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How to implement and change workflow in a communications or public relations team

Key points:

  • Changing working practices is tough in an mature organisation operating an established sector
  • Ten practical solutions for implementing change in your organisation

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion in the number of tools available to PR professionals, this lead Ketchum's Stephen Waddington to lead a PR Stack project. Over the next couple of week's we'll be exclusively publishing 4 of the most useful tools.

As a vendor of public relations tools I meet a lot of agencies and in-house teams. They often know about PRstack. They’re impressed by the amount of tools (250+) but explain that they haven’t done much with tools yet..

The same question keeps popping up: how do we get started with this? How do we get our team on board?

Changing workflow is hard
Improving a workflow isn’t just about tools and technology, it’s mostly about changing processes. And that takes a lot of time and effort. Communications teams are generally willing to improve their workflows yet often daily work simply gets in the way.

Many teams do manage to keep up with the constantly evolving offering of new tools and techniques. However I interviewed several communications professionals and asked them how they roll out workflow improvements.

Here are 10 tips that will help you implement change:

1. Start where it hurts
How do you go through the list of 250+ tools in PRstack?

Gerry Wisniewski, a director at Edelman, suggests to start by listing the most boring and repetitive tasks that your team is doing. What do the juniors hate doing? Which jobs don’t you like? These are the tasks that tools solve best.

Here’s some inspiration:

2. Have tech testing moments
Embed tech testing in your organisation. Award winning agency Battenhall has learning lunches every Thursday. Each week another team member presents new tools or opportunities. It helps them keep a finger on the pulse.

3. Get ambassadors
The people that present tools will become its champion. They’re the early adopters that can spread the enthusiasm with the majority and laggards. Give these people the time to follow up and the freedom to try their new tools.

4. Invite a geek from your team
Programmers or system administrators will look at your workflow problems in a different perspective. Invite them to your workflow improvement sessions. Make sure to keep the “yes hat” on though, because nothing can kill enthusiasm over ideas like over-analytical technical discussions.

5. Invite vendors in
Learn first-hand about tools from the people that build it. Vendors are often open to coming over for a show and tell. It’s a win-win: the vendor gets product feedback and meets a potential client. The communications team gets to discover technology that can make their work easier. Both get a free lunch.

6. Invite an expert
You could also invite experts over for a presentation about PR tools. Hire seasoned PR trainers like @horationelson [IN FULL] or @stuartbruce  [IN FULL] to jumpstart your workflow improvement efforts.  Paying for training will make sure that you invest time and it increases the chances of following through.

7. Try fast
Avoid analysis paralysis. Refrain from listing the pros and cons of tools up front. Also refrain from asking permission from your boss. First, try if it feels good. Do a small test and see if the software helps you to be faster or better. You’ll be able to make a much better case if you decide to roll the solution out to the rest of your team.

8. Do a risk-free pilot
Using a brand new tool for an important project might not be the best idea. In times of stress people too often revert to their old ways of working.

Trying a project management tool? Use it to plan the next office party, for example. If it works well for a small team, the enthusiasm will spread through the organisation much more than via an email directive from the CEO.

9. Educate the team
Demonstrate to team members how the tool will make their lives easier or add value. Danny Whatmough, head of Social, EMEA at Weber Shandwick, told us that implementing new tools requires education around how it is used and how every person can get the most out of it. If the value to the individual isn’t properly communicated the technology will fall flat.

10. Use a software requirements checklist
In big organisations the procurement and IT team will want to have their say. Most developers of Software as a Service (SaaS) are allergic to this. Their business model is built around repeatability: they have one software solution that they sell to all their clients. Getting stuck in long sales processes gets in the way of improving their software for all clients.

Speed up the procurement process by having a compact software checklist. This is a list of security and product requirements that your team needs. It will make it easier to measure up the tool and to get started.

Ask your team to list their most painful tasks. Armed with the PRstack list of 250+ tools you’ll most likely find many time savers that will allow you to focus on the work that really matters.

About Frederik Vincx
Frederik (@fritsbits) is a user experience designer hell-bent to improve the lives of communication professionals. As the founder of PR CRM Prezly he has spent the past five years building software that helps teams improve their relationship with the media, bloggers and stakeholders.

Visit PRstack for more information and to learn about the 250+ digital and social media PR tools and 48 how-to guides that the community has written. The education initiative is the brainchild of Ketchum's Stephen Waddington and Prezly's Frederik Vincx.

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