How to build a budget PR tool stack and workflow

How to build a budget PR tool stack and workflow

Tools to drive performance, deliver efficiencies, and demonstrate value needn’t break the bank. Here’s a guide to investing in PR tools and some personal recommendations.

I was challenged recently to build a budget tool stack for a freelancer, micro agency or small communication team. The assertion was that the cost of tools was beyond the reach of all but the largest agencies and in-house teams. It simply isn’t the case.

The issue is that PR and communications functions haven’t traditionally invested in tools beyond rudimentary media database and monitoring services. That’s changed in the last five to 10 years with the emergence of digital and social forms of media.

The investment challenge is the reason that the PR sector tends to benefit from innovation that takes place in markets around it, rather than investing in innovation itself. There are exceptions such as CoverageBook (reporting), Mynewsdesk (newsrooms and workflow), Prowly (customer relationship management and workflow) and ResponseSource (database and wire service).

In the PR market either platforms such as Facebook and Google provide tools for free because they want to lock you into their services, or software vendors provide a tiered service ranging from freemium to a full capability.

Priority areas for tool investment

I’d recommend prioritising your investment in the following ways:

  1. Improve performance – invest in areas that drive the performance of your work

  2. Create efficiencies in workflow – in a small organisation time is a valuable asset. Invest in tools that reduce manual labour

  3. Demonstrate return on investment – justifying your value is critical to meeting the expectation of your client or manager, and securing future budget

An investment of £200 per month would provide a solid competitive capability depending on your goal. Media databases and more sophisticated listening and monitoring services will push up the price.

Media databases are expensive. My advice would be to build your own for the markets in which you work using a free customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as Hubspot or MailChimp.

Focus investment in discovery tools to help you identify influencers. These may be journalists but they’ll also be individuals that have built a significant following via social media.

There’s a wide range of media monitoring and social media monitoring service and tools. Focus investment on the range of media you want to monitor, volume of content to search, and the speed that you want results.

Where there’s a price associated with a tool ask vendors for a trial, and use that time to explore how it would benefit your work.

Always choose a monthly option for payment where it’s available even though it may cost more. It’s important to remain agile and in a position to shift your investment as technology changes. Review your tool stack on a quarterly basis. A year is a long time in our business.

My shoestring #PRstack

1. Planning and insights

Google Keyword Planner (free), Google Trends (free), and Facebook Campaign Planner (free)

2. Social media monitoring and media monitoring

Mention (Solo, $29/month), recently acquired by Mynewsdesk, and Talkwalker (free)

3. News discovery

Feedly (free) and Nuzzel (free)

4. Influencer discovery

Mention (Solo, $29/month) or Buzzsomo (Pro, $79/month)

5. SEO analysis and management

Google Keyword Planner (free), Google Search Console [free], and Google Trends (free), Answerthepublic (free), Majestic (Lite, $52/month) or Moz Pro ($99/month)

6. Relationship management for media and other stakeholders

HubSpot CRM (free for up to 1,000 contacts) and MailChimp (free for up to 2,000 contacts)

7. Content

Pexels (free), Pixabay (free) and Unsplash (free) for stock photography; Canva (free) and Piktochart ($12.50/month) for simple visual layout; and iMovie (free) for video editing and production

8. Social media management

Tweetdeck (free) or Hootsuite (Professional, $19/month)

9. Web analytics

Google Tag Manager (free) and Google Analytics (free)

10. Reporting

CoverageBook ($99/month)

11. Operations

DropBox (free) for storage; toggl (free) for time tracking; Google Documents for office productivity (free); and Slack or Trello for team working.

Thank you

I shared an early version of this post via Facebook. Thanks to the following people for their comments: Catherine Arrow, Stuart Bruce, Wojciech Dwojacki, Dee Ishani, Kathryn Mason, Vicki Moffatt, Mandy Pearse, David Phillips, Michael Raven, Debbie Sharratt, Iliyana Stareva, Paul Sutton, Rachel Till, and Natalie Trice.

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