What’s your biggest strength as a PR pro? What makes you stand out? We’re all using the same tools, tactics, and strategies. So landing a job or a new client frequently comes down to who you know.
The competition can write a press release just as well as you can. It’ll come down to who has the relationships that the client or hiring company needs.
So if you’re an agency trying to land a client in the health technology space, and know zero journalists in that niche? Yeah, not gonna happen. Not when another agency has a list of perfect contacts to pitch such a client to already.
And when a company is hiring for in-house PR, they want someone who knows people to reach out to now, not down the road once connections have been made.
That’s why my PR motto is, “build relationships before you need them.” Regular outreach to journalists in new niches is investing in your agency’s future, since those relationships help bring in new business.
Even for us in-house PR pros, contacts are everything. With only one niche to immerse yourself in, your boss will expect you to know everything about everyone.
But making contact with someone is just the first step. You can’t go a year between emails with someone and still expect them to care about your clients. You need to keep in touch.
Unfortunately, we have a double edged sword here. The larger your network of contacts is, the more of an asset you are. But on the other hand, the larger your network is, the harder it is to stay in touch with everyone.
Fortunately, we live in the world where there’s an app for everything. Sign up for these networking tools to build a stronger professional network for your PR agency:
1. Contact manager
Where do you keep the master list of all your agency’s contacts? Please, don’t answer with “a spreadsheet” or “my Outlook address book.”
Why won’t that work?
Well, spreadsheets are basic and old school, and not the best place for tracking contacts. For example, it’s a pain to click on a contact’s email address, wait for the link to your mail app to open, and start typing your message. Contact managers can handle storing contact info and sending the actual message. Using a spreadsheet adds an extra step, and an extra tool.
Your email app’s address book won’t work either, because it’s made for anyone. You want to keep track of things that only PR pros care about, like the journalist’s niche, preferred contact method, and when he or she last accepted one of your pitches. Where are Outlook’s fields for that info?
For a contact manager that really makes things easy for you, look for either a tool built specifically for public relations use, or something that’s really customizable and flexible.
2. Newsle – get digests of network updates
I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with Newsle, which sends you email updates when something has been published about someone in your LinkedIn network. It’s a helpful tool for anyone, but absolutely necessary for PR pros.
Joining Newsle will help your agency in so many ways. For one, you’ll make your pitches and emails better when you personalize them. Your digests from Newsle are ripe with updates to mention in your next email intro.
But the biggest reason PR pros should use Newsle is sort of hidden in your account settings:
That’s right. You can get alerts when journalists you know write new articles.
You should always read the work of anyone you pitch. Familiarity with their work will help you write a better pitch. Plus, mentioning how much you loved their last article won’t exactly hurt their ego. But when you’re following journalists for multiple beats, niches, and locations, you need the organization that an email digest provides.
3. Feedly – read your beat
A cup of coffee and a full RSS reader – how many PR pros start their day this way? Probably too many to count.
But you need to know your niches inside and out. You need to read the important publications to know what’s going on in your industry, and those of your clients. You need to stay familiar with what certain reporters are covering. You need to know what’s up with your client’s competitors. PR is heavy on research and reading.
Keep it all manageable in a neat and organized Feedly account. I took 30 seconds to brainstorm how a PR agency might want to organize their Feedly account, and came up with a few options for you:
- Create a different folder for each client. Within the folder, keep all feeds related to that client including their own blog, competitors, industry publications, and the individual RSS feeds of reporters that you’ve worked with for that client.
- Create one folder per niche. If you have multiple clients in the same industry, this might be easiest. Separate different RSS subscriptions by general niche, that way you don’t have the same website in 3 different client’s folders.
- Folder feeds by purpose. You’re subscribed to industry publications, client blogs, and individual feeds. If you want to be able to quickly catch up on the blogs of all your clients at once, this folder method is best for you.
Bonus: You can even use your Mention alert’s RSS feed to bring your media monitoring into Feedly!
4. Twitter lists – get personal
We’ve briefly discussed Twitter lists before, but they deserve much more attention. They’re easily my favorite way to organize my own professional network. For PR pros, they’re a great way to stay on top of journalists.
Since they’ll be sharing their new articles, it will help you stay up-to-date on any journalist’s recent work. But unless their account is solely self-promotional, you’ll gleam other insights, too. Journalists are people, too. In addition to work stuff, they’ll also tweet about things that interest them. React & respond to them on Twitter to build friendly rapport. You can also bring up those conversations in future pitches to add personalization.
To create Twitter lists for your agency, use a bulk editor like TwitListManager or stay simple on Twitter.com. To easily follow the lists you’ve created, add them to your Hootsuite or TweetDeck dashboard.
5. Mention – find new outlets and contacts
The above tools focus on maintaining relationships with journalists you already know. But what about finding new opportunities?
There may be a time none of your contacts are a good fit for the story you need to pitch. Even if that doesn’t happen, what PR pro doesn’t want more press contacts? More contacts means more coverage for your clients – or better coverage.
You can set up Mention alerts to identify new publications and journalists writing about the niches you represent clients from.
For clients where local coverage is important, create an alert that uses their region or location as a keyword. This will identify local publications, and the journalists that write for them.
For finding publications in a client’s niche, create alerts to monitor topics that describe your client’s business. For example, for Mention I would monitor things like “media monitoring tool” and “social media listening.” This would reveal who’s writing about our competitors and similar companies.
Favorite any new mention that comes in from a publication or journalist that might be interested in your client. Then every week or month, go through the favorited mentions and reach out to their authors to build a connection.
Keep in touch
You can’t automate relationships. At least not personal, valuable ones, the kind that result in awesome coverage for your clients.
These tools give you the power to organize your networking and stay informed about your contacts and what they’re up to. All you need to do is reach out.