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Extend your CRM System to Your PR Department

Extend your CRM System to Your PR Department

CRM it’s not just for sales, marketing and service anymore!

Many companies have come to recognize the value that customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can offer to sales and marketing operations. Improved productivity, reduced costs, higher win rates, and stronger customer relationships are just some of the many benefits that can be achieved. But few businesses realize that similar payback can be realized when CRM is applied to its public relations and media communications efforts.

Although the methods and end goals are quite different – sales and marketing staff are looking to reach out to existing and potential customers to generate revenue, while public relations professionals are reaching out to a variety of journalists to generate “ink” or garner airtime – PR departments function much in the same way that sales and marketing teams to.

They all identify and track opportunities. They all build and manage relationships with key contacts. They all measure their results. So, it makes perfect sense that the features within a CRM system can not only enhance the way sales and marketing teams work, it can also help PR groups to increase efficiency, boost success rates, and accelerate return on investment.

What are some of the ways CRM can enhance your public relations activities?

Media Contact Management

The typical PR professional manages hundreds of relationships with magazine editors, freelance writers, financial reporters, television and radio newscasters, and other contacts. And, as the Internet continues to emerge as the preferred method of outreach and communications, they must also conduct business with bloggers and other types of online journalists.

The contact management capabilities within a CRM system can enable your PR staff to more efficiently manage their key relationships and related activities – much in the same way they can help sales reps track their leads, prospects, and accounts.

For example, a CRM application can be used to build a comprehensive database of target print and online publications, as well as television and radio news programs, complete with demographics, and the editors, writers, or reporters associated with those vehicles. Each publication or channel can be assigned to an appropriate manager within your PR organization, and all pitches, outreach attempts, and other tasks can be easily scheduled and tracked, to ensure that each contact is being worked as effectively as possible.

Opportunity Monitoring

Understanding what editors are looking for, and offering them a compelling and relevant article or story is the key to getting press coverage. That’s why PR managers and their staff members spend countless hours reviewing media calendars and newsletter schedules, looking for opportunities to pitch a winning story.

With a customer relationship management application, your PR team can uncover these opportunities faster. Potential topic matches, gathered from media calendars, can be entered into the database as activities, with calls to the editor or writer scheduled in advance of the publication close date. This will enable your PR staff to stay on top of critical deadlines, and if the story is picked up, coordinate the needed resources such as writers or company executives that need to be interviewed. And, all correspondence can be logged, so managers can accurately track and follow the status of each opportunity.

Automated Workflow and Routing

CRM systems can automate lead handling – routing new leads to the appropriate sales reps based on industry expertise, territory, or other business rules, or dynamically triggering a specific follow-up, such as an email, to a campaign response. With customer relationship management, your PR-related workflows can be fully automated in the same fashion. For example, a byline or other story can be automatically assigned to a staff writer or third-party freelance writer, based on experience. Or, follow-up emails to editors can be sent automatically once the pitch has been made.

Customer Testimonials

Every PR professional knows that nothing gets the attention of an editor faster than a marquee-name customer who’s willing to share their story with the media. That’s why most PR departments maintain a list of customers who have agreed to speak publicly about their experience with the company’s products or services, and advocate on the company’s behalf.

With a CRM solution, this list can be more effectively maintained, and related opportunities can be more rapidly uncovered. For example, one of your PR managers can easily search through the CRM database for those customers who have the specific characteristics or meet the criteria outlined by the editor.

Additionally, CRM can enable your PR team keep track of how often customers are used for media opportunities. This will help prevent your customers and their stories from being “overused”, and allow you to identify those “preferred” customer who are most cooperative and contribute the most value to your PR efforts.

Results Tracking

Like many organizations, you’ve probably hired a third party “clipping service” to track your press coverage, airtime, and online pick-ups. While these service providers can deliver basic coverage reports and hard copies of any articles that appeared, as well as any “ink” your competitors have received, they don’t provide true in-depth insight into how successful your PR initiatives really are.

With your customer relationship management package, your PR team can add clipping and airtime information to the database. Staff members can then create a series of key performance indicators and related metrics, such as the ratio of pitches to actual pick-ups, ratio of positive to negative mentions, and success rates by media type, and measure them on a regular basis.

And, most importantly, you’ll want your public relations staff to work hand-in-hand with your marketing organization, to monitor and report on the impact that PR programs have on lead generation. For example, a mention in a high-profile magazine or on a popular radio show can lead to a rise in sales inquiries and Web site hits. Any pipeline deals and revenue that are the direct result of press coverage or airtime should be closely tracked, to effectively assess the return on your public relations investment.

There are many PR management-type applications on the market today. However, these solutions are often designed for individual users, and don’t provide the same breadth of functionality as customer relationship management packages do. Additionally, since public relations efforts are so closely linked to marketing programs – and ultimately, to sales activities – it is far wiser for PR teams to utilize a solution that ties together all three departments, instead of leaving PR to operate as an “island”.

[Photo courtesy of fx-mm.]