CRM systems are commonplace in marketing departments but are a relatively rare feature in the world of public relations. While these customer relationship management systems are proving to be a vital tool, joining up different parts of the business, CRM is still very much associated with sales, marketing and customer service. Products are now being developed specifically for the communications industry so that professionals can keep track of all activity and responses to the campaign, particular in the realm of social media.
Public relations clients have often been seen as stakeholders rather than customers, hence the industry’s reticence to use a customer-focussed system. However, viewing clients as customers and measuring their satisfaction through the success of a campaign can surely help to bring in new business.
This is where CRM can help. PR campaigns are increasingly complex. It is no longer just about media coverage, print-based advertising and glossy product launches. Social media has changed all that. Every account has many different strands which need managing and failure to keep tabs on activities within the account could lead to the campaign’s failure. Not responding to Twitter feeds or criticism of the client on Facebook could damage the reputation which PR professionals are trying to build. Lack of awareness as to where a blog post or press release has ended up could stop the success of a PR campaign being measured. Therefore a system which keeps tabs on all the activity associated with a campaign in one place is clearly needed.
PR activity in one place
The key factor of any CRM system for a public relations business is to be able to centralise and manage all projects from one place, with options built in if a client has ordered more than one project. All contacts and associated activity with those contacts can be held in the system and noted as actions, such as press releases, media usage, social media monitoring and complaint handling. The list of functions which can be built in is impressive, especially with regards to social media — the system will keep track of every post or feed. Most CRM systems can be deployed either on in-house servers or in the cloud, meaning that they are accessible from almost anywhere.
PR companies are waking up to the benefits of having a tailor-made CRM system. Providers such as online CRM from iComplete are offering scalable solutions, depending on the size of the business. Using the principles of build, track and manage, communications professionals can see a complex campaign through from start to finish and beyond, keeping tabs on all the different strands that modern-day reputation management requires.
One organisation that has invested in a CRM system is the Chartered Institute for Public Relations, which has worked hard to build its membership in tough economic times. If the parent body for the industry thinks it is a worthwhile investment, it won’t be long before professionals from other organisations — big and small — will be following suit.