It’s no secret that today’s PR pro faces substantial challenges. The advent of social networking and the continued proliferation of blogging have proven highly (warning, buzzword!) disruptive to the field, creating countless new influencers in virtually every industry. What’s more, influence is increasingly determined not by the publication one writes for but the ability to share and promote content through social media… thus influencers may “live” on any number of different platforms.
In essence, while an article in the New York Times is almost always valuable, true awareness is more likely to be driven by a critical mass of buzz from specialized, focused blogs (enthusiasts) and linking and discussion via social media.
Tasked with generating this buzz, the onus is on PR to filter through immense amounts of information and decide who to talk to and how. But with new influencers and ways to communicate popping up daily, as well as an unforgiving 24/7 news cycle, this is no simple task. The effective flack must be a lightning bolt of efficiency.
Luckily we no longer have to rely solely on cavernous cups of coffee to give us the edge we need. An ever-expanding internet may bring new challenges, sure, but also tools that allow us to be quicker and smarter than ever. Below are 5 of those tools I love for their ability to help me do more with less time:
Tout is a TriplePoint client but that’s not the only reason the service is amazing. Rather, Tout (and Boomerang, up next) helps me manage modern PR’s greatest tool: email. Using Tout, which plugs into Gmail, you can prepare emails with a click of a button. Simply create any number of templates for common emails you find yourself sending and click to drop them into an email from within Gmail. From there all you have to do is edit some placeholder text, saving yourself the trouble of opening new windows to copy and paste from. I use Tout frequently when distributing assets or confirming appointments.
For an added and totally awesome bonus, Tout also lets you see when someone has opened your email and how long they had it open for – a great way to determine when to follow up or to help refine pitches.
A simple rule is that no matter how many emails are in your inbox, the writer you want to reach has more. With thousands of emails hitting journalists every day, timing becomes as important as content. After all, it doesn’t matter what an email says if it’s never read because it was buried. Boomerang, also a Gmail plugin, schedules emails to your specification. In LA and want to make sure your email is the first one a NYC writer sees in the morning? Write and click send at night, but schedule it for the next morning, EST!
Boomerang also helps you prioritize your own inbox – don’t want to think about the speech you have to give until you’re done with your daily pitching? Boomerang that email from the conference organizer to hit your inbox again later in the day.
If you’re not reading up on the industries you’re working in or the journalists you’re contacting, you’re doing it wrong. That said, doing it right means looking through your newsletters, Twitter feed, Google Reader, etc ad nauseam to decide what’s worth reading. But just selecting something to read isn’t enough – even with the best intentions I’ve sent many tabs of unread articles to oblivion at the end of a long day.
With Readability I send articles I think are interesting to my iPad, to be read at my leisure on the commute or at home. I like Readability in particular for its clean, no frills look, but Instapaper and Read it Later are also good options.
Doing media relations right isn’t just about knowing what someone writes about. It’s also connecting with that person and knowing who they are beyond “a person who likes to write about X.” Unfortunately, this is a process that takes time, and let’s be honest; you don’t remember everything, which can mean Googling every time before you actually send that tailored pitch.
Or does it? Rapportive is another Gmail plugin which adds an incredibly useful sidebar. Open or compose an email and mouse over the email address you’re interested in – Rapportive will automatically display recent tweets, Facebook posts, emails, your contact’s Linkedin profile picture and more. A one-stop overview of who someone is and what they’re up to, without leaving Gmail? Yes, please.
In his popular self-help book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Tim Ferriss recommends automating as much of your life as possible. This will free you from your daily workflow concerns and allow you to make money from the beach. While the cynical flack inside me rolls my eyes at a 4-hour workweek, it’s true that automation is even better than delegation for freeing yourself of distracting menial tasks.
Enter ifttt, a service that helps you set up simple rules (if this then that) to manage your online processes. Simply sign up and then start activating “channels,” the social networks and other online services with which you have accounts. Then give ifttt tasks like “If my Facebook profile picture changes, change my Twitter profile picture as well.” There are many different options (text me if it’s going to rain tomorrow) but I find the best value in the ability to channel all my online content through one source, avoiding window switching, log-ins and all the other little things that can speedbump what you’re actually trying to do.
Productivity tools abound – tell us what you like in the comments!