Public Relations Tactics

The PR Tools That Work for These Independent Pros

By Tim O'Brien, APR

April 3, 2017

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One factor driving the continued growth of the “solo-preneurship” economy is the emergence of new technological tools that help independents do more and compete with large firms. Here, a few of my favorite PR independents share their favorite communications tools:

Michelle Messenger Garrett, PR consultant, Garrett Public Relations, Columbus, Ohio

“Two of my favorites are Slack and Skype,” she says. Slack, a platform for messaging and sharing files, “is great for communicating with a team. No more cluttering up your email inbox with unnecessary messages. With Slack, you can create channels to organize conversations.”

Skype, the teleconferencing and screen-sharing app, “while not new, is so handy for talking with clients anywhere. I work with clients and teams that are scattered around the world, but Skype makes it easy for us to communicate wherever we are.”

For proofreading her writing, Garrett likes the online platform Grammarly. To schedule social media posts, she turns to Buffer. And media databases like Cision and MyMediaInfo give her scalability, she says.

Deirdre Lopian, consultant, Deirdre Lopian Public Relations, LLC, Freehold, N.J.

Cision is Lopian’s go-to tool, as the software program allows her to target influencers, amplify content, and measure and analyze campaigns. And for managing the platforms for her firm’s large social media client base, she prefers Buffer and Sprout Social.

Such applications can be expensive for those starting out in business, so she recommends free tools that can help independent PR pros avoid spending their entire software budgets at once.

“Newswire.com and OnlinePRNews.com offer free press release distribution,” she says. “When it comes to managing social media, Buffer offers a free feature, and TweetDeck still gets the job done.”

Lopian has paid for customer-relationship management software in the past, but says she now tends to rely on Microsoft Excel, Google Calendar (and a daily planner that mirrors it) and an old-fashioned business card binder that she’s used since starting her career.

The binder is “time-consuming, but if my cell or laptop ever crashes and I lose everything or my email self-implodes, I still have everyone’s contact information and know when my upcoming meetings are,” she says.

Lorraine Schuchart, APR, CEO, Prosper for Purpose, Cleveland

“My favorite tools for serving our clients are Sprout Social and Google Docs,” Schuchart says. “Sprout Social is easier and more affordable than other social media management tools. Google Docs works for internal collaboration and managing client deliverables and folders.”

For managing complex projects, she likes Teamwork, an app that sends daily email reminders of upcoming due dates, and for administration, Schuchart relies on QuickBooks. She uses Bill.com to pay vendors and contractors, and likes Pipedrive for managing business development. There are also the major services for distributing news releases: PR Newswire and Business Wire.

Other PR tools that independents can use include Canva, for simple graphic design, and MailChimp or SurveyMonkey for original research.

Of the free tools that Garrett likes, she says CoSchedule’s headline analyzer helps her write better headlines for blogs and press releases. She also recommends Pablo for graphics and images, and Unsplash or Pixabay for royalty-free images.

Wen deciding which tools to use, Lopian says it’s smart to ask questions before making a purchase: “Is it necessary, and can I afford to cover the cost if my client base decreases? It’s easy to fall in love with every tool on the market, but don’t duplicate features, and only purchase the ones that can effectively serve your clients.” 

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