Using website technology to help build relationships

All PR firms continually search for and evaluate tools and techniques to make their businesses more efficient, to utilize staff time more effectively, to strengthen client relationships, and to facilitate communication with the media. Technology can help solve many business problems regardless of the size or specialization of your business; technology can help share knowledge, gather intelligence, and add real value.

All PR firms continually search for and evaluate tools and techniques to make their businesses more efficient, to utilize staff time more effectively, to strengthen client relationships, and to facilitate communication with the media. Technology can help solve many business problems regardless of the size or specialization of your business; technology can help share knowledge, gather intelligence, and add real value.

The Council of Public Relations Firms Technology Task Force, working with its CFO Roundtable and members' chief information officers, help members assess investments in technology products and services. The committee is close to completing a survey to assess member firms' investment in hardware, software, and internal and external IT services. Results will be available in October.

In the ongoing major redesign of its website (www.prfirms. org), the Council is seeking to put into place technology benefits that provide members, clients, media, and researchers with new and improved tools to increase utilization, while saving time. The redesign is a "work in progress" that will continue to evolve based on your constant input.

Below are some highlights of the new website:

INDUSTRY NEWS. What do the experts think? What do they read? "Weblogging," which captures expert opinion on particular subjects, is rapidly becoming a popular feature on business and media websites. Now we have our own weblog. Here's how it works. A featured weblog author will post articles of interest or references to "Industry News" published on the Council site's homepage. The weblog post will reflect current events, and demonstrate and support the value of PR as a strategic business tool. Our weblog - "blog" - is designed to stimulate visitors, including clients, media, and Council members to return frequently to the website.

FIND-A-FIRM. Clients seeking a PR agency sometimes have trouble finding one to meet their particular needs. Find-a-Firm is used by companies to create a shortlist of firms. It breaks firms down by geographic reach, size, and expertise. In time, we plan to expand Find-a-Firm to make searches easier for clients and more time-efficient for our member agencies. We have also added a pro bono section to match willing and interested agencies with nonprofits in need of specific support.

MEMBERS AREA. The Council conducts proprietary research for members on major issues, including employee compensation, business benchmarking, and technology expenditures, to help members be more successful and profitable.

This password-protected section gives members access to competitive industry information, enabling them to track and benchmark their own performance.

A new section has been added for firms participating in either the undergraduate Agency Management Course or the MBA Guest Lecture Series. The five-week Agency Management Course is for students interested in a career at a PR firm. The MBA Guest Lecture series helps inform MBA students about PR's strategic value and its role in a marketing program. The curriculum and prepared lecture notes (designed to reduce the work required by members who have volunteered to teach these programs) can be found on the website.

The programs, especially the Agency Management Course, have been well-received by local schools, including the University of Oregon, Howard University, and Syracuse University.

RESOURCES. Industry rankings, non-proprietary studies, and articles - available to anyone during research - can be found in this area. For example, a recently published Council white paper on trust and how corporate America might regain it among stakeholders can be found here. Recent editorials on legal issues that can greatly impact our industry - such as the Nike v. Kasky case in California - are also posted here.

CAREER CENTER. A resource to help students learn about the PR profession and connect them with top PR firms.

UPCOMING EVENTS. The homepage calendar will alert visitors to important upcoming events and activities.

In coming weeks, we will add features to make the site more useful to members, clients, and the media. We hope the website will serve as an important and authoritative resource, the place to go to learn about the PR industry and the activities, contributions, and expertise of our member firms.

Don Middleberg is the chairman and CEO of Euro RSCG Middleberg, Council board member, and chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms' Technology Task Force. The Council of Public Relations Firms is the trade association representing more than 125 of America's leading PR firms. The council's website can be found at www.prfirms.org. To search for a PR firm, visit the homepage. Click on "Find-a-Firm," and enter your search criteria.

You can also order Hiring a Public Relations Firm: A Guide for Clients.

For more on the Council, visit www.prfirms.org or call 877-PRFIRMS (877-773-4767).

- This column is contributed and paid for by The Council of PR Firms.

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