills - a way of injecting your stories into the news agenda and gaining coverage. A lot of successful campaigns have happened by using this PR Tool. Our sister agency All Good Tales has had some great success with this approach. Working with one of their clients, Ancestry.com, they looked through the news diary and found that the 55th anniversary of JFK's visit to Ireland upcoming. They were able to hook a story about JFK’s family history and his Irish connections onto the anniversary and gain national and regional media coverage. Similarly, a good content calendar will provide you with a story when you’re stuck. If your ideas have run dry for the coming month or a campaign has fallen through a content calendar can be your saving grace. Knowing some quirky dates or anniversaries that are coming up that you can hook on to can provide you with a unique story for the media. “Did you know it’s world pineapple day next Friday, well to celebrate we’re doing X”. In quiet periods or during silly season journalists will eat this up.
6. GDPR Compliance
On May 25 2018, GDPR came into force and with it came a change to the way PR and communication professionals reached out to the media. GDPR Compliance is one of the most important tools to have in your arsenal.As GDPR now enforces a “proof of consent” rule for all data you collect, the old practice of obtaining email addresses from your predecessors or keeping contacts for years on Excel sheets has become an offence under the new EU regulation. GDPR regulations are putting more emphasis on respecting people’s data which means PR pros need to be more careful about who and how they contact them. Blanket emailing irrelevant press releases is a sure way to have journalists complain to you and demand that they are removed from your list.Under the GDPR regulations, a journalist can ask for a copy of the data that you hold on them and you must provide it free of charge. If someone asks for the data you have on them to be deleted, you must comply with this.Think about how you currently store your press lists. Could you definitely provide the journalist with every piece of information you have on them in a portable and standard format within 30 days?In order to keep contacting journalists and getting stories into the media communications professionals need to use a system that is GDPR compliant. One that keeps you, the journalists and the data protection officers happy. Looking to send your own Press Releases? More than just a Press Release Distribution tool. MediaHQ helps you find journalists, build media lists, distribute press releases and analyse results.
Jack is a media innovator with over 20 years of experience at the most senior level in the Irish communications industry. He has worked in marketing, journalism, and media relations. He is a former political spokesperson and government advisor, as well as an award-winning corporate PR practitioner.