Here’s How Your PR Agency Can Increase Profitability

Great PR firms set themselves aside from mediocre ones through one key financial metric: profitability. High profitability means things are running well - clients are happy, employees are performing, retention is strong and the ratio of staff expenses to fee income is healthy. PR firms with 10-15% profitability are doing okay. Those with 20% profitability are very healthy. And the fortunate few who make it to 25% or higher profitability are killing it.

For these firms, each dollar the firm collects in fees can be broken down by 50 cents going towards labor, 25 cents going towards overhead, and the remaining 25 cents being profit. Firms with this level of profitability do so well because they can invest significant money back in the business to grow, improve technology, roll out new services, expand geographies, and hire the best talent. This investment reinforces their advantage and the cycle continues, allowing the firm to further set itself apart from competition and strengthen its core.

I sold my firm, Cutler PR, one year ago and so I am quite familiar with the immense importance of profitability in PR agency M&A discussions.

Firms with 25% or higher profitability are much more likely to get acquired for healthy sums of money. So, for all of these reasons, and more, increasing profitability of your PR agency is probably the most important thing you can do as a senior executive or owner of the firm. There are few things, though, that agencies can actually do to increase their profitability. One important  measure that can be taken is investing in tools and technology that improve productivity.

A majority of PR firms find that the most unpredictable and challenging service they offer is media relations. It is therefore particularly in this area -  earned media - that new and innovative technologies can help firms make a significant difference in their profitability.

Propel, the earned media productivity platform, for example, allows firms to increase their client load by 10-15% without hiring additional resources. This is possible due to the automation, workflow management and efficiency that the Propel platform brings to teams and individuals. You can simply accomplish more in less time and with less hands on board.

Because 50 cents of every revenue dollar goes towards labor costs for most firms, being able to increase client load by 10-15% means increasing annual profit of their media relations revenue center by 5-7.5%. Propel additionally helps firms increase client retention by 2-4% annually, which boosts profitability further. If media relations is the full focus of your firm, using a platform like Propel can increase profitability by anywhere from 5-10% annually. If media relations accounts for half of your firm’s billable services, that means 2.5-5% higher profitability per year. These increases in profit can be a total game changer and take a firm from mediocrity to excellence.

Investing in any technology has some upfront education and learning curve. The payoff, though is remarkable. To learn more about Propel, the earned media productivity platform, and how it can be transformative for your firm’s profitability, please schedule a demo by clicking here..

It’s Time for PR to Join the Data Revolution

The public relations industry has come a long way toward being more accountable, efficient, and productive. As someone who has worked in the PR industry for over a decade, I’m very proud of the progress that has been made so far. In the past years, various tools, methodologies, and best practices have been developed by people who were passionately dedicated to the craft. And yet, it is my belief that we could be doing more.

I believe that all industries, PR included, must innovate. Today, we must utilize big data and the technology at our disposal to deliver maximum value to our clients if we wish to remain relevant over the next hundred years.

Unlike advertising which has been disrupted by digital technology with the advent of Google AdWords, Facebook advertisements, martech platforms, and more, PR has always been relatively soft when it comes to technology adoption and the ability to gain insights and optimize efforts based on data.

The power of data has transformed nearly every industry on earth, making businesses more efficient, productive, and better able to serve their customers.

The PR Process

The outcomes of PR campaigns may be hard to track (although not totally impossible), but the processes of PR are not. As PR pros, I believe we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our clients to know if our workflow, methods, resources, and employees are operating at peak efficiency.

PR teams that are serious about becoming more data-driven should be measuring the following:

  • Agency Performance

  • Account Performance

  • Pitch Performance

  • Employee Performance

If the above seems frustratingly vague I understand. Rest assured, comprehensive data analytics and management tools like Propel, a CRM designed specifically for PR firms, turn that vagueness into measurable goals, metrics and KPIs. More importantly, these platforms can give you the data and insights you need to make better decisions and ultimately become a more capable and responsible PR professional.

Steps toward becoming data-driven:

There are many areas of PR where it would help to know the data, but the first place where you’d probably want to apply data-driven tactics is your pitch process.

The work of generating positive media coverage is fundamental to PR. A tremendous amount of effort goes into outreach and cultivating relationships with reporters. But, if you don’t have accurate ways of measuring the returns of your efforts, much of that time will be spent unproductively. Furthermore, you’ll have no way of knowing what actions are a good use of your time and what tactics amount to nothing.  

A product like Propel can help you understand what’s going on under the surface by measuring data points such as:

  • Open Rate: How many email pitches are opened by targeted reporters?

  • Response Rate: How often do reporters respond to your emails?

  • Secure Rate: How often does actual coverage result from these interactions?

  • Allocation of resources: How many employee-hours is it taking to achieve these results?

Numerous data-measurement opportunities exist in PR. The above mentioned ones are only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that’s possible once the industry takes advantage of the transformative power of big data, AI, and machine learning.

How to Get Insights Using the Dashboard

One of the central missions of Propel is giving you a deep understanding of what's working and what can be improved. On the dashboard, you can find a wide array of analytics that can give you insights about the success of campaigns, employees and accounts overall. Our graphs include:

  • Pitching Volume & Effectiveness
  • Batting Averages
  • Number of Articles Published
  • Propel Factor/Article Score
  • Leading Contacts
  • SEO Value

To change the date range, click on the time period drop-down and select the range you are interested to analyze.

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To filter by account, pitching initiative or employee, click on the "View" drop-down.

If you want to get additional training on how to use the dashboard, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com

How to Secure More Opportunities with the Propel Story Funnel

Click on the "Story Funnel" tab to see your entire pipeline of opportunities, broken down by pitches "sent," "opened," "responded," "materials/interview," "article secured," "article published," and "not interested." Click on the reporter's name to see their profile page – which includes your entire history of communication with them, their contact info, and any notes you may have.

 Click on the "Story Funnel" tab to see your entire pipeline of opportunities, broken down by pitches "sent," "opened," "responded," "materials/interview," "article secured," "article published," and "not interested." Click on the reporter's name to see their profile page – which includes your entire history of communication with them, their contact info, and any notes you may have.

Click on the  "Add new card" button on the top-right to create an opportunity that was initiated off-line.

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You can filter the funnel by user, account, or pitching initiative.

 You can filter the funnel by user, account, or pitching initiative.

To update a status of an opportunity, simply drag and drop from one column to another. You can also click on the arrow in the top right corner of the card and select which column you want to move that card into.

 To update a status of an opportunity, simply drag and drop from one column to another. You can also click on the arrow in the top right corner of the card and select which column you want to move that card into.

After an article publishes, update the card status to "Article Published"  – at which point a pop-up box will appear. Fill in the URL and publishing date so that the article will be added to the dashboard and reports.

 After an article publishes, update the card status to "Article Published"  – at which point a pop-up box will appear. Fill in the URL and publishing date so that the article will be added to the dashboard and reports.

Phew, that's it! You are ready to start pitching and managing your team's PR efforts with Propel. If you have any question or would like to schedule a training session to learn more advanced tricks, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com.

How to Navigate Your Media Lists

Click on "Media Lists" in the navigation bar on the left

Find the media list you want to start pitching by either filtering by account or searching by media list name.

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Click on the numbers to open the media list and on the pencil to add contacts from the database.

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NOTE: numbers represent the total contacts that were already pitched out of the total contacts on the list.

Find the contact you want to pitch using the sort and/or search bar. Filter contacts to see just the ones that are assigned to you, not already pitched, etc.

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Remove contacts from the list or assign users to pitch them.

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Pitch by clicking on an envelope - your email client will be opened.

* If you are using Gmail and it doesn't automatically open, we recommend reading the following tutorial: Mac users, Windows users.

Phew, that's it! You are ready to start pitching and managing your team's PR efforts with Propel. If you have any question or would like to schedule a training session to learn more advanced tricks, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com.

How to Create a New Account

 First, go to the Accounts section and click on "Add New Account".

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NOTE: Accounts are clients.

Enter basic information about the account. If you are in a hurry, you can click  "Finish" after completing only the few required fields. If you have a few minutes, it is recommended to complete the next steps in order to get the most out of Propel.

 Enter basic information about the account. If you are in a hurry, you can click  "Finish" after completing only the few required fields. If you have a few minutes, it is recommended to complete the next steps in order to get the most out of Propel.

Enter website and social media links for the account.

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NOTE: Although these fields are not mandatory, Propel uses them in order to identify backlinks in articles published when calculating the Propel Factor and SEO Value. Therefore, in order to get the most out of Propel, it is recommended to at least enter the account's website address when setting up the account.

 

Assign existing users (i.e. team members) or add new users to the account. By adding users to an account you give them access to see data and activity related to that account.

 Assign existing users (i.e. team members) or add new users to the account. By adding users to an account you give them access to see data and activity related to that account.

Complete the  "Audience" screen by entering the business type, relevant industries, and media outlets of interest. If you don't know which media outlets are most relevant, or you prefer to not complete this field, Propel will still work fine. However, the more information you enter here, the more LORA – Propel AI Engine will be able to help you by making intelligent recommendations for which reporters to pitch.

 Complete the  "Audience" screen by entering the business type, relevant industries, and media outlets of interest. If you don't know which media outlets are most relevant, or you prefer to not complete this field, Propel will still work fine. However, the more information you enter here, the more LORA – Propel AI Engine will be able to help you by making intelligent recommendations for which reporters to pitch.

Enter any key messages related to that account. Messages should be a few words. For example, if you are representing a ridesharing app, a sample message may be "sharing economy transportation is more affordable."  Then, add any one-two word tags related to that account. In the ridesharing example, sample tags may be  "urban transportation," "sharing economy,"  "smart city,"  "on-demand transportation," etc.

Propel will use this data to help you build media lists more efficiently and to evaluate the quality of your coverage.

 Enter any key messages related to that account. Messages should be a few words. For example, if you are representing a ridesharing app, a sample message may be "sharing economy transportation is more affordable."  Then, add any one-two word tags related to that account. In the ridesharing example, sample tags may be  "urban transportation," "sharing economy,"  "smart city,"  "on-demand transportation," etc.  Propel will use this data to help you build media lists more efficiently and to evaluate the quality of your coverage.  Finally, you can add a logo for the account.  Click finish when you are done. Congrats – you have created an account! You can edit any of this information at any time, by clicking on the account name and editing any of the steps.

Finally, you can add a logo for the account.

Click finish when you are done. Congrats – you have created an account! You can edit any of this information at any time, by clicking on the account name and editing any of the steps.

If you have any question or would like to schedule a training session to learn more advanced tricks, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com.

How to Create a Pitching Initiative

Click on the "Pitch" button on the top right corner of your screen. This will prompt you to create a  "Pitching Initiative", which is a specific campaign/pitching effort within an account. For example, this may be a news announcement for a specific account, or a bylined article. It could also be a specific newsjacking effort, a trend story pitch, or a variety of other activities.

 Click on the "Pitch" button on the top right corner of your screen. This will prompt you to create a  "Pitching Initiative", which is a specific campaign/pitching effort within an account. For example, this may be a news announcement for a specific account, or a bylined article. It could also be a specific newsjacking effort, a trend story pitch, or a variety of other activities.

Give the pitching initiative a name, enter which account it is for, and choose the type. In addition, you can pick a publishing deadline for time sensitive announcements or you can select "No Deadline Required" for ongoing/evergreen initiatives.

 Give the pitching initiative a name, enter which account it is for, and choose the type. In addition, you can pick a publishing deadline for time sensitive announcements or you can select "No Deadline Required" for ongoing/evergreen initiatives.

Select any key messages that are relevant for this pitching initiative, or add new ones. This is optional. It enables Propel to help you evaluate pitching initiative effectiveness later.

 Select any key messages that are relevant for this pitching initiative, or add new ones. This is optional. It enables Propel to help you evaluate pitching initiative effectiveness later.

Set milestones/tasks for the pitching initiative. This list is automatically generated based on the pitching initiative type you selected and you can add/remove stages based on your preference.

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NOTE: This is an optional task management feature that allows managers and team leaders to set deadlines and assign responsibility for the various stages within a pitching initiative.

 

Enter any specific search phrases relevant to the pitching initiative, which will allow Propel to help you discover relevant reporters for this pitching initiative. You can also enter which tier levels you are interested in getting coverage in for this pitching initiative. Both of these are optional. Lastly, choose whether you'd like to copy an existing media list or create a new one. If you're just getting started with Propel, you will want to create a new one.

 Enter any specific search phrases relevant to the pitching initiative, which will allow Propel to help you discover relevant reporters for this pitching initiative. You can also enter which tier levels you are interested in getting coverage in for this pitching initiative. Both of these are optional. Lastly, choose whether you'd like to copy an existing media list or create a new one. If you're just getting started with Propel, you will want to create a new one.  You are ready to go - click "Finish & Go to media list".

You are ready to go - click "Finish & Go to media list".

If you have any question or would like to schedule a training session to learn more advanced tricks, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com.

Getting Started with Propel

Welcome to Propel!

We are really excited to introduce you to Propel! We built Propel to improve the lives of media relations pros. We are media relations experts that have worked in PR for years and chat with hundreds of PR firms to learn the problems they are facing and help them improve their agencies with technology.

First, you'll want to download our Gmail Chrome Extension. If you don't use Gmail, don't worry! You can still use Propel – you'll just need to set up DNS records.

Then, you'll want to learn the basics on all of the features we provide: 

How to Pitch with the Propel Gmail Plug-In

How to Secure More Opportunities with Story Funnel

How to Get Insights Using the Dashboard

How to Create a New Account

How to Create a Pitching Initiative

How to Navigate Your Media Lists

 

Pitching With the Propel Gmail Plug-In

The Propel Gmail Plug-In* allows you to pitch reporters and influencers directly from your Gmail inbox. All you need to do is download our Chrome extension.

* Propel Gmail Plug-In works best using the new Gmail User Interface.

Log-in

1) Click on the Propel logo on the top-right cornet, enter your user credentials and click login.

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2) If the login was successful the Propel icon will change it’s color and your name and notifications will appear.

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Pitch

1) After installing the plug-in, you can start pitching by simply clicking on the Propel logo (next to the send button) in a compose new message window.

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2) Then you will be asked to select a pitching initiative. You can either pick from the most frequently used or search for a pitching initiative by entering the pitching initiative or account name. If the pitching initiative doesn't exist in Propel yet - click "Create new" to add it.

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3) To add recipients, you can either enter their contact details manually in the “To” field or click on access your Propel Media List directly from Gmail by clicking on the “Media "List” button.

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4) Using the media list you can select which contacts you'd like to pitch now by clicking the checkbox next to their name. You can search reporters by media outlet and filter by their status in the specific media list.

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5) If you select more than one recipient, each of the recipients will receive a separate email, which you can personalize by using Propel's mail merge feature. Do this by clicking on "Mail Merge" and selecting the variable field you desire – options include first name, last name and publication name, etc.

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*NOTE: Mail merge does have two limitations - First, you must send the first email using the Propel extension and not from your mobile device or a different browser. Second, no attachments are allowed in the first email when pitching multiple contacts at the same time. If you want to attach a press release or media kit we recommend including a google drive or dropbox link instead.

6) Propel also allows you to save and share templates for later use to save time and improve the quality of your pitches and follow-ups. To save a template, write a personalized message using the mail merge function, implement inline images and click “Templates\Save Template” when you are done. To load a template, click “Templates” and select the one you want to use.

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7) You can set a reminder to follow-up with the contact(s) you are pitching to if you don't hear back from them in a specific time period or by a specific date.  

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8) The last step of pitching will be sending the email. You have two options: click “Send” in order to send the email(s) now or “Send Later” in order to schedule the email to be sent at a later time. Selecting one of the morning options will send the email between 9 to 10 am on local sender timezone. After clicking on the “Send Later” button the email will automatically saved as draft and will be sent at the selected time. To cancel or change timing go to the draft folder and open the relevant thread.

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Step 2 - Track

Now that you have pitched, the plug-in helps you track responses and organize all of your reporter interest in a clear way that helps you prevent opportunities falling through the cracks. 

1) Click on the Propel logo to check if you have follow-up reminders due, which are represented by the number in the red circle. Then, click on the notification to go directly to your Propel's follow-up folder.

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2) Click on the Propel folder in your Gmail inbox to see all of your ongoing communications with reporters. Here, you can filter by account, pitching initiative or status (sent, opened, responded, etc.). For example, you can easily see all of your pitches that were opened and not yet responded, in order to follow-up, or the ones that are awaiting materials or an interview in order to remind you to touch base. 

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3) Finally, every time you hear back from a reporter, you can update the story funnel status or set yourself a new follow-up reminder from the open mail thread itself.

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You can also track and organize all of your reporter opportunities through the Propel Story Funnel in the web app.

I hope this tutorial helps! If you have any additional questions or want to schedule a 15 minute 1-on-1 training session, please reach out to me at idan@propelmypr.com

Forbes Magazine names Propel one of the "15 Technology Companies to Watch in 2018"

We are humbled to be named by Forbes as one of "15 Technology Companies to Watch in 2018".

The PR industry has adopted technology at a snail’s pace compared to the rest of the marketing ecosystem. Propel, a recently launched AI-driven CRM for PR, is on a mission to help the PR industry innovate. The platform increases efficiency of public relations workers. By collecting loads of data and leveraging wisdom of the crowd, Propel enables PR teams – either agency or in-house – to understand which journalists are relevant, which pitches are resonating, and which campaigns are working. Propel offers actionable insights to help users hone in on the right messages and reporters, and improve quality and quantity of coverage. The CRM also offers powerful streamlining and organizational tools that help users more easily manage their workload, as well as a dashboard for managers that makes clear which employees and campaigns are most effective. The Tel Aviv-based company launched this year and is in the midst of a funding round.