The future of PR: a look forward at Public Relations in the UK

The future of PR: a look forward at Public Relations in the UK



This paper outlines how technology transforms the present and future state of public relations in the United Kingdom. New applications of technology in the PR realm streamline every aspect of a PR ...

This paper outlines how technology transforms the present and future state of public relations in the United Kingdom. New applications of technology in the PR realm streamline every aspect of a PR professional's job.



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The future of PR: a look forward at Public Relations in the UK The future of PR: a look forward at Public Relations in the UK Document Transcript

  • Vocus White Paper The Future of PR
  • Vocus White Paper 1 The Future of PR The Future of PR It’s 9 a.m. Monday and you’ve just poured your morning cup of coffee. As you read your email, your Head of Sales drops by. The competition has just launched a new product. Can you come up with a new PR strategy to combat their launch? As you begin thinking through this urgent request, your CEO calls. He leaves tomorrow to speak at a major industry trade show. Can you prepare talking points by the end of the day? Taking the first sip of your now lukewarm coffee, you receive an email from your CFO. Can you prepare a report for this week’s board meeting justifying the company’s PR spend? Similar scenarios are all too common in PR today. PR professionals must juggle an increasing number of demands within their organisations, while being asked to do it all more cost effectively. For decades, the day-to-day practice of public relations stayed relatively the same. PR teams built media relationships by phone or in-person, mailed or faxed news releases, and relied on paper clipping services. Measurement was a matter of going back to the clip book or files to tally coverage. Beginning in the ‘90s, however, that all began to change. The emergence and popular use of the Internet gave PR pro- fessionals a whole new way to communicate. With e-mail and Web sites, they could distribute information to contacts immediately. Yet that was just the start of a dramatic evolution of PR in the technology age – an evolution that just keeps building momentum. Technology Transforms the Present and Future of PR Today, most PR professionals have embraced new technology to enhance the PR process. However, many only scratch the surface in the ways they use technology, relying mainly on email, Web sites and various software applications. Yet power- ful new technology exists that promises to transform the present and future of PR. In fact, new applications of technology in the PR realm streamline every aspect of a PR professional’s job, from list building to news distribution and monitoring to measuring results. As once-manual tasks are automated, those who embrace these new innovations discover nothing less than dramatic time savings, more communication among internal teams and with their outside agencies, enhanced media relations, and a higher quality and quantity of coverage. So what is the future of PR? A key component of PR in the new age is a centralised system for managing all activities, con- tacts and communications. With companies expanding globally, the need for centralised PR management has become es- sential. With relevant information in a single location and accessible by everyone, teams can eliminate the time once spent calling and emailing each other to learn the status of a project or pitch. They no longer sort through filing cabinets and rolodexes searching for a clip or contact. Plus, they can measure and report on their efforts and campaigns. Ultimately, this provides essential information to shape and continuously improve results, and frees PR professionals to focus on more strategic activities that will have a greater impact on the organisation. The following are some of the key capabilities that professionals need to move into the future of PR, and how some organi- sations are leveraging them to bring about dramatic changes in the way they do their jobs. Media List Building The future of PR starts with a whole new approach to media lists – one of the most essential parts of PR. Traditionally, PR professionals have built media lists manually from hardcopy books or CDs that might already be out of date when they arrive. Often, if not with every release, they had to call media outlets to ensure they still had the right contacts on record. The ability to create targeted lists quickly is essential at Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent organisation devoted to cancer research. The nonprofit competes with approximately 800 other cancer-related organisations in the UK for public funds and loyalty. In this competitive environment, Cancer Research UK considers press coverage a vital part of its efforts to expand awareness and attract contributions. At the same time, as a charitable organisation, the PR team at Cancer Research UK feels added pressure to maximise coverage while keeping costs down. Previously, each team member used different methods of keeping media lists and maintained unique versions of lists. Of- ten, it was a matter of cutting and pasting lists from Excel spreadsheets into the company email program for distribution. To simplify media list building and a number of other key PR activities, Cancer Research UK brought in online software for public relations. Now, the organisation creates highly targeted, up-to-date lists in minutes with its PR software. With 12 unique lists, team members target various sectors, such as national publications, broadcast outlets, science press and clini- cal health service channels. Maintenance is just as simple, with the ability to add, remove and search for names quickly. “It takes a fraction of the time it did before to build lists,” said Peter Flynn, Head of Press. “And now we know that everyone is using the same version of each list.”
  • Vocus White Paper 2 The Future of PR Software maker Cincom Systems took advantage of the media database capabilities in its online PR software when its newly formed PR team needed to build lists from scratch. The two-person PR team had its work cut out for it handling mes- saging campaigns and other PR efforts for six different divisions. Using online software, the team can tap into extensive, continuously updated information about reporters and media outlets. The level of detail about reporters allows it to tailor pitches and communications for each journalist. Drawing on the depth of the media database, the software lets Cincom PR know whether targeted publications accept photos and the delivery methods they prefer. With the database, Cincom PR created 13 different lists to date. With continuous access to current information about me- dia contacts that are automatically updated, the team can easily revise lists to ensure they remain fresh. Maintaining a World-Class Media Database Organisations like Cancer Research UK and Cincom need access to a world-class, electronic media database to help them assemble lists quickly, keep up with changing media contacts, reduce the manual hassles of managing lists, and have more detailed insight about specific journalists. So, what should PR professionals look for in a media database? • State-of-the art data centre – Make sure your media database vendor staffs individuals with domain expertise covering all media areas – print, broadcast and Web – to ensure that information stays accurate and up-to-date and that the database contains the right contacts at each media outlet. With researchers tracking down current contact information, PR teams are freed from having to call contacts with each release and can focus on other responsibilities. • Web-based format – Most media contact resources are available in hardcopy or CD format. However, only a Web- based format ensures that lists stay as current and accurate as possible. With each release, PR teams are able to build lists with contacts that have been verified as current. • Pitch profiles – When pitching to the media, PR pros need all the help they can get. It’s important to choose a media database that offers detailed journalist profiles. Having a few paragraphs indicating each journalist’s preference for deliv- ery method, delivery days and times, and topics, provides valuable insight and enhances media relations. • Awards database – Awards represent a significant way to expand awareness about a company, products and ser- vices. A media database should include an awards database, enabling PR teams to search and find appropriate awards and their requirements. • Forward Features – Additionally, a database should include access to editorial calendars and a way to search and identify relevant conferences or speaking opportunities- to add additional weight to PR campaigns. Most importantly, all this functionality should be integrated into one system to allow for easy searching in a single location. CRM for PR In recent years, CRM (customer relationship management) has become a hot business buzzword. Countless CRM applica- tions now exist to help companies manage their sales and customer contacts. In PR, effective relationship management is just as essential, but many professionals still use basic email applications or Excel files to manage their many contacts and activities. Without a history of all activities, interaction and communication with journalists in one location that can be accessed by the entire team, productivity and professionalism can suffer. More than ever, PR professionals, whether they work independently or as part of large team, need a centralised record of all activities and contacts. When a call comes in from a journalist, a contact management system allows them to look up that individual and immediately see the last communication with him or her, what materials they have received, and even perform a Google search within the system to pull up everything that person has written on the organisation. The system should also allow users to set calendar reminders to follow-up with contacts or perform other activities, ensuring opportuni- ties never slip by. With a centralised media database to store details about all inquiries and coverage in its online PR software, Cancer Re- search UK can track its day-to-day progress easily. From day one, the press team immediately began logging all activities in the system. Now, the team tracks every communication – emails, phone calls, incoming inquiries and releases – in the database. As the team uses the system, it’s updated in real time, ensuring everyone has access to the same information and latest status of projects. As head of the team, Flynn always has an accurate picture of current activities and key issues that day, and can step in with helpful suggestions.
  • Vocus White Paper 3 The Future of PR Keeping Teams, Agencies on the Same Page For companies that work with external agencies, having a centralised, online PR system connects the various entities and keeps them on the same page about activities and results – eliminating duplicate efforts, and cutting down on calls and emails to get updates. This capability has proven essential at Bushnell Performance Optics, which works with a number of different agencies worldwide. “I manage three agencies, four brands and 13 product lines,” said Laura Olinger, Public Relations Manager at Bushnell Performance Optics. “Online PR software provides a much easier way to monitor and track results and integrate all our activities so that agencies can easily track and monitor the activities taking place.” Interactive News Distribution Many PR teams rely on wire services because they allow PR professionals to distribute news quickly. With wire services, however, it is impossible to know which journalists received the news, making it tough to follow up appropriately. Today, the releases that generate ink provide journalists with a clear and convenient way to obtain the information they need to craft stories. Direct distribution of news to key journalists, in the format and method they desire-as well as feedback on which contacts viewed releases, helps support those relationships PR teams work so hard to build. PR software today gives organisations considerably more options when it comes to news distribution. With interactive news distribution integrated into a complete PR system, users can create electronic press releases containing buttons or links that direct recipients to the information they need. Links might take them to more information about an event, product details, company executive bios, or photos. Interactive email also provides valuable feedback on PR programs. It takes the guesswork out of message distribution by automatically keeping track of who received an email, who opened it, which documents they downloaded and which op- tions they selected. In response, professionals can tailor follow-ups based on recipients’ actions. With feedback about each release, they can link actions with results and adjust campaigns to increase readership. Most importantly, as releases go out, they are tied to recipients’ contact records, giving the team a complete record of all communication with contacts. Increasing Event Attendance, Coverage The PR team at Southwest Airlines, the largest air carrier in the United States in terms of domestic passengers carried, recently combined its PR system’s extensive media database and interactive emailing to publicise events surrounding the unveiling of its newest signature aircraft, “The Spirit of Hope.” The special aircraft was dedicated to celebrate the 30th Birthday of the Ronald McDonald House Program, temporary lodging facilities for the families of seriously ill children be- ing treated at nearby hospitals. The team used interactive email to target media in each of the cities where the plane flew for festivities. With metrics from its PR system, the staff knew exactly who had seen the release, allowing them to follow up by phone only with those who did not open the release, thereby increasing event attendance. Similarly, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), an organisation representing more than 50,000 specially- educated health information management professionals, recently took its news distribution a step further by adding interactive email as part of its online PR software. The PR team at the association creates electronic, interactive press releases containing buttons that journalists select for the information they need. AHIMA discovered the real value of this capability when inviting industry leaders to an important meeting to address healthcare IT issues with a key federal government official. With the interactive email feature, the PR team tracked who opened the invitation and made a reservation. The association then followed up by phone with invitees AHIMA hoped would attend, but who had not yet opened or responded to the invitation. “Interactive email allowed us to operate more efficiently, to quickly see who planned to attend, and know whether our ef- forts were effective,” said Kevin Gould, Director of Public Relations at AHIMA. Integrated, Electronic News Management News management has long been a cumbersome manual task. Staff at costly clipping services would sift through hardcopy news sources for mentions of a client company or its competitors, then cut and mail clips. Once they arrived, perhaps weeks after the run date, company PR teams might copy and circulate the clips around the office before pasting them into clip books or logging them in files. With such delayed feedback on company PR efforts, it was impossible to make changes mid-campaign or measure results comprehensively. Too many organisations still follow this outdated model.
  • Vocus White Paper 4 The Future of PR Now, PR pros have access to powerful electronic clipping services that can be integrated within a centralised PR system. Through such services, they automatically receive electronic clips from thousands of worldwide news sources based on established criteria that they can set and change at anytime in their PR software. They can collect and store clips on any relevant search terms, which are then catalogued in the PR system. They can easily forward them via email to other col- leagues the same day a story runs. Finally, they are able to review and measure coverage immediately – and change tactics or messaging mid-campaign to enhance results. Whereas traditional clipping services charge flat fees as well as per-clip fees, new electronic clipping services provide unlimited access and the sources, timeliness and reporting capabilities PR teams need for one low annual fee. Cutting Costs and Freeing Considerable Time Starr Commonwealth, a non-profit organisation offering programs to help children and families, simplifies its news man- agement with its online PR software. Along with using and paying for a clipping service, Starr Commonwealth’s PR staff spent a full day each month of their own time logging clips.. Now, by using a news management feature integrated with its PR software, the organisation has cut ties with its clipping service – and £20,000 in annual costs. This addition alone freed a full day each month for Marianne Haisten, Public Relations Coordinator, who previously blocked off an afternoon every two weeks just to sort and log clips provided by clipping services. The feature seamlessly brings electronic clips into the PR system, which allows Starr Commonwealth to comprehensively see and analyse coverage. With newfound time, Haisten can redirect her efforts to more strategic activities. “I can actually research stories to work on ; I’m not spending hours cataloguing clips,” she said. Instant Clip Books and Reports With one integrated PR management system that includes electronic news management, preparing clip “books” and re- ports is a matter of a few clicks and a few seconds. To share clips with others in the organisation, PR professionals simply select the appropriate stories and forward them in emails to the right individuals. This lets them share coverage with key members of the organisation right away. Additionally, PR staffers can easily impress board members at monthly or quarterly meetings by creating detailed reports of coverage and activities, and printing copies of all recent coverage. With PR software and electronic news management, PR professionals report that they save hours in preparing results information for important meetings. Right from their PR system, they can print everything necessary for the meeting, eliminating manual photocopying and number-crunching. Prominence Scoring Justifying PR spend can take more time than working with journalists and focusing on actual placements. However, new technology lets PR teams calculate ROI easily. When considering a PR management system, organisations should choose one that offers the powerful measurement methodologies they need to fully assess the value of their coverage: • Prominence, measured by the number and placement of mentions of the organization and comparing those mentions to those of competitors’ • Tiered ranking, based on the importance of the media outlet in which a story was featured. • Tonality measurement- indicating whether coverage was positive or negative. • A total prominence score, allowing companies to determine the overall value of a story. • Customisability, enabling users to modify rankings of various media outlets based on needs. With a formulaic method for “grading” stories, PR professionals can work to increase the quality of coverage and easily know when their efforts are paying off. Immediate Metrics on Results In the past, PR teams might have managed with passing out clip books of coverage, or simply tallying the number of stories per month or quarter. Departments might have reported results quarterly, or just annually, due to lack of time to assemble clips and prepare reports. With such delayed information, they could only use results to shape future campaigns and report to management. In an age of increased accountability and competition, PR teams have to provide hard numbers – faster and more often – to show their activities and results, and to demonstrate how those results tie to increased revenue. This adds a whole new dimension to the role of a PR professional. In addition to all daily responsibilities, PR professionals must keep
  • Vocus White Paper 5 The Future of PR track of every activity and the results of those activities, which ironically can take time away from the strategic process that drives results. PR technology today allows professionals to manage all PR efforts in one place, from pitches and releases to all coverage. With new capabilities, they can analyse coverage on an ongoing basis, allowing them to adjust their efforts and improve results – mid-campaign. They can slice and dice their activities and coverage any number of ways: by type of coverage (print, online, TV); by geographic distribution; by campaign; by reporter; by product line- and more. Cutting Costs by Measuring Activities, Results In House Cancer Research UK also brought in an analytics component as part of its online PR system to analyse and measure its activities and corresponding coverage. With simple, powerful reporting using Analytics, the press team evaluates its own coverage in house, allowing it to eliminate the significant costs of using an external media evaluation vendor. With analytics measurement integrated in its PR system, the press team has a real-time snapshot of all its activities and the resulting coverage for any given time. The team can break it down any number of ways, such as by journalists they contact most often, coverage on competitors and coverage in response to specific campaigns. Because the organisation conducts research on nearly every kind of cancer, the press team follows coverage by type of cancer to demonstrate the team’s efforts in each area. “I love the fact that it is so interactive. You can click on a chart and see which stories had the biggest impact, or click on a journalist’s name to learn more,” Flynn said. “Before, it was too expensive to do proper analysis. In a few clicks, we can categorically say, ‘this is what we achieved.’” Simplifying the Online Newsroom Did you know that 91 percent of journalists surveyed said they want access to executive team bios on company Web sites? And, did you know that most journalists want to read about past coverage on your site? In extensive journalist surveys, a majority of those surveyed wanted access to information in just about every category: contact information, research/study data, corporate backgrounders, press releases, media kits, corporate financials, corporate statistics, executive team bios, photos, past coverage, upcoming events, white papers, awards and recognition, and speeches. The fact is, a professional online newsroom generates more media coverage and ensures that company information is more accurate than traditional corporate web sites. Yet, while many companies take advantage of the Web to keep their audiences informed, a significant gap exists between what information journalists expect to find and what corporate Web sites present. Today, reporters confirm they use Web sites to do basic research, fact check, as well as pursue story leads- and they appreciate sites that provide them with content-rich factual details. So, how do PR teams keep their sites updated and high in content without having to rely on their IT department to make changes? Newly available technology allows PR teams to easily create and maintain a professional online newsroom- without assistance from IT They can simplify the management of their online newsroom and develop a valuable site more easily with turnkey online newsroom solutions. Arbitron, an international media research firm, relies on an online newsroom solution to keep its news site updated with press releases, executive bios, photos and other corporate collateral. With a comprehensive site, journalists and the company’s external PR firm have access to valuable information for stories at any time of the day or night. In addition, the PR staff is able to upload breaking news without the help of IT support. For example, when Arbitron ranked among Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for the third time recently, The PR team immediately up- loaded the press release to Arbitron’s newsroom. When considering an online newsroom solution, it’s important to choose one that’s hosted by an external PR software provider. With external hosting, the IT department is relieved from having to manage the site. However, the provider should offer the ability to match the look and feel of the newsroom with the rest of the Web site to create a seamless online experience. The solution should also allow PR professionals to easily change and update the content anytime. Finally, it should offer search functionality so that journalists can find the information they need for stories quickly. With all these components, PR teams can dramatically simplify the process of creating and maintaining a valuable, information-packed online newsroom.
  • Vocus White Paper 6 The Future of PR Anytime, Anywhere Access to Information Over the past decade, the Internet has dramatically changed public relations. Within minutes of releasing news, it can be found on online media sites worldwide. With Web sites, email newsletters, blogs, wikis, webinars and podcasts, PR can now communicate directly with its audience and contacts via the Web in the place and time that’s convenient. It’s become a 24/7 world, with news and information available online, anytime. But the Web hasn’t just changed the way we communicate with our audiences. Today, powerful Web-based PR solutions give the entire PR team, and any external agency users, access to key contacts and information from any computer. With an online PR system, as users communicate with contacts, create lists, and distribute and manage news, that information is automatically updated in real time in the system, ensuring that all users stay on the same page. This reduces tedious calling and emailing among team members eager to learn the status of projects. A Web-based system benefits both large corporations as well as one-person operations. On the road, team members can manage their contacts and projects as usual, with complete access to everything they have back at the office. X-Rite, a company providing hardware, software and support solutions that ensure colour accuracy in printing and packag- ing, takes advantage of the unique benefits of online PR software. Tyler Andrew, Public Relations Manager, spends 25-30% of his time attending worldwide trade shows. When on the road, he logs on to his online PR system at any computer to ac- cess his lists, empowering him with the ability to release news while he is away from the office. As a result, he announces new developments immediately, rather than waiting until he returns to the office. IT teams also benefit from Web-based systems. Since there’s no need to host the system in the organisation, online PR software doesn’t become another application that adds to the burdens of an in-house IT department. However, when con- sidering online PR software, organisations should make sure the provider has a good track record for customer service and support, and continuously works to upgrade the software. A Centralised, Integrated System Clearly, new technology offers improvements in almost every aspect of the PR practice – contact management, list develop- ment, news distribution, news management and measurement. However, companies can further streamline their efforts by using a single, integrated PR system that offers all these capabilities. With one system, they don’t have to juggle between multiple applications or CDs to accomplish their jobs from day to day. Plus, they have a complete record of everything they do in one place, allowing teams to find critical information immediately. Vocus Public Relations Solution All the organisations featured here use Vocus’ online software for corporate communications and public relations to man- age, track and measure all their PR activities. Though their challenges and needs are unique, the PR teams all share the need to operate more efficiently, while continuously driving bigger and better results. Beyond serving as just a method of publishing information, technology drives true efficiency in every phase of the PR process, empowering teams to focus on more valuable strategic activities without adding staff or relying heavily on external vendors. About Vocus Vocus (NASDAQ: VOCS) is a leading provider of on-demand software for corporate communications and public relations. Our web-based software suite helps organizations of all sizes manage local and global relationships and communications with journalists, analysts, public officials and other key audiences. Our software helps customers manage media relations, news monitoring and analysis, interactive email campaigns, online newsrooms, and government relations activities. Vocus software is delivered as an easy-to-use and cost-effective annual subscription, with no need for internal hardware, software or IT support. Our software is currently available in five languages, and is in use by customers around the world. Vocus is based in Lanham, MD with offices in North America and Europe. For more information please visit or call Tel: +44 (0) 207 776 9769. Vocus public relations software is available in a Professional Edition for small to medium-size PR departments, and in an Enterprise Edition for larger organisations with more complex needs.