Aside from the online equivalents of traditional public relations tools such as media list, editorial calendar and press release services, there are also a plethora of social media sites, a cornucopia (sorry, Thanksgiving always brings that word back into my vocabulary) of social networking sites and a large hodge-podge of sites offering everything from online press rooms to emergency communication centers to reputation tracking and reporting. Whew!
With so much from which to choose, it’s hard for a small business owner to know which tools to add to their toolbox. So, to help you guys figure out which tools to look at first, I asked the marketing and PR pros about the tools they use.
The answers I got back were surprising, not in the variety of tools they use, but in the multiple ways in which they use the same tools. I was also happy to find that they were eager to dish on some tools that did NOT work well for them.
The marketing and PR pros
Before I jump into the goodies though, let me introduce you to the marketing and PR pros who were kind enough to take the time to speak with me:
- Joe Chernov, Director of Content at Eloqua (there’s more about Joe in my earlier posts, “Focus on content leads to successful viral marketing campaign” and, “Content design that hooks-in customers“)
- Lisa Ann Pinkerton, Founder & President of public relations and marketing firm Technica (there’s more about Lisa in my earlier post, “Managing virtual assistants for business success“)
- Jolene Loetscher, Partner and PR Wrangler at Tall Grass Public Relations
- Chris Heuwetter, Founder of twiloPR
- Bob London, Virtual VP of Marketing at marketing and communications firm London, Ink
Before I even spoke to any of the pros, I knew that they were all users of HARO (Help A Reporter Out). I knew this because HARO was the tool I used to put out a query looking for PR pros who use online tools and that’s how I found my sources for this post (and many others!).
A free service (it’s supported by the most unobtrusive, and usable, advertising I’ve ever seen), HARO is incredibly useful for media folks looking to find sources and for sources who want to get covered in the media (and their marketing and PR pros). E-mails are sent multiple times a day and, as Forrest Gump would say, each is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you’re going to get.
Public relations management tools
By far the type of tool most used by the pros was public relations management tools. These multi-functional tools contain all the features you need to run a PR campaign from media lists and media CRM to press release distribution online and off to mention and reputation tracking.
Chernov loves Vocus because, as you can see to the right, it really allows him to picture Eloqua’s relative influence and more on the social web.
Pinkerton used to use Cision, but recently switched to meltwater for a number of reasons. One of the things that she really loves about meltwater is their natural language search. This tool allow Pinkerton to find journalists not by the beats they say they cover, but by an analysis of posts which they have written over a specific time period. She says that this really help her focus-in when finding the right media folks.
London also likes Vocus. He started out using PRWeb to send releases, but when Vocus purchased PRWeb, he opted in on their small business edition. He really likes the way the small business edition lets him focus in on the right media and finds his releases are much better targeted than before.
Heuwetter likes this type of tool but feels that they still require a lot of refinement, especially in searches functionality used to create media lists. He finds that 90% of his mailings are targeted, but that 10% are random folks that got pulled in by the search. Since the lists are very long, it’s hard to weed those out. “The searches, and thus the lists, are only as good as the tools allow,” he says.
Social media tools
Not surprisingly, the pros are huge users of social media.
Twitter was, hands down, the most used tool among the group. Pinkerton uses Twitter to tweet client news and, when she can, to chat about her passion on @dailycleantech. Heuwetter uses Twitter for networking, researching and staying on top of industry news via relevant tweets. Loetscher is a huge user of Twitter and uses it to start, grow and maintain relationships and she uses tools such as Hootsuite and Butterfly Publisher to track Twitter leads.
When it comes to Facebook, the pros are split. Some see it as a fine place to network and conduct business; others feel it’s a more personal space. Either way, they are all regularly active on the site.
Interestingly, LinkedIn received the lowest rating from the pros. Most see it as a spammers paradise (especially the groups) and do not believe it provides much value to their work, though they all are active members of the site. The exceptions to this are London who is a self-described, “Huge LinkedIn user” and has used the tool to build a distribution network for status updates and also likes to use it to stay in touch with contacts (he loves Linked in questions; hates the groups) and Heuwetter who uses LinkedIn groups to stay in touch with the South Florida Public Relations Network.
Other tools and sites
Loetscher and all of Tall Grass Public Relations are huge users of Dropbox which has replaced their traditional intranet/fileserver by allowing them to share documents and which can be accessed via computer, iPhone and Android.
They also use Google Documents to collaborate on things such as releases, presentations and white papers. “If you set it up right,” Loetscher says, “You can actually use it for document workflow, also.”
Lastly, Loetscher and the TG crew use Salesforce as their customer relationship management (CRM) system and to schedule speaking engagements for their clients.
Pinkerton uses oDesk to manage her virtual assistants which you can read more about in my earlier post, “Managing virtual assistants for business success“.
When asked to give suggestions of good sites for reference, learning and inspiration, the pros listed:
- David Pogue
- Marketing Sherpa (great research)
- Duct Tape Marketing (great ideas)
- WebInkNow (insight and tricks and tools)
On to you
Now that you’ve heard what the pros use, it’s time for you to weigh-in!
Do you, or have you, used any of the tools or sites mentioned above? What was your experience like?
What tools did the pros leave out that you would like to share with the other folks reading this post?
I look forward to your comments!