The essential guide to choosing PR software in 2021

How to evaluate tools and make the case for better PR

 

Close the eight spreadsheets you're merging into one media list, the 12 Twitter and Google search tabs you’re working through and clear off the multi-color sticky notes cluttering your desk.

While there are more PR software solutions than ever before, most PR pros still spend excessive time working across multiple tools, searching for accurate contact information, compiling clips and reporting on success.

Choosing the right Public Relations Management (PRM) software to support your public relations strategy doesn't have to be daunting. If you’re responsible for helping your company or clients choose PR solutions to help them reach their goals, this guide is for you.

Inside this guide

    The challenges facing modern PR

    It's not exactly breaking news to say the media industry is in flux.

    But before we dive into the challenges facing PR professionals, let’s explore how technology has transformed not just the jobs journalists do, but how journalists do their jobs:

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    The above shifts in the media landscape pose a host of new challenges for PR:

    • Fewer journalists: There are nearly 6 PR pros for every reporter  double the rate from a decade ago.
    • Faster news cycles: Accelerated news cycles and the real-time nature of social media make it harder to stand out, leverage opportunities and mitigate crises.
    • Difficulty finding relevant outlets: There are an unprecedented number of media outlets (many longtail/highly specialized) but it’s still difficult to figure out which ones are relevant, credible and likely to drive results.

    No matter how much both the journalism and PR industries change, one simple fact remains: these two industries need one another, and will continue to work together and rely on one another for many decades to come.

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    10 do’s and don’ts of evaluating PR software

    Ready to find your ideal PR software? Consider these do’s and don’ts.

    1) Don't Accept the Status quo

    In 2021, there’s no reason to accept software you hate just because it’s a familiar choice. Media has shifted and there’s a good chance your tech stack needs to as well. 

    2) Don't accept that it’s OK to have to supplement your media database with Google, Twitter and other tools

    Ever tried to pitch a reporter only to find they no longer work at that publication? Once that email bounces back, you’re off to Google and Twitter to research where the journalist has landed. Now you’ve wasted precious time you could be spending building a relationship with another relevant journalist.

    Inaccurate information is a dealbreaker for good PR. In order to conduct effective media relations in 2021, you need access to accurate information about audiences and content that are prone to constant change.

    3) Don't rely on spreadsheets for relationship management and collaboration

    Media list spreadsheets are inadequate for today’s constantly changing environment. A spreadsheet doesn’t automatically update and notify you when a journalist changes position or switches publications. You have to try and track down that information yourself, then remember to update it across multiple media lists.

    A lack of historical context on media relationships can make communication with reporters awkward, especially if you’re working as part of a larger team. 

    You need to know exactly who last contacted this reporter from your organization, when they reached out, what was said and most importantly  what the result was, so you can best tailor your future efforts.

    Ideally, there should also be an easy way to keep track of your colleagues’ media lists, notes, call logs, and pitches all in one place, helping prevent overlap and saving duplicative work. You should also be able to quickly see who on your team owns a particular contact to help further avoid any pitching missteps.

    4) Don’t ignore the importance of customer support

    Customer support is key when it comes to selecting a media solution.

    What happens when you can’t find a journalist’s contact information? What do you do if you’re having trouble finding what you need on the platform? 

    PR moves quickly. You’ll want to know that the solution you choose has a customer support team at the ready.

    Read case studies and chat with a current customer to validate what the sales representative is sharing with you.

    5) Do ask about search filtering and sample searches for the journalists you care about, not just the total number of journalists in the database

    Large numbers sound great in theory, but how can you be sure that all those reporters apply to your objectives?

    In fact, many legacy solutions will take one freelancer who writes for three separate publications and give them three separate profiles, inflating the data. Some even claim to list more journalists than the number that actually exist in the world.

    Instead of asking, “How many reporters are there?” ask, “How relevant are the journalists in this database to my story idea and how will that help me to achieve my goals?”

    On a live demo with a potential solution, ask to search a relevant keyword or topic you might pitch see the types of results that arise from that search, and evaluate from there.

    6) Do consider integrated media monitoring as a key feature 

    Timing is everything when it comes to finding new PR opportunities and identifying potential crises. Your media monitoring solution should enable you to track your company and competitors as news breaks and identify which journalists are already interested in topics related to your campaigns. Also crucially, the solution should notify you any time a journalist is looking for a source on a given topic or sharing relevant information on social media.

    When paired with a media database, monitoring provides the context you need for meaningful and productive media relations.

    7) Do ask if the software enables you to customize emails more than standard mail merge

    Crafting and distributing a custom pitch shows reporters they aren't just an option—as our series “This month in bad PR pitches” illustrates, bad pitches aren’t just a waste of time—they’re a liability.

    PR pros should be able to personalize pitch copy, subject lines and more for each recipient (vs mass pitches sent with only first name inserted).

    Download our ultimate guide to pitching to increase your chances of success!

    8) Do look for a reporting solution you'll actually use (and that won't just create extra work for you)

    Reporting can be time-consuming and even intimidating. It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise that respondents to the State of PR survey ranked ‘difficulty measuring business impact’ and ‘lack of quantifiable measurement’ as the top two challenges their teams face.

    PR professionals need reporting that’s usable and easy to understand. PR professionals don’t need the broadest swath of features, but instead, powerful but intuitive tools to build impressive emails and reports they can send to C-suite executives that show the value of PR.

    An ideal solution should make it easy to calculate the impact of placements and identify the specific journalists who are helping your story reach more people, faster.

    9) Do ask about the history and funding of the company (as well as their future plans)

    As you chat with a sales representative, get curious about the organization you might be investing valuable PR budget into. It’s important to see how the company started and how they stay afloat.

    Ask questions like: 

    • Who owns the company? 
    • Have they been bought or sold recently? 
    • Any layoffs or major events? 
    • Are they innovating or treading water? 
    • What updates have they made to the areas you care about recently?
    • What are the company’s other priorities? Is this product one of many or the company’s main focus?

    When you invest in Software as a Service (SaaS), you’re usually not just paying for the functionality available at the time of purchase, but also new features and functionality over the course of your subscription. As a result, it’s important to get a rough idea, at least directionally, of the main areas of focus the vendors you’re talking to have and whether those align with your priorities.

    10) Do investigate what journalists think of them

    A quick search on Twitter of some of the more well-known legacy PR tools doesn’t drum up the most positive results (especially from journalists who are unhappy they’ve been added to a database to receive spam PR emails.)

    Pay attention to what journalists think of the software you’re considering investing in -- especially since the software you choose will be your primary vehicle for finding the right journalists for outreach.

    The bottom line

    The world of PR technology can be a daunting place, but we hope this resource helps navigate the waters ahead.

    With news cycles shrinking, media roles shifting and a huge volume of stories competing for coverage, your job gets tougher by the day. In 2021, don't let the same old set of tools hold you back from doing great PR.

    Whether you work on a team of many or a team of one, the efficiency and effectiveness of your media relations workflow can make or break your efforts. If you’re manually researching reporters, using one solution to distribute and track pitches and yet another system to measure and report ROI, you’re spending precious time doing tasks that a software could handle for you.


    Meet Muck Rack, the new standard in Public Relations Management (PRM) software

    Smarter PR with powerful, easy-to-use software

    • Find the right journalists
    • Monitor news
    • Send highly personalized pitches
    • Collaborate as a team
    • Measure success and quantify impact

    From one central platform.

    Trusted by thousands of forward-thinking companies around the world, including: 

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