5 types of tools for freelance communicators, PR pros and marketers

Whether you’re a solo communicator or a remote account executive for an agency, consider these resources, which can help you collaborate, protect client information, measure and more.

With the prevalence of social media, brand journalism and digital marketing campaigns, more and more PR pros are cutting the cord on the typical office gig.

In January, Forbes reported:

There are 53 million freelancers in America today. By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers (this does not mean they are all full-time freelancers, but one of every two workers will be freelancers in some capacity). This on-demand work, instant gig economy is moving more and more into independent professionals that are using mobile and technology to create ecosystems of work they enjoy.

You don’t have to go solo to be a freelancer, either: Several PR and digital marketing agencies are embracing a remote workforce structure, which cuts down on overhead for the organization and enables communicators to work flexible schedules (and focus on their strengths).

A freelance PR position can sound enticing, but it’s no cakewalk. Make sure you have these types of tools and resources at your disposal to help you ace your responsibilities:

1. Resources for crafting outstanding content.

For many PR pros, writing press releases, pitching reporters and publishing on newswires are all part of a regular day’s work.

The growing content marketing trend means that storytelling skills are a communicator’s currency—and whether it’s in a pitch or a client’s blog, the stories you tell must be compelling to grab consumers’ fractured attentions.

It’s not just enough to pen a captivating story: PR pros should know how to create and include visuals, videos and even interactive content such as quizzes to spice up their content and keep readers interested.

You don’t have to break the bank, either—which can be a relief for freelancing PR pros or digital agencies that want to cut down on overhead costs. Rely on free stock photo sites, and turn to Canva or Gimp for visual editing. Giphy has a repository of practically any GIF your heart desires, and EZGif can help you edit them to fit your content.

2. Platforms for collaboration, presentations and discussions.

Collaboration is paramount to effective PR efforts, whether you’re a solo communicator hashing out the details with your client or you’re working in an agency of contractors who must come together to implement a large campaign.

Teamwork doesn’t have to happen in conference rooms, either.

Use tools such as Padlet, Google Keep and Google Drive to create lists and work on documents together in real time. Basecamp and Trello can help organize to-do lists and make sure tasks don’t fall through the cracks, andPrezi and Join.Me can help you present to clients or hold a conference call with your team.

Basecamp, Prezi, Join.Me and Trello also have enterprise versions, so if your digital agency is growing, these solutions can still help you manage a team and clients that can be scattered across the country (or around the world).

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3. A secure method for sending and storing files.

Using Google Drive or Dropbox is an easy way to upload documents and share them with either co-workers or clients. However, some information—including financial documents or those containing intellectual property—should be safeguarded.

Security breaches have caused PR headaches in the past few years for organizations including Target, Home Depot, Yahoo and the Internal Revenue Service. You can avoid a similar fate by ensuring you use good password practices, including regularly changing your passwords and not using easily cracked terms such as “password” or “12345.” You can also use a password service such as LastPass, which generates hard-to-hack passwords and saves them in your account.

You might consider using a virtual data room for sensitive client or organization documents. Brand managers for organizations ranging from startups preparing for IPOs to large agencies with sensitive partnership information use virtual data rooms to safeguard documents.

4. Measurement and analytics reporting software.

PR pros continually struggle to prove their worth, and the fight to show ROI can intensify for communication consultants or a digital agency trying to land that next big client account.

If you’re not ready to use Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, try a solution such as social analytics software Nuvi or Talkwalker or a PR monitoring tool such as Trendkite. These tools can gather analytics and data to help you make campaign decisions, as well as measure your ROI to show your boss or client how you’ve boosted the bottom line.

If your budget is next to nothing, use resources such as Social Mention and other free social media analytic tools. Whatever route you choose, make sure you’re looking for the right data.

5. Places to learn new skills and keep up with industry developments.

For both solo PR pros and communicators working in remote positions, days can get lonely. Moreover, your growth can feel stunted, as you might not be able to attend in-house or agency workshops to improve your skills and keep abreast of industry best practices.

Though attending conferences and workshops can do wonders, PR pros of all stripes can also benefit from attending industry Twitter chats, webinars and networking functions. There are also virtual training opportunities you can take advantage of, including our own Ragan Training.

Use your newsreader to your advantage, too: Whether you’re monitoring Feedly regularly or catching up on the day’s top stories through Twitter and Google, check out social media platforms’ announcements of new features or changes. Don’t be afraid to read several stories (and the platform’s own blog post) about the change.

The more you can learn about new tools and features, the more valuable you become—no cubicle necessary.

What tools and resources have you used to help consultant or remote work more effective?

This article originally ran on PR Daily in March 2017.

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Topics: PR


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