Products and Tools this week

The PRWeek Products & Tools newsletter provides news, features, and campaigns delivered direct to your inbox. Here are featured sections from the weekly newsletter.

The PRWeek Products & Tools newsletter provides news, features, and campaigns delivered direct to your inbox. Here are featured sections from the weekly newsletter.

This Week

SINGAPORE: Meritus has launched Promo+, a tool for measuring promotional impact in retail, FCMG, and CPG markets.

NEW YORK: The Newsmarket has announced its first country-specific video site.

SEATTLE: Visible Technologies, provider of social media monitoring and reputation management services, has secured $12 million in Series B funding from Ignition Partners, a venture capital firm, and WPP Group.

The End User

Erin Steele, communications director, United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta

What helpful product or tool have you discovered?

I have used Flickr, the photo-sharing Web site, for my personal photos for a while. It's easy to upload photos for my friends and family to see. For a small annual fee, about $25, you can store an unlimited number of print-quality photos. At no charge, you can store quite a bit as well.

At work, we have started using Flickr to share photos of events with our internal departments. We can upload our photos and tag them so that we can search through them later. With the comment feature, we can work together to determine which photos make the most sense to use where and we can have the whole conversation online. Photos can be marked as public, so anyone can search for them, or private so that you have to login to see them.

We were using a lot of server space to store photos, photos that we might use someday. Now, we can use Flickr-finding and sharing them easily.

Expert Q&A

Steen Andersen, president, Maconomy USA

Please give a brief description of Maconomy's work.

SA: Maconomy provides an enterprise resource planning solution designed specifically for marketing communications agencies. The Maconomy Agency Solution includes a complete financial management package with GL, AR, AP, and fixed assets, all with a multi-language, multi-currency, and multi-company capability. Additionally, Maconomy Agency Solution offers a comprehensive job costing, time tracking and project management system to help project/client managers do their jobs more efficiently from pre-sale through project completion.

What are some of the internal processes that often get overlooked?

SA: -Time capture: Many times, PR practitioners are working so hard to meet client demands, the last thing they want to do when their day is done is enter information into the company's time capture system. This is a process that could be considered ignored more than simply overlooked. Plus, even if time is entered, it can be just as difficult to get busy managers to enter their own time and review others'. Surveys show that more than one-third of potentially billable time is lost to inaccurate time capture.

-Purchase order process: From time to time, PR practitioners have to purchase something on a client's behalf. Purchases are made weeks or even months before the client is billed and can sometimes be made on the fly. Without approval and appropriate allocation, project managers can find themselves faced with having to either explain an out-of-pocket expense to a client months after a purchase has been made, or choose to absorb the expense and reduce the agency's profitability.

-Agency resource planning: Determining resource requirements for the next month can sometimes be challenging, let alone for the next six months. It becomes easier to hire freelancers than to obtain that information, and only after-the-fact, it's discovered that full-time paid employees are underutilized while a freelancer is overbooked and ends up being a bottleneck. Again, profitability suffers, not to mention employee morale. Tracking resource capabilities and availability is critical in any client job planning.

What tips do you have to help PR firm's more efficiently manage administrative and other internal tasks?

SA: -Give power to the people: It is important to get practitioners, project managers, and agency executive managers involved in what is perceived as the "finance realm." When practitioners can input their own time into systems more often the time will be allocated to the right job/client. If a project manager can track budgets for a client, they can make adjustments so the client relationship is preserved. If agency managers can forecast employee utilization, client profitability, and overall agency performance they can proactively react to issues. Look for a system that makes it easy to enter time - something that offers the ability to enter time from mobile devices and integrates with calendars to automatically turn calendar entries into time entries.

-Don't be your client's bank; automate the purchase order process: If an expense is incurred on behalf of a client, it is important to recoup those costs within a reasonable timeframe. An automated purchase order process allows only approved people to make purchases and can automatically generate an invoice to the client so that payment can be collected in a timely manner. An automated process can also help reduce instances when the agency must pay vendors before clients pay the agency.

-Plan based on previous experiences: No client job is exactly the same as the last, but similarities exist. By tracking exact hours billed for specific tasks to determine resources used can help build an accurate plan for similar jobs. This creates more accurate forecasting for the agency and estimates for the client, which makes it easier to ensure on-time, on-budget work.

Media Watch

Evolving Coverage: Should XM and Sirius Merge?

The proposed merger of XM Satellite Radio Holdings and Sirius Satellite Radio, which would create a single nationwide satellite radio company, stirred controversy at its February 2007 announcement.

Of the top-tier print media stories running immediately before and after the announcement, 46% were positive or somewhat positive, 17% were neutral, and 33% were negative or somewhat negative. Reflecting uncertainty over the merger's approval, the stock prices of both companies have fluctuated widely ever since, dropping by more 30% and rising by 15% - far more volatile than the NASDAQ average.

Media attention has remained high throughout the summer, much of it driven by statements and comments from a wide range of interested parties, from government officials, lobbyists, industry analysis, and executives of both companies.

Attitudes and perceptions regarding the merger had become more favorable by the final two months of the season, with the issue averaging 80 stories per month within top-tier publications. From July 21 through September 21, 60% of top-tier print media stories were positive or somewhat positive, 32% were neutral, and only 8% were negative or somewhat negative. That's not good news for the National Association of Broadcasters, which claims the XM/Sirius combination will create a monopoly and harm local radio stations.

Stay tuned: The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) plans to complete its review by year's end.

Based on analysis of 117 top-tier media articles for the three days before and after the proposed merger announcement for initial sentiment, and 160 articles from July 21 to September 21. Analysis conducted using BurrellesLuce's Media Monitoring and Media Measurement services.

Evaluation and analysis by BurrellesLuce.


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