Sara Calabro talks to a half-dozen industry pros about their use of PR software applications, how it has vastly improved efficiency, and ways it can be further enhanced.Application Market360 Manufacturer Biz360 User Ryan Batty, PR manager, McDATA What do you use it for? Mainly for measurement and reporting, and to show and prove the value of our efforts to our company's executives, who are primarily from an engineering or finance background. On a more tactical level, it has provided us with roughly the equivalent of a fourth person on our team of three. Market360 drastically reduces the time it takes to compile clips, measure results, create reports, track the competition, and organize focused media outreach. How has it changed your job? Prior to adding Market360 to our arsenal, executives at McDATA thought of PR more as a "necessary evil" than a strategic business advantage. We were striving to find a way to let them know that PR does not stand for "Press Releases." With the customizable reporting tools Market360 provides, we can quickly produce detailed, yet simple charts and graphs, using any combination of data, to meet any executive's reporting needs on the spot. We can see whether the concepts we're focusing on are picked up, how they are being used, and who's writing about them. We also see where our competitors are showing up in stories that are applicable to us, and track when we are not in those stories. How could it be improved? As our reporting needs become increasingly granular, we've talked to the folks at Biz360 about developing a method to distinguish financial/business articles about McDATA and its competitors from industry and trade articles when developing clips reports and doing article counts. This would help us gain a clearer picture of where our product and solutions outreach differs from our financial and investment community outreach. ------ Application Vocus Public Relations Manufacturer Vocus User David Ortiz, media relations officer, Northern Arizona University What do you use it for? Various tasks, like sending out press releases, PSAs, media advisories, and white papers. It also lets us keep on file and publish executive biographies of our top administrators, as well as photos that we can send to media outlets. Other uses include both publishing and sending scientific papers, as well as pitching story ideas to reporters and editors at a variety of outlets. How has it changed your job? It has allowed us to send releases and other information, such as photo files, very efficiently. We have sent releases out to 150 media outlets simultaneously, either through fax or e-mail. The system allows us to electronically file releases, photos, white papers, scientific papers, and other material. When we need to retrieve certain papers, we can do so easily, and, if necessary, print them. Being able to create and maintain different databases with media contacts and outlets has been very helpful in terms of keeping a large amount of contact information on hand. How could it be improved? As we work more with the various components of the Vocus system, there may be an area that we would suggest for improvement, but at this time, our needs are fully met. ----- Application Performa Manufacturer MediaMap User Tanya Pobuda, PR manager, solutions, Cognos What do you use it for? Performa allows us to create master editorial calendars (a process that has historically taken two account coordinators and two months to compile manually). It enables us to create custom blast lists for specific announcements when contacting the media. For a company like Cognos, with a broad-based vertical and geographic reach, customization is key. It gives us the rapid ability to create target lists for solutions campaigns. With our time-crunched team, the web version is key because the MediaMap team updates content on our behalf - something we would need to manage otherwise. How has it changed your job? It eliminates much of the administrative duties and manual heavy lifting that is required of our PR team. We have a better handle on the media contacts and editorial features we care about. It is a huge relief when we are working with large campaigns because now we are certain that we are contacting the full breadth of the relevant media. How could it be improved? The nice thing is that MediaMap keeps evolving its functionality, so it has stayed out in front. While we did light collaboration in the MediaMap online version (annotating contact information in the Notes section of the contact files), our broader requirements for collaboration with next-generation functionality have been addressed. MediaMap online has evolved into Performa, a collaborative portal that allows our team to task each other on follow-up, communicate with each other, and annotate contact information. ----- Application MediaSource Manufacturer Bacon's User Kelly Indrieri, client executive, Burson-Marsteller What do you use it for? Media list creation and management; as well as for quick searches for contact information on reporters. How has it changed your job? Burson already uses a wide range of web-based media tools to service the needs of our clients all over the world, and Bacon's complemented and integrated effectively into our existing capabilities. Additionally, this web-based system allows us to access and update our media lists from anywhere at anytime, which was a requirement in our selection process because many of our colleagues regularly work off-site with clients. How could it be improved? We have asked Bacon's to beef up the pitching tip information and to include more reporter bios. We also felt that some industry segments were under-represented, and Bacon's has set a plan in motion to aggressively add that information. ----- Application Big Time Manufacturer Edison's Attic User Bryan Glaza, VP, corporate communications, Ashton Partners What do you use it for? In order to avoid the need of having to change our systems or add new work, we really wanted a flexible software system that would help improve our time tracking, reporting, and billing. BigTime immediately met our initial needs in full. How has it changed your job? The various features of BigTime have enabled us to focus more on management and planning, instead of administrative issues. Our senior staff managers can now get an immediate real-time snapshot on client work, as well as the productivity and profitability of each member of the staff. In addition, our billing process has been streamlined significantly, as demonstrated by the reduction in the time associated. How could it be improved? We are awaiting the BigTime link to MS Project, which our managers use to develop their project plans. I have been told it should be added to the system within the next month. ----- Application PRanywhere Manufacturer Lexis Nexis User Melissa Burman, director of corporate communications, Iron Mountain What do you use it for? We use PRanywhere to research, track, and organize press and industry analysts for outreach purposes. How has it changed your job? PRanywhere provides exceptional background information on both media and analysts - far more detailed and relevant than other databases I've used in the past. This helps us to ensure that Iron Mountain's PR efforts are not only targeted, but that they produce better results, and do so more efficiently. How could it be improved? Eventually, I'd love to be able to depend on the application like a CRM system, where press and analysts are my customers. I'd also like to view the information in a way that helps track activities, follow-up items, and results.