Fireside / Archives

Barrett Adair

On the “Prowl” for Publicity? Try Out Prowly PR Software.

Good PR software can be a publicist’s best friend—apps like Cision and Meltwater make building media lists, tracking down a reporter’s email and sending out pitches a far easier task. But with each product seeking to differentiate itself with new, specific features, it’s sometimes hard to tell which will actually save you time and which are just flashy expenses.

Over the last week, I test drove Prowly, a fairly popular app. Prowly allows potential users to access the “Basic” version of the software (with some restrictions) for one week before committing to a purchase, with no payment information required for the trial. I did a lot of poking around myself, and hopped on the phone for a half-hour demo with a Prowly representative to learn my way around its features.

Prowly breaks its PR tools into three categories: Brand Journal, Audience, and Pitch. To start, Brand Journal is Prowly’s most unique feature. This is all about building a newsroom for a brand that can live on their website, and be edited and updated in Prowly. Prowly cites Vimeo, Cadbury, and Citibank as a few popular brands who have built their online newsroom using Prowly’s software. Users can upload press releases, blogs, media assets, and contacts, and organize information into separate pages within the newsroom, if they like.

Brand Journal seemed extremely user friendly to me, and could streamline the task of updating a newsroom with a press release, so that an outside agency or junior staffer could do it without needing access to the brand’s site. The major drawback seemed to be that Brand Journal doesn’t allow for much customization. Of course, you can add your brand’s logos and photos to the page, but the default layout means your brand’s website design can’t flow into its newsroom.

Next is Audience, Prowly’s name for an essential feature for all PR software: media contacts. Like most applications, Prowly allows you to search for and save contacts, and create customized lists to segment your contacts into. Prowly impressed me with a few specific Audience tools: first, the app pulls relevant results without any proper name; for example, a search for “San Francisco tech” pulls a list of every reporter in their database who fits those tags. Second, you can upload private contacts from a spreadsheet, making bulk uploads pretty much as simple as adding them from a search. Third, Prowly will automatically flag any email addresses that have bounced and allow you to filter them out of future outreach with just one click. And last, Prowly lets you save broad search terms (like our “San Francisco tech” example) and use them to create dynamic, self-updating lists. The downside? If you’re used to software that’s been around longer, like Cision or Meltwater, you may find their database to be a tad limited, especially when searching for trade reporters.

Finally, there’s Pitch, which is designed to send all mass mailings to your selected audience. As the name suggests, it’s designed to streamline pitching to reporters, but could also prove useful to send out newsletters, rather than relying on a separate email distribution service. Prowly offers standard analytics on all mailings—open rate, click rates, bounces—and also allows you to organize individual mailings into campaigns, so you can view all your work and overall performance for an entire campaign. Unfortunately, Prowly only offers unlimited emails on their most expensive plan, with the “Basic” and “Pro” packages including a monthly cap.

All features considered, Prowly seems like an excellent choice for a freelancer or small PR team, especially if you’re looking to purchase PR software for the first time. It’s simple to use, its features cover all your bases, and with a starting price around only $100 a month, it’s a reasonable expense for your business. But those managing a lot of clients and campaigns at once may find Prowly too limiting for their requirements. If you’re interested in testing it out, you can visit Prowly’s site to sign up for your own trial and see how it works for you.

Barrett Adair

Proactive Crisis Management in the #MeToo Era

Sometimes, the crises that can do the greatest harm to your company and its image are not the unknown and unexpected threats you can’t anticipate, but the “smoldering” issues that have long existed and that your team may be well aware of.

This is the subject Deborah Hileman, SCMP, and President and CEO of the Institute for Crisis Management addressed with a packed room of attendees at the Richmond PRSA May Luncheon: #MeToo and Other Smoldering Crisis – How Bad Behavior Impacts Companies. Hileman is a crisis communications expert who has seen firsthand the damage that’s caused when long-existing scandals within an organization finally bubble to the surface. Her advice? Identify the issue and stop it in its tracks, long before it has the chance to ruin your company.

Hileman addressing Richmond PRSA’s May Luncheon attendees. Photo by Richmond Chapter PRSA.

The #MeToo movement exposed quite a few C-level executives who had used their corporate power inappropriately and tried to get away with sexual harassment and predatory behavior toward members of their team, usually those in positions beneath theirs. Across all industries, many times over, we would hear the same story: the behavior would go on for years, they would victimize dozens of people, and all of it would be an open secret within the company. Now, even companies who have taken appropriate action against such executives have found it to be too little, too late to save their brands. Legal battles go on for years, and financial struggles continue even longer.

Hileman’s words on the matter invited the audience to consider: is anything like this happening within my organization, or those I represent? Is someone’s poor or predatory behavior being overlooked? If I don’t stop it now, does it stand to get much worse? And most importantly, how do I stop it?

Corporations often have tools already in place to catch these “smoldering” issues, they just need to be put to better use. During regular reviews, executives should prioritize an assessment of company culture and conduct along with job performance. They should also ensure that their human resources department is not only listening to employees’ concerns, but looking into situations that could turn into complaints. They need to have a very clear and enforced code of conduct for their company, so all staff know what appropriate boundaries are and when someone else has crossed them. Finally, they can’t be afraid to have frank conversations about behavior with even the most senior executives. No one wants to see a crisis irreparably damage their company, and they should know if something they’ve turned a blind eye to could be a much bigger threat than they expect.

As PR professionals, it’s our job to manage the public reputations of the organizations we represent, and it isn’t always easy – but it can be made much easier by being proactive and stopping a problem before it becomes a crisis.