By PRECIOUS NWACHUKWU – BHM
In considering the best tools for a PR Professional, I believe it is important to identify niche areas where public relations professionals practice as well as other factors that will determine their choice of tools, top on the list is the side of the divide where the professional works either on the agency or the client-side. Secondly would be the size of the organisation, either a startup or a large corporation.
In addition to the side of the divide the professional practices as well as the size of the organisation, we also need to identify the PR vehicle that the professional uses to achieve their objective. As is the practice with other professions, there are PR specialists and generalists.
Key PR Channels include:
- Media Relations
- Business / media events
- Speaking engagements
- Content generation
- Community relations
- Social media
The PR channels above are by no means exhaustive; however, it gives a good basis for identifying some of the best tools a PR professional needs. If you are a PR Consultant like me, COVID-19, doesn’t mean a reduction in your work activities, if you are on the agency side, it may mean identifying more opportunities for your client to stay relevant amidst the crisis, advising the client and executing on behalf of said client.
Here’s my list of 20 best tools a PR professional needs and for the purpose of this report, we will focus on a PR professional practising in Nigeria.
First on the list is a directory, the basics of public relations practice is knowing the key journalists in the sector you serve/represent as well as the days of the week they publish their stories. Storing their name and contact details on your phone isn’t enough and you need to have a working database of journalists that cover key sectors in mainstream media, their positions etc. For me, the best tool for this is the good ol’ excel sheet.
Most PR pros require a distribution tool to get their news stories out in the media. While the email is the first and most well-known tool for content distribution, there are other equally important tools that can enhance content distribution. Introducing mailtrack.io, a free Chrome extension that lets you know if your email has been delivered or opened. That way you can follow up with journalists who are yet to open your mail effectively. Social media has proven to be another effective content distribution tool as PR pros can send news stories to journalists through the direct message option on all the platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
For media monitoring and online reputation management, there are a plethora of tools out there most of which are paid for but at the basics, Google and Talkwalker alerts are a PR pro’s best media monitoring buddies, you can set up keywords that are not just relevant to your brand but also for your competition and it is important to see the stories as they happen.
Listening tools allow you to find out what is being said about your brand and enables you to respond to the customers’ concerns in a timely manner, a personal favourite is Hootsuite. It allows you to set up multiple tabs around various keywords and you are able to see what customers are saying about that keyword in real-time.
Another important tool for every PR pro is a sentiment analysis tool as it is important to know how customers feel about your client or brands’ activities. Beyond knowing how customers feel, it is also important to feel the pulse of the media as they are a gatekeeper of your brand to your target audience and will shape the audience’ mind as to how your brand will be perceived. Sentiment analysis tools are sometimes embedded in most media measuring tools such as Meltwater and Cision or you can try a stand-alone sentiment analysis tool such as Brand’s eye.
Website analysis tools are essential in a PR PRO’s arsenal in order to determine the effectiveness and reach of your brand mention on a particular brand platform in comparison to another. Alexa is my go-to tool for website analysis while Similar Web is equally effective and shows you a website’s average performance in terms of visits and hit.
Another important tool is for auditing your social media follower count, studies have shown that up to 40% of web traffic is as a result of bot activity. Hence, it is important to check your brand’s social media following periodically and clean out inactive accounts who serve to bloat the brand’s follower counts but does not reflect in the engagement rates. A tool I’ll recommend for this is Followers for Instagram.
Content creation is an important aspect of PR. I believe every PR pro needs to have one content creation tool or two in their kit. First on my list is Coschedule’s headline analyser. As a PR Pro, your headline can make or mar your news story. The headline analyser reviews your headline suggestion and gives tips on how to improve it. Best part about it is that it’s free.
Another important content creation tool is Subject Line, it helps to review your email subject based on clickability and how attractive it looks to a reader.
Still on content creation, another important tool is Grammarly, it analyses written content based on structure, spelling, punctuation, engagement and others to ensure the content is original and free of mistakes. The plagiarism looks through millions of websites and academic journals to verify if your content has previously appeared elsewhere.
Still, on content creation, Canva is an online design tool that offers free templates for turning your content into powerful visuals for use across multiple digital platforms. Unsplash and Pexels also offer free stock images. Unsplash is a personal favourite and all that is required is to credit the photographer while using the images. Shutterstock, although paid for, offers a diverse array of premium stock content from images to vectors, videos, illustration as well as music.
If you manage a team other than yourself, you should consider getting a project management tool such as Trello. It allows you manage projects among your team by assigning teammates, setting deadlines, attaching files and integrating checklists to keep track of different steps of a project. You should try it.
For measuring and analysing campaign performance, I will recommend Meltwater or Cision, with these tools, one is able to see the platforms that published your stories, analyse the reach, sentiments, number of views and the PR value of the platforms. Coverage Book combines all your results from a campaign and automatically calculates metrics such as website visits, social shares, domain authority, etc. to show a campaign’s effectiveness. It’s the perfect tool for dazzling your client.
Last but not the least, is the influencer outreach tool. As influencer marketing becomes increasingly sought after by clients and is fast replacing traditional forms of marketing, every PR pro needs to keep tabs on the key influencers in the segments they serve. Plaqad is an influencer management agency that identifies and manages influencer campaigns from start to finish. I have worked with their team of young and influential ambassadors for various campaigns and will do it again.