The Buzzies — And the Tools to Get You There

At a major publishers conference, the award for the most innovative online public relations program was given to… no one. That’s right. In the opinion of the judges, no online public relations program was found that had award-winning creative spark and innovation.

You might argue the point. But after looking around, I don’t have any slam-dunk winners to suggest. You do? Then pass them along… Please. Recognizing innovation in online PR advances the whole professional practice.

Announcing… the “Buzzies!”

So, if you have a candidate for the Buzzies, consider this a call for entries into any of three categories – with emphasis on Internet programs and related technologies.

  • Best overall corporate PR program

  • Best overall PR marketing support program
  • Best overall non-profit PR program

You get the idea. C’mon, let’s have a look at the good stuff being launched off that mouse pad!

And since we’re working on e-time, deadline for submission is June 23. Submit a one-page nomination to Include a summary, an email and phone contact… and URLs for your candidate and the client and the agency, if available. We’ll report on the candidates, select five in each category and present them right here. You get to vote online and decide who walks away with the Golden Mouse.

Tools of the Trade

Tapping into the awesome arsenal of online firepower available to the PR pro isn’t an absolute requirement for great online PR work, but it sure helps. From the front-end information-gathering process right through to checking those press clips, we have powerful online partners.

Research… We’ve already talked about some of the online survey firms, but blew the spelling on one URL (since corrected). A couple, like iNetSurvey and Zoomerang, are free.

To keep tabs on client and competitor pages, you might try using free tracking software from two sites suggested by Nick Tyms in the I-PR newsletter: BuzzCity and NetMind.

Media selection and distribution used to be an area ripe for innovation. Who doesn’t remember getting the Bacon’s Publicity Checker and receiving monthly glue-in updates? Today, you can also get the Bacon directory as part of the MediaMap online network.

With its massive media database and powerful sorting and processing capabilities, MediaMap could be the sharpest tool in the box. For now, though, it looks like popularity may have dulled its edge a bit. On a test run, despite helpful support from techs and salespeople, it bombed. Heavy traffic on the server has been blamed, but when you shell out $200/monthly for each module you use (and you need at least three or four), performance should be taken for granted-unless you’re NASA. OK, pass the glue pot.

The Internet News Bureau charges $250 to get your 500-word release in the hands of 2,000 opt-in journalists. But if you’re looking for the bang for the buck, you can’t beat PRNewswire and its major competitor BusinessWire. PRNewswire offers its 100+ New York Metro wire for $260 and throws in the 675,000 terminals of The Investors Research Wire (IRW). More than 800 web sites receive the PRNewswire feed automatically. Free.

And talking about PRNewswire, one of the hottest services online is its ProfNet, a helluva swimming hole for a reporter to go fishin’ in when she or he needs some sources for a story. Over 11,000 professionals, experts and their PR agencies are networked to receive multiple inquiries daily from journalists.

For this column, I posted a short paragraph looking for case studies and got 127 responses by noon the same day. “My estimate,” says PR pro Andrew Sprung of Allan Ripp Public Relations, “is that a swift, short ProfNet response is ten times likelier to draw return response than a cold pitch letter.”

To get a jump on the competition, have you checked out the online editorial calendars posted by most leading U.S. pubs? These editors and reporters are asking for support in producing over 120,000 upcoming stories and special issues. Be a shame to let them down.

The Virtual Pressroom With a Human Touch

Probably you have an online pressroom stocked with releases, position papers and photos. Now you can get online with the media right in that pressroom using chat technology. Interactive chat has been around for a while, only now it’s a little glitzier. As a PR warrior, you need whatever help you can get, and this little gizmo from HumanClick, LivePerson, FaceTime and others is pure online magic.

For the record, we wouldn’t have known much about this technology except for a Business 2.0 article we wrote a couple of months ago. These days we’re working with a client in the chat area. But don’t let that get in your way. Whatever your source for text chat, it’s a PR dream.

Text chat means you can reach into your web site and interact with your visitor. You can handle a press conference Q&A online in real time. Or, you can be available to media online, able to open graphic windows and display photos or graphics in the course of a conversation with a reporter three time zones across the map.

Checking Your Clips

Collecting clips may no longer be a matter of pasting newspaper clippings in scrapbooks, but on/offline is still one measure of publicity. How do you handle it these days? One good source is Standard WebClipping Service, claiming to scan 15,000 online publications daily and perform a 24-hour live scan of Usenet posts.

OK, taken together, that’s a pretty good lineup of machinery, but it’s not going to get you a Buzzie. The art of public relations demands you dig deeper. And it helps when you can craft a good email subject line.

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