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16 must-have tools for any PR

Digital PR is tough. Not only are you in competition with every other PR, fighting for the attention of journalists whose time is short and inboxes are full, but you’re also fighting against the broader news cycle. Sometimes there are things going on that you just can’t control, resulting in your campaign or story getting buried as journalists rush to cover the big event of the day, week or month.

As our jobs get harder, it only makes sense that you should give yourself the best chance of success. The good news? There are plenty of tools that can help.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your Digital PR career or have been using the same PR tools for years, it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is worth your time. Here are some of my favourites to help you succeed in all areas of digital PR, from ideation and research to reporting and outreach:

HERO

Giving a journalist exactly what they need is one of the easiest ways to secure coverage - but connecting with them to find PR opportunities can be a challenge. HERO (Help Every Reporter Out) has replaced HARO, which recently moved online after it was taken over by Cision. By signing up for free, you can easily connect with those seeking expert comments or contributions.

Response Source

One potential downside of HERO is that many of the requests may only seek US-based experts - which isn’t great for your UK-based client. Response Source is a popular alternative for PR professionals based in the UK who are looking to connect with UK media representatives, although some US-specific opportunities do come through and it can be pricey. You can set up daily alerts, and respond to messages and queries in real-time.

Trello

Feeling overwhelmed with your workload? It’s easy if you’re juggling multiple clients and projects. Trello can help you organise your workload without losing track of anything, and ensure that everyone on the team knows what is going on. If you have multiple pieces of content to keep track of, for example, you can create a new board for ‘content creation’ and then add lists based on different parts of the production process, adding each task to it. Each task card can have notes or documents added so you can keep everything in one place and so you know where you’re up to, and can prioritise your work effectively.

Answer the Public

Ideation can be tough - we don’t all feel creative all the time, and if a session for a client drops in your calendar at the last, you might start to panic. Answer the Public is great for ideation and can help you gain deeper insights into the most popular topics being searched for online. It can be a good place to look when you’re struggling for ideas.

Canva

We’re not all design pros, and we don’t all have access to design teams. Canva is perfect for helping you design graphics to highlight survey results, images for social media or event invitations. It’s super easy to use whether you’re a design pro or a novice, and has plenty of templates to make the whole process much easier. For creating simple designs, it's an absolute must and a massive time saver.

Unsplash

You won’t always be able to get a great bank of images from your clients, particularly for bigger, more creative campaigns. If you’re in need of any imagery for your campaign, there are lots of free stock imagery sites out there. But my favourite is definitely Unsplash. It features a huge gallery full of beautiful photos for every topic you can think of.

Coveragely

Some reporting tools can be expensive and difficult to use, and if you don’t have much of a budget - you may find it time consuming building your own for free. Coveragely can help create visually engaging reports to showcase campaign success. It costs as little as £49 per month and with no minimum contract length, it aims to streamline coverage reporting, improve productivity and cut admin time for Digital PRs. There's a two-week trial for those who want to road-test the tool first too - without the need to provide billing or credit card data.

SEMrush

One of the best all-around digital marketing analytics tools, SEMrush helps you to monitor the success of your PR campaigns through its backlink tracker and media monitoring tools. You can calculate any campaign’s ROI as well as monitor overall brand awareness and how your competition is fairing. You’ll be able to see which publications are providing the most value as well as track the number of links you have from different websites.

SEMrush’s media monitoring tools, on the other hand, help you to track mentions of both your campaign as well as your competition. It's also a great tool for getting fast traffic scores of potential outreach targets, particularly those you are unfamiliar with.

Ahrefs

While Ahrefs has a slightly smaller offering than SEMrush, it’s still capable of offering PRs plenty of insight. One of its strong points is the detail it provides about your competitors’ campaigns, giving you in-depth information about how they grew into the space they currently occupy. If they’re gradually pulling ahead of you, you can use this knowledge to beat them at their own game. It does offer a content explorer too, which is perfect for inputting a topic to see what kind of content has been produced around the main keywords, including how many links each received - ideal for ideation and prospecting for journalist target lists!

BuzzStream

Outreach is tough. Buzzstream allows you to send and track emails, find email addresses and measure the performance of a campaign. You’ll also be able to build lists of journalists you’ve worked with, helping you to keep relevant notes and details about their work. You can then track the work they’ve produced or shared, attach it to relevant metrics and understand how fruitful your relationship is.

Measuring activity is key to making improvements. As mentioned already, some journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day, meaning you need to make yours stand out as much as possible - finding out what’s working and what isn’t through email open and response rates can really help you master your pitch. Plus, Buzzstream gives you the option to edit and personalise each email you send, which is essential when pitching to journalists rather than using the bulk email approach.

Hunter

One of the hardest parts of building relationships with journalists is finding the right way to get in contact with them, especially if you’re on a budget and don’t pay for something like Roxhill or Cision. Hunter is ideal for helping you to find the right person to contact along with their email address.

X (formerly Twitter)

A go-to for both PR professionals and journalists everywhere, X (formerly Twitter) is one of the best places to stay on top of trends, build relationships, find journalists and secure comment opportunities. Make sure you’re following journalists that work in the industry you’re representing and save any relevant hashtags. Try to use your account to build relationships with the media and engage regularly with them to help build meaningful connections.

Roxhill

Roxhill lets you easily manage and find media contacts while making distributing press releases a much smoother process. It’s specially designed to help PR teams build lasting relationships with journalists, and offers dedicated online pitching tools, webinar functionalities and social feeds to help PRs and journalists connect.

Cision

Similar to Roxhill, Cision helps PRs get in touch with relevant journalists and lets you schedule and send emails through the platform too. It offers analytics to see how many of your pitches have been opened or clicked on, to help you refine your pitching strategy. It also provides media monitoring so it can be a good all-round tool for anyone looking for a one-fits-all option.

Google Tool Suite (Trends, News & Keyword Planner)

Google also offers some really great free tools such as Google Trends, to help you identify what topics users are searching for and which are increasing or decreasing in popularity. You can drill down to quite a granular level, which is perfect for looking at how trends change in different areas.

In addition to trends, Google News is an important tool to see what topics or brands have been making the news, and the type of coverage they received. It's perfect for a really quick overview to get a topline insight of how popular any particular topic or entity is.

Finally Keyword Planner finds keyword lists along with search volumes. Although you need to register to get this working, it’s well worth doing, particularly if you don’t have a paid subscription to any other keyword tools (such as SEMrush or Ahrefs).

ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a tool that generates AI responses based on human query inputs. You can ask questions and ask it to assist with the generation of various types of content like emails, comments or blog posts. As such, it can be seen as a threat.

For Digital PRs - it can help with basic research, ideation and content creation. It can also help break down complicated topics to make it easier to understand too or be good if there’s a lot of data to comb through - simply paste the data and ask for some key points. Remember - it should be there to assist you, not replace you. If you’re going to use it for content creation, ensure you make changes to suit your tone of voice and always double check that facts are correct before you use the content.

Written by Lauren Richardson, senior account executive at Marketing Signals 

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