Working in public relations for more than 25 years, I’ve seen a great number of changes in the way we work and, in particular, how we measure impact for clients – and for ourselves. Perhaps a few of you remember the days of receiving envelopes of actual newspaper and magazine press clippings with the tag on top that provided the name of the outlet, publication date, and circulation. Collect them all, make photocopies, add up the circulation numbers and create not-so-attractive reports for the client (that we mailed). Talk about a time suck, not including the delay in information, waiting for the clips to arrive in the mail.This was the late 80s, early 90s, pre-online publishing, at least by the mainstream media. Pre-email too. Yowza.
I also not-so-fondly remember faxing press releases to a mass-entered list of fax numbers and hanging out at the fax machine…waiting for some to get through, for more to have busy signals (so hit redial), for the document or fax paper to get stuck in the machine and so on.
Talk about high touch! The upside was making phone calls and actually talking to many of our media contacts. I recall voicemail was still in its early stages with many businesses, so you either got him/her or not. And no, I’m not 75 years old.
Fortunately, technology has allowed for many smart tools that allow PR pros to work more efficiently while capturing helpful analytics on our audience. Like most industries, these tech tools have made us faster and smarter. PR is not an exact science nor will it ever be as “relationships” are still a core element, but digital platforms have made it much easier and faster to provide top-notch service, results, and reporting.
Here are a few of the tools our small agency uses. There are many options out there and new products are being developed every day. We’ve long used Cision to build and update media lists along with distributing releases and knowing who opened, clicked links, etc. Cision also provides daily media monitoring reports so we can capture who covered our news, when, and, in most cases, circulation and/or digital reach metrics. This platform provides a wealth of helpful information for PR pros and is scalable for a range of firm sizes. Note that we still send individual releases with personalized notes in many cases.
We’re also fans of Coverage Book to create sharp-looking, data-filled clip reports, IMAI delivers social media/influencer intelligence, MailChimp helps us with internal marketing, Facebook’s Meta Business Planner has squeezed out Hootsuite in our case, but Hootsuite and similar platforms are extremely valuable to firms that specialize in social media.
Of course, all technology needs a human babysitter. We keep a close eye on the fruits of these tools and make tweaks fairly often. But, thank you digital age for helping PR people everywhere, especially the interns, break away from the fax machine (wherever they may exist)!