How technology can make your PR world easier
21st April 2015
Technology now permeates every area of our lives. From Nest monitoring our heating to wearables like the Apple Watch, we’re literally surrounded. And in PR it’s no different. The thing is, technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but often it can introduce more complications instead.
With so many tools and services surfacing every day, it can be difficult to identify what really works. This is a challenge we have to tackle together. One way we have risen to the challenge is to develop #PRStack, a crowdsourced database of third-party PR tools which was developed from an idea of Former CIPR president, Stephen Waddington. We helped build the PRstack website as part of our larger #PRgeek campaign because we believe that PR teams need more geeks to help them leverage technology.
But for now, let’s keep it simple. Here we focus on three key areas of the PR process and outline how technology can be used to make them easier: Communication and collaboration; influencer relations; and campaign management.
Communication and collaboration
We have found a new way to use Google Hangouts to run brainstorms. This might seem simple, but our concept goes beyond technology and enables us to come up with over 100 ideas in 30 minutes. Here’s how ...
First, we join a shared Google Hangouts hosted by our editor. This gives a sense of presence as if we’re working in the same room. The editor opens the brainstorm with an overview of the topic of the day. Then using something as a catalyst, sometimes a word selected at random, he asks us to start jotting our ideas down in a shared Google Document, all in five-minute sprints and importantly all as anonymous users. This gives you the freedom to express your ideas without judgement.
After the session the best ideas can be sorted, distilled and developed in real actionable campaigns.
Technology has played a big part in influencing who is important, but it has also changed how we find these people. There are scores of influencer identification services out there like Traackr or BuzzStream which allow you to identify key influencers based on relevant keywords, industries and areas of interest. Once you’ve identified these groups you can monitor them and start understanding what makes them tick.
It’s about using technology to make things like gaining influencer insights something seamless. Act smart and you’ll find yourself feeling up to speed after ten minutes of reading.
Try creating Twitter lists for some of your client’s key influencers, add in few vertical specific publications and industry bodies. Now make this a column of its own on Tweetdeck. You’ve instantly created a valuable stream of data tracking industry influencers and themes.
Make things even smarter by aggregating this data into a team communication tool like Slack. Not only do you have all the external intelligence you need to do a sterling jobs in one place, you can discuss it in real time too.
2. Campaign management
You’ve got the big idea down to a tee. You know who you’re going to reach. So how do you keep track of the magnificent campaign you’ve created?
Some agencies still plan and track projects across multiple computers using different software and whiteboards with the finer details lost in account executives’ notebooks. This approach creates silos introducing more work for the people in your teams for them to share this information. Technology changes all of this.
A raft of project management tools like Asana and BaseCamp are changing the way we keep track of projects. They can provide a central point of information relating to each campaign, allowing everyone to access, update and monitor the progress of a project. Your clients can check up on what has been done and, if you need to put together a report, it’s as easy as looking back on what you’ve completed over the last month.
Believe me, getting used to these new ways of working takes some effort, but once up and running you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
3. Push things forward
It may seem like a stretch to get your entire agency adopting new tools, but remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Just last week I was with one of the biggest agencies in the world hearing about its tech-test team. This is a great way to get started along the path of PR geekery. Appoint ambassadors for each tool, task them with testing them and reporting back to the team. Once you’re convinced start small and run a pilot with a real project. It’s about taking small steps, but modernising the public relations workflow now will pay dividends in the long term.
Fast forward a few years and agencies that have failed to put new systems in place will find themselves creaking to a halt under the weight of outdated processes. So seize the day and start taking steps to future proof your agency.