Earlier this week, Alexandra wrote a post about some of the free tools she uses to monitor social media activity for our clients. Today, I’m sharing how free tools like Google Alerts and HARO can be used to bolster your PR effort. While these tools don’t provide you with the full spectrum of capabilities essential to a successful PR program, for a bootstrapped startup it’s reassuring to know that there are free resources available. What follows is a small sampling of tools and the capability they provide.
Tool: Google Alerts
Capability: Media monitoring
What is media monitoring? In order to develop and implement an effective PR program, it’s essential that you have a well rounded and accurate view of the market you’re selling into. That means keeping tabs on key issues in your marketplace, what your competitors are up to and making sure that you’re aware of and responsive to any media coverage about your company.
What tools do PR professionals use to monitor the media? There is no effective catchall media monitoring solution that I’ve come across in my dozen-plus years in this industry. It takes a range of tools — some that are quite costly, others which are free — to catch everything; even with a number of tools in place, some things will slip past your radar. Believe it or not, there are still a decent number of print-only publications which do not publish their content online. The monitoring, capture and distribution of this type of coverage is a costly, time-consuming and resource-intensive affair. But for a cash-strapped startup, doing a partial job of media monitoring is better than doing nothing.
How can companies use Google Alerts to monitor the media? Setting up and using Google Alerts is very easy. All that’s needed is a Google account, also free and easy to setup, and the ability to complete the following form, which gives you the opportunity to customize the terms searched for, the types of results, the frequency of the alerts and more.
With luck, your email inbox will soon be filled with messages like the following:
Tips: You may find that you’ve initially cast too wide a net, or set your parameters too narrow to capture information that’s of true value. With a few adjustments and an intuitive approach, you’ll be able to glean crucial information about your marketplace, its key issues and the market’s perception of your company.
Capability: Resource discovery for journalists/pitching opportunities for resources
What is HARO? In the words of its description on the registration site:
Every day, HARO brings nearly 30,000 reporters and bloggers, over 100,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses together to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services.
Since its inception, Two Cats and a Cup of Coffee under its mark HARO has published more than 75,000 journalist queries, has facilitated nearly 7,500,000 media pitches, and has marketed and promoted close to 1,500 brands to the media, small businesses and consumers.
How does it work? This service is mutually beneficial for journalists and PR professionals. Three times a day, subscribers receive an email filled with queries from journalists. These queries are grouped into logical subject areas; given the shear volume of queries, this makes it a lot easier to review only what’s relevant to your organization. Here’s a sample of one sector’s queries from a recent newsletter:
The queries themselves contain all of the information needed to respond with your pitch:
Because this is a wildly popular service, you can expect your pitch to join literally hundreds of others in vying for the coverage. Make it good, short and sweet, being sure to include the required information requested in the query and also your relevant contact details. Be mindful of the deadline posted in the query as well; in my experience, the early bird tends to get the HARO worm.
What other free tools are available to support your PR program? Lots. From FlackList to SourceBottle, Reporter Connection to MediaSpot.Me, there are a wide variety of tools out there that can help you get the coverage you want for no money down. Some of them prove the adage “you get what you pay for” while others provide real tangible value. Examine your options, try some out and determine what works best for you.
Image: Freelance Crunch