Why your PR team needs CRM software

Marketers and sales teams have seen big results from software to help streamline their outreach. Here’s why PR pros should upgrade their database management.

Over the past couple of decades, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has revolutionized the workflows of your peers in other departments ranging from sales and customer support to marketing and hiring/talent acquisition.

These solutions have radically increased productivity and collaboration, becoming as fundamental to daily work as coffee and email. Like most PR professionals, there’s a good chance you’ve been forced to use archaic software with terrible customer service. Traditional PR solutions waste your PR team’s time with inaccurate contact info, complicated interfaces, disjointed workflows (i.e. having to jump between multiple solutions for researching reporters, sending pitches, and tracking coverage), and subpar support.

These legacy solutions don’t just waste your time and money—they keep you from building meaningful relationships.

If your sales team didn’t use CRM software, they’d be laughed at by colleagues at other companies. The vast majority of PR teams, however, don’t use CRM to maintain relationships with journalists (unless you count spreadsheets which, according to the State of PR 2019, nearly 60% of PR pros rely on daily).

So why haven’t PR teams flocked to CRM solutions?

Why PR pros need an upgrade

In the same way that other departments use CRM software works, PR pros have a lot to gain by finding a similar solution.

Think about it: What do PR pros and their sales counterparts have in common?

  • Salespeople must organize and categorize information about the people they’re speaking to, the companies they work at and the deals they’re trying to close.
  • They need to be sure that the information they’re accessing is up to date and accurate.
  • They need to be able to understand past success and failure while seizing opportunities and addressing issues as soon as they arise.
  • On top of all that, they need to ensure that other people on their team aren’t stepping on their toes and reaching out to the same contacts.

Sound familiar?

If you think of reporters as contacts and accounts as media outlets, you could be describing a valuable solution for PR.

Why haven’t PR pros used CRMs?

It seems like a simple question. If CRM solutions have been around for years, and there are hundreds of products on the market, why do only about 10% of PR pros use CRM software daily? Why aren’t many PR pros just using solutions like Salesforce or Hubspot that so many sales and marketing teams?

The answer is just two words: data quality.

Even outside of PR, data quality is a challenge for sales, marketing and HR professionals alike. Research from Marketing Sherpas found that B2B data decays at an average rate of 22.5% per year. Contact information changes constantly. People stop using email addresses or move home offices all the time. Keeping up with those changes is a mountainous task, even for the most sophisticated tech.

However, communications teams face even more significant data challenges, for what might be an obvious reason: The media environment is changing faster than just about any other.

Journalists change roles or publications. New pubs rise; older outlets fall. Amidst this change, it’s more complicated than ever before for PR pros to determine which journalists and outlets are relevant, credible and likely to have an impact.

When it comes to PR, a CRM without up-to-date contacts in it and without the context of recently published articles and what’s happening on social media is useless—and likely a lot of extra work.

CRMs for PR must check the boxes

When evaluating a CRM for PR, be sure to consider the following to ensure you choose a solution that increases productivity and not just future operational headaches.

With fewer journalists than ever before, PR pros must be even more careful to ensure they are finding the most relevant journalists and sending thoughtful but concise pitches. Otherwise, they will be tuned out (after all, according to Muck Rack’s State of Journalism Survey, lack of personalization is the No. 1 reason why journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches).

Searching for journalists purely based on the beat they cover or title they have will no longer cut it in today’s climate. You should be able to find journalists and publications based on the articles they’ve written, what they’ve shared on social media, where they’re located, what topics they’re interested in and more.

Then, for each journalist you choose as a fit for your campaign, you should also be able to access accurate contact information and context such as pitching preferences, as well as the ability to read their past articles and what they post most about on social.

Media monitoring

Timing is everything when it comes to finding new PR opportunities and identifying potential crises. Your media monitoring solution should enable you to track your company and competitors as news breaks and identify which journalists are already interested in topics related to your campaigns. Most important, the solution should notify you any time a journalist is looking for a source on a given topic or sharing relevant information on social media.

When paired with a media database, monitoring provides the context you need for meaningful and productive media relations.

A collaborative platform

CRM for PR must be built to help teams work better together.

Whenever you go to a journalist’s profile, you should be able to easily view any activity that your teammates have logged, giving you a full picture of your team’s interaction with them.

Ideally, there should also be an easy way to keep track of your colleagues’ media lists, notes, call logs, and pitches all in one place, helping prevent overlap and saving duplicative work. You should also be able to quickly see who on your team owns a particular contact to help further avoid any pitching missteps.

Reports and metrics

As a PR professional, reporting can be time-consuming and even intimidating. PR pros need reports that are usable and easy to understand.

Reporting should be simple. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, but instead need simple tools to build impressive emails and reports they can send to executives that show your value.

Your solution should make it easy to calculate the impact of placements and identify the specific journalists who are helping your story reach more people, faster.

Mike Schneider is the Head of Marketing for Muck Rack, where he helps to shape the company’s strategic development and growth of marketing, brand and revenue. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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