All professionals have specific tools that they need in order to do their job well. Plumbers, electricians and homebuilders are rarely without their tool belts, stocked with various wrenches, gauges and rulers, and architects and engineers no longer rely solely on paper and pencils to chart out their visions, as AutoCAD programs are necessary for bringing their plans to life. PR professionals also rely on various tools to get our job done. Outside of the obvious – email, cell phone, laptop, etc. – there are a few tools that PR professionals can’t live without.
The first and foremost tool that PR professionals use every day is our AP Stylebook, which comes in book form or can be accessed online at APStylebook.com. Considered the bible of our profession, the AP Stylebook outlines the writing guidelines for the Associated Press, the nonprofit news agency operated as a cooperative, unincorporated association that spreads news around the world. The AP Stylebook provides the standard by which pretty much all news media is published, and therefore, we follow it as closely as possible to ensure that our news releases, advisories, media pitches and pretty much all other forms of communication to the media are print-ready. We know that by providing print-ready content, we save editors time that would normally be spent editing the content, and it also helps ensure that our material is published more closely to our original submission.
A second tool PR professionals couldn’t live without is our media database software. (Well, a PR professional could live without it, but life with it is much better!) Our software of choice at Obsidian is Cision. This software allows PR professionals to search for targeted media outlets and contacts, and by using this software, we can ensure that we send our news releases, advisories and pitches to the right media contacts – meaning not only to a certain position, such as an editor, but more specifically to the editor who would be most interested in the news we are distributing or pitching.
A third must-have tool for PR professionals – which can actually be beneficial to pretty much anyone in business these days – is our email tracking software. We use Hubspot Sales (formerly Sidekick). This amazing software tracks the opens of and clicks within your everyday emails. We use this to identify when our emails have been opened by the intended receiver, and therefore, know when to follow up. We can also see when they have forwarded the email to others and how any of the receivers have clicked through the email. Often, the more engagement we see with the email, the more likely it is that they are interested in the content we are sending them.
So, for example, if we send over a news pitch and the email gets a lot of engagement, it’s likely that the reporter is interested in the story and possibly sent it to his editors for their thoughts. With this knowledge, we can put in a follow-up phone call just to see if we can answer any questions they may have about the pitch. This software also lets us know when our emails aren’t being opened, which could mean that we a) need to work on our subject line or b) we need to find another contact at that publication. With firewalls and other SPAM-blocking technology, an unopened email could also mean the email ended up in a SPAM folder, which would also constitute a follow-up call to make sure the email was received.
We do pay for all of these services, but just like a homebuilder must invest in the right tools to ensure that he gets the job done, our investment in these PR tools ensures that we not only get the job done but also that we do the best job we can do.