Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
If you are not that excited about PR software, I can’t blame you. For a long time PR software was essentially a new version of the old spreadsheet used to track media contacts and pitches. If you think about it, a lot of software starts by adding some level of structure and automation to something people were doing anyway. It’s marginally useful, but not very exciting. As the PR center of gravity shifted from print to the Internet, PR software evolved to include what amounted to an electronic version of the old fashioned “clipping service.” Again, marginally useful but not impossible to DIY. Yawn.
Fortunately for PR professionals and agency teams, there has been a revolution in the capabilities of PR software. It’s no longer about duplicating or automating a process you once did manually, it’s shifted to giving you brand new capabilities that you never had before.
Understand Conversations, Not Just Coverage
The Internet has changed everything about the way people communicate and interact. You know this, everybody knows this, but for some reason it has taken the PR industry a while to catch up. We’ve tried very hard to adjust the old ways of doing things to this new paradigm and it just won’t fit. It’s taken a while, but some PR software providers have figured it out. Tracking press coverage is no longer enough because people care less and less about press coverage. That’s not to say earned media doesn’t matter, it does, but largely because of the fact that it inspires conversations. These conversations, happening in comments, in blogs, on social sites, basically everywhere, are how people make connections with and develop opinions about brands. To be effective in modern PR you must understand when, where and why these conversations about you, your competitors, your customers and your industry are taking place and how best to participate. Google alerts will let you know if the Wall Street Journal writes an article about your brand, but that’s simply not enough anymore.
Tone Down the Noise
Ok, so I just said that you need to understand conversations, but there’s a corollary. Not all conversations (or traditional coverage, for that matter) are created equally. Some are important, time sensitive opportunities that need your immediate attention. A lot are just noise. Beyond just knowing that your brand was @mentioned, you need to know if it matters. How big is the audience? How respected is the source? How much content was about the brand? What was the sentiment? It’s not fair to ask your brain to figure all that out at light speed. The right PR software, however can do it in an instant and present to you not only the “clip,” but also a metric that helps you prioritize and act.
Tell Everyone How Great You Are
Not everyone will be this blunt, but I will. You want your organization to understand the value of PR effort and spend. It’s frustrating as heck when they don’t, but it isn’t always easy to communicate because it doesn’t make sense without context. Part of the problem is that PR reporting is often about measuring activities. “Our press releases were picked up by 3,455 outlets.” “We posted 4 guest blogs.” Great, but all that tells company leaders is that there was activity. It doesn’t tell them if it mattered. This is one reason why PR budgets are among the first targets when the budget axe falls. PR software helps you stop measuring activity and start measuring outcomes. Business leaders care a lot about outcomes. Did your PR improve your search engine rankings? Was there a growth in website traffic? Were there more leads? Was there a revenue impact? These are the questions that PR software can help answer. Don’t worry. You won’t actually have to say, “Look how great I am!” The data can do it for you.
PR software has come a long way, so don’t let a disappointing past keep you from taking a fresh look. The PR profession has undergone a profound change in the last few years and there’s no sign the pace of change is slowing. Practitioners should seek out every resource to help them keep pace.