Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH'S SPIN CYCLE — Top PR tools to boost awareness, bolster brands

TODD SMITH'S SPIN CYCLE — Top PR tools to boost awareness, bolster brands

Todd Smith

Todd Smith

In our fast-paced, multi-media, plugged-in world, filled with competing messages online and off, it is increasingly important to tap into the best tools to help you navigate all the noise. In today’s world of online accessibility, here’s the digital toolbox for the next generation of brand building, thanks to PR Newser:

Contact Discovery

1. Journalisted. One of the easiest tools you may have never heard of, largely because it’s based in the UK, but it is something serious for those in a researching pinch. You know about HARO, which pushes for ideas. This pulls you toward people who have written about your client on a daily basis.

2. HARO — Help a reporter out — has emerged as the Google of incoming queries for PR practitioners. HARO is ubiquitous – or so we thought – but it still can be amazing how many newcomers don’t understand how great this Vocus-owned tool is. Thanks, Peter Shankman!

3. PitchRate. This free service connects journalists with topic experts – such as small business owners – for free media coverage. PitchRate also is chock full of helpful (free) information that an average PR type can use on a daily basis. It even sponsors regular free “PR Happy Hour” conference calls.

4. MuckRack. Starting at $199 a month, this is a very nice networking tool to get to know your local reporters. Users will receive email notifications when journalists tweet or link to articles matching search terms – and how many times does the client find the hit before we share it? Outreach needs efficiency and this helps!

5. Media diplomat. This is part HARO, part MuckRack, all cool. It monitors their queries and your outreach. A matchmaker between journos and PR-os, of sorts. And to think this one started as a LinkedIn group and became so popular for networking that a website was born. Get in while it’s still incubating.


Writing Tools

6. Headline analyzer. Thanks to the growing demands of journalism and PR, especially in today’s social media world, headlines are more important than ever. Want to see what kind of emotional value your headline creates? This tool helps you practice your call-to-action – and we can all use that.

7. Copyscape. If you are the agency blogger or copywriter, this is your new BFF. Is somebody stealing your content? This will let you know with just a few clicks for free.

8. AutoCrit. We get it. You want to write like Earnest Hemingway but it just doesn’t come out on paper that way. We all have writer’s block when everything reads the same, which is why this fun software will tell you when you are overusing superlatives, misusing syntax, and just writing really bad copy.

9. Zemanta. More and more, PR is taking over the ghostwriting for blogs. Clients love it if you are good at it. Now imagine blogging with a tool that helps suggest images, links, and articles to use as resources. Cool, right? That’s this thing. (Also, a WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, and Tumblr plug-in, for brand extension.)

10. Wordcounter. You ever get to writing graph after graph and then get the SEO person scratching their heads over your lack of synonym usage? This tool will let you know what’s up and how much you love a good keyword, followed by how much your team will love you (or hate you) for it.


Social Listening

11. Social mention. It’s not the most comprehensive device, but you get way more than what you want to pay (free). A generous sweep of blogs and microblogs that provides tone, resonance, video sharing, and share of voice. The numbers alone will surprise your client and make you look good.

12. Google insights. If you are searching for trends and the best time for someone to gain interest in your product (otherwise known as when to pay for online search), this is it. This will also tell you the best time to pitch.

13. Brandwatch. There are several listening tools to use, many of which are good for agencies and professionals alike. However, if you want something that is metrics on Barry Bonds-like steroids, this is the one for you. Completely dynamic and interactive for a fee. And oh so worth it.

14. Twilert. When your small business or large corporations aren’t certain if Twitter will work for them, you may want to pull this tool out of the drawer. Imagine Google Alerts only for Twitter, and ‘boom’ there is a Twilert in your inbox. It helps for a nice buzz.

15. Addictomatic. This (in technology terms) is an oldie-but-a-goodie but it may be time to get re-acquainted. Do you know how your brand is represented on the many social platforms concurrently? This is your new shiny toy to figure that out.


Didn’t Know You Needed These

16. BS indicator. Yes, in demand of PR favorite’s game “Buzzword Bingo,” there is this – and it’s sublime. Want to know whether your prose contains too many cliches? Use this.

17. MSOutlook kit. Admit it: you spend business time Gramming, Facebooking, and Twittering. It’s Ok, we understand. That said, here’s a fake MS Outlook page to pull up when the ‘man’ or ‘woman’ walks in. Just pop it over and no one knows.

18. F.Lux. Ok, you strain your eyeballs all day at a white – like gazing into the sun – screen. It’s all you see and then when you drive home, those floaters show up in your vision. This download changes the glare depending on the time of day. Pretty sweet and keeps you alert.

19. The useless web. So, you have writer’s block, aren’t in your pitch mode, and Twitter doesn’t sound interesting. You need something to pass the time but can’t find a timekill website. Let the Internet choose it for you, and what the Web picks will get you back in the creative zone.

20. Phone spell. Often, it’s a PR person’s gig to dream up a fancy URL, but what if you have a start-up who needs a catchy phone number. Odds are your client will not get 555-1234, so this cutesy tool helps you spell a word. Dial a smile.


Golden Mic | Ben Bradlee, Former Editor of The Washington Post

Ben Bradlee, who presided over The Washington Post newsroom for 26 years and guided its transformation into one of the world’s leading newspapers, died recently at his Washington, D.C., home at the ripe old age of 93. From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, this wise sage sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era. Even from this former Washington Times reporter, who duked it out daily with the 800-pound gorilla with Bradlee at the helm, I marveled at his tenacious, pioneering brand of journalism. The most compelling story of Bradlee’s tenure, almost certainly the one of greatest consequence, was Watergate, a political scandal touched off by The Post’s reporting that ended in the only resignation of a president in U.S. history – in addition to the Pentagon Papers. Bradlee gave the paper ambition. During his tenure, a paper that had previously won just four Pulitzer Prizes, only one of which was for reporting, won 17 more, including the Public Service award for the Watergate coverage. For elevating journalism – and the way we report news – for all generations, Bradlee takes the Golden Mic.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.



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About Ross Reily

Ross Reily is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. He is a husband to an amazing wife, dad to 3 crazy kids and 2 dogs. He is also a fan of the Delta State Fighting Okra and the Boston Red Sox.


  1. Frederik Vincx

    Thanks for sharing Todd. Excellent list of tools, yet their seems to be a section missing about sharing the stories of your brands. I’d add tools like Prezly that let you share your stories with traditional media and online influencers alike, via multimedia email pitches and social media newsrooms. I obviously have eggs in the Prezly basket.

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