Any public relations agency today needs nearly instant resources — from details on media preferences to data that informs our pitches and programs. Teams juggle many client accounts, with each having its own needs and expectations. There’s only so much time to spend on routine work like monitoring and measuring, yet these tasks are extremely important to any ongoing PR agency-client relationship. They’re also a huge factor in the success of our programs.
One thing that can help is automating some of the rote tasks we do. Mail-merge for journalist emails is a great example (and one that’s unfortunately misused in PR), but there’s more. Here are a few ways PR agencies should be using tech tools and other resources.
Some clients require category or competitive monitoring reports as early as 8:00 a.m. each day. Needless to say, we couldn’t live without simple tools like Google Alerts and services like Cision. Automated monitoring not only flags coverage, but also puts the most topical news on our radar. Alerts for topics relevant to a client’s business can make a big difference in securing quick wins and nailing ideas for proactive pitching. For B2B companies, it’s particularly important to monitor social communities like LinkedIn groups and Twitter conversations among journalists (MuckRack). It helps us stay on top of breaking news as well as the personal chat from journalists and influencers we want to reach. And once a client is interviewed by a publication, we can set an alert rather than conducting hourly searches for the posted article (although in some cases we do both!)
Many clients task their PR agency with posting social content, ensuring appropriate brand messaging and driving engagement. News releases and other timely content can be planned in advance, while social content can be tailored to day parts and time zones that maximize clicks with services like Hootsuite. But like any other kind of content automation, social content needs human oversight. We’ve all heard the nightmare stories of brands who pre-scheduled flippant tweets in the midst of a national tragedy, or more recently, social influencer content that reeks of bot automation, complete with fake comments.
More than automation of the social content that’s posted for a brand, services like BuzzSumo can help PR strategists locate the right influencers by searching relevant topics in far less time and in greater detail than an old-style manual search. We’re a little wary of the fully-automated micro-influencer platforms used by some DTC and other consumer brands, but, as always, research and testing goes a long way.
This is the most important one for PR agencies. The entire process of media outreach is by nature frustratingly inefficient. But much of it can be automated, allowing more time for developing the creative subject line or the new launch idea. Tools like Cision open the door for easy custom media-list building, creating contact lists of relevant journalists and influencers around a specific coverage area. Muck Rack also deserves a mention – while it doesn’t have the list generation capabilities of Cision, it finds journalist’s information and ties it to their Twitter, offering real-time information on what that specific journalist is writing and talking about on social media. The information can be crucial to generating interest for reactive pitching and seeing what industry trends are buzzing.
A post about automation wouldn’t be complete without mentioning AI. It’s being used across a wide array of industries, including PR and marketing. For example, JPMorgan Chase has begun using AI to make marketing messages more potent, and according to CMO Kristin Lemkau, in one test the AI-generated ad copy beat the content written by humans. Content marketer Fractl created a ‘blog‘ that was fully generated by AI to show how easy it is to create such content — and also to raise concerns about the future of content generation. For PR, tools like Quill and Wordsmith turn data into meaningful narratives for a relatively decent price. Although the tech is still in early days for PR use, it’s something agencies should be keeping their eyes on.
Measuring outcomes is like a holy grail for the PR industry, and here, too, automated tools help. Automated services like Meltwater can make those hefty end-of-the-quarter clip reports much less painless than they used to be, for example. Reports that document a brand’s share of voice (SOV) versus competitors are also useful because they offer insight on how a company stacks up against rivals when it comes to earned media coverage. To save us sifting through news stories to identify company mentions, there are plenty of paid services that simplify the process, like Cision. Like all clip reports, automated SOV reports tend to be imperfect, usually catching irrelevant mentions and sometimes equating different types of earned media coverage, so, human intervention is a must.