If you’ve been using the same PR tools for years, or aren’t sure where to start when it comes to trialling new software, this blog is a great place to begin. Here we’ve rounded up some of the top PR tools on the market, ranging from journalist databases and enquiry opportunity software to the best websites to find all the latest trend data.
Before we delve into the individual tools, you might be wondering why you should bother to invest in PR tools in the first place. The simple answer is that digital PR is a tough gig, with unpredictable results that are based upon whether journalists decide to publish the material you send them. In addition, you are always at the whim of the broader news cycle, which means your message can quickly become irrelevant due to unexpected events; the death of the Queen being a prime example of this, when there was a defacto blackout of all other news stories.
Given the less-than-easy landscape in which digital PRs find themselves, its important to give yourself the best chance possible for success, with investment in the best tools being a vital part of the puzzle. The good news is that there are tools that can help you with all the core parts of a PR campaign such as ideation, research, data management, design and outreach. Moreover, the right tools can automate manual processes and increase efficiency, giving you more time to work on delivering results for your clients or stakeholders. In short, having the right tools to assist you as a digital PR professional is an absolute must, so let’s uncover which tools you should be considering investing in this year.
Answer the Public [Free + Paid Options]
Answer the Public is a great way to gain deeper insights into the most popular topics being searched for online. One of the main benefits of Answer the Public is that it makes it really easy to narrow down a broad idea into specific angles. You’ll be able to explore related topics and questions as well, helping you to flesh out related ideas from just one starter phrase. If you are in the ideation phase of a project this is a great place to start to get an initial idea of the topics and questions surrounding a main idea. You can run a handful of searches for free after which the basic subscription is just £9 per month, rising to £199 for the top package.
Exploding Topics [Free + Paid Options]
If Answer the Public isn’t offering you the real-time changes in trends that you need, consider Exploding Topics instead. This tool allows users to closely monitor emerging trends on the web, aggregating searches, conversations and mentions. If you are looking to uncover topics that are becoming more popular but are yet to emerge as mainstream then this tool is for you. You can try the software for free with paid options starting at $39 per month (billed annually). It’s worth adding that all paid options can be trialled for $1 for 7 days.
Canva [Free + Paid Options]
Canva is a one-stop shop for all your design needs. User-friendly with an intuitive interface, Canva can be used by everyone – even those with zero design experience. Unlike the steep learning curve that comes with tools such as Adobe Illustrator, you can be in and out of Canva in a matter of minutes, especially if you use one of their many templates instead of creating your own design from scratch. For simple designs or illustrations, it’s an absolute must and a massive time saver. The basic membership is free which comes with pretty much everything you’ll need. However, if you want access to premium templates, there is the option to upgrade at £12.99 per month for freelancers and £25.99 per month for teams/agencies.
Unsplash [Free + Paid Options]
If you need imagery for campaign landing pages, then stock images are often a quick and easy way to make your page look professional. Although there are lots of stock imagery sites out there, we can heartily recommend Unsplash. Boasting a huge gallery of high-quality images to choose from, you’ll be able to find a suitable match for articles about everything from workplace productivity to the climate crisis. You can find and download images for free, but for a very low monthly subscription of just £6 if paid annually, you can access premium images (recommended).
HARO [Free + Paid Options]
Connecting with journalists and finding PR opportunities is one of the more challenging sides of PR, but with HARO (Help A Reporter Out) you can easily connect with those seeking expert comments or contributions. Whether you’re looking for a journalist to cover your latest PR campaign or need to quote an expert in an article you’re writing, HARO makes it easy to send out pitches and respond to relevant queries. You’ll be able to filter by specific industries or even keywords, enabling you to only connect with the most relevant people and taking some of the guesswork out of pitching. The basic membership is free with a sliding scale of up to $149 for the top package.
Qwoted [Free + Paid Options]
If HARO isn’t quite right for you or you want even more opportunities, consider Qwoted as an alternative or addition. Available as a free basic plan or on a subscription basis, Qwoted is designed to help brands connect with the media, making it an ideal source of information for PR professionals trying to secure opportunities. Qwoted has an in-built alert system, meaning you have the opportunity to be one of the first to respond to a journalist’s query, especially if you subscribe to a paid plan. Users accessing the platform for free do have to wait two hours before responding, but you’ll still have plenty of opportunity to pitch your brand’s story and get noticed by the right people. While you do have to wait to be approved to use Qwoted, your profile and photograph will be available for journalists to see so they can contact you directly, which may cut down on some of the legwork you need to do.
Response Source [Paid – Free Trial Available]
If you are based in the UK, one of the potential downsides of both HARO and Qwoted is that many of the requests you see may be US-specific. However, for UK-centric requests you can try Response Source, which is a popular alternative for PR professionals based in the UK who are looking to connect with UK media representatives. The platform is a busy one, so you should be spoilt for choice when it comes to opportunities and, similarly to Qwoted, you’ll be able to get alerts and respond to messages and queries in real-time. Response Source is a paid service, so you should make the most of their free trial to find out whether it’s the right service for you.
Grammarly [Free + Paid Options]
Regardless of whether you’re writing press releases, creating pitch decks or sending e-mails out to media contacts, Grammarly helps you to ensure you write accurately and avoid typos. As its name suggests, Grammarly checks your spelling and grammar, giving helpful hints on how you can not only fix your mistakes but improve the overall tone of your writing too. Available as a plug-in for Chrome, Grammarly can check your spelling across every web page you open, so you’ll never have to worry about looking unprofessional due to a missed apostrophe again. There are two upgrade options but we think 99% of PR professionals will get everything they need with the basic free download.
Glimpse [Free and Paid Options]
Take your trend-spotting efforts to the next level with Glimpse, one of the biggest trend platforms that can help you to identify and forecast what topics everyone will be talking about. Access search volume data, set up alerts and discover similar trending topics to the ones you’re interested in to build a complete picture of what’s going on online. Driven by consumer data collected from across the internet, Glimpse can be a useful way to enrich Google Trends data to make sure you haven’t missed a thing. You can get 10 lookups per month for free, with professional ($49), expert ($249) and enterprise (POA) packages available for those who require more searches.
SEMrush [Paid – Free Trial Available]
One of the best all-around digital marketing analytics tools, SEMrush helps you to monitor the success of your PR campaigns through its backlink tracker and media monitoring tools.
While SEMrush’s backlink insights are often used by SEOs, digital PR is most often linked to the impact it has on overall organic traffic. As a result, paying attention to which links are driving traffic and conversions can help to inform your decisions going forward. You’ll be able to see which publications are providing the most value as well as track the number of links you have from different websites.
SEMrush’s media monitoring tools, on the other hand, help you to track mentions of both your campaign and the competition. This will not only help you to gauge the influence you’re having, but allow you to quickly respond to both positive and negative responses. It’s also a great tool for getting fast traffic scores of potential outreach targets, particularly those you are unfamiliar with. Pricing starts at $108 per month but it’s probably the best $108 you’ll ever spend given the amount of different tasks and volume of insights you can ascertain by using this tool.
A popular SEMrush alternative, Ahrefs has a slightly smaller offering than SEMrush, but is still capable of offering PR professionals plenty of insight. One of Ahrefs’ strong points is the details it provides about your competitors’ campaigns, giving you in-depth information about how they grew into the space they currently occupy. And if they’re gradually pulling ahead of you, you can use this knowledge to beat them at their own game. However, if you’re hoping to use your digital PR tool for a wide range of online marketing pursuits, you may find SEMrush’s more extensive offering a better fit. That said, Ahrefs does offer the content explorer, which is fantastic for inputting a seed topic or trend and seeing what kind of content has been produced around the main keywords, including how many links each piece of content received.
BuzzSumo [Paid – Free Trial Available]
While both SEMrush and Ahrefs have an impressive offering for both marketing and PR professionals, BuzzSumo is a little more targeted and may be better suited to those looking to really hone in on the success of their PR campaigns. Not only can you use this tool to find new content ideas and perform topic research, but you’ll also be able to monitor your mentions and connect with influencers to further your stories.
BuzzSumo’s Content Discovery and Content Research offering help you to generate topic ideas from the latest trends, helping you to piggyback off your competitors’ successes and answer your audience’s questions. Access data for billions of articles and filter by topics most relevant to your brand to find the best formula for a successful story. Once your articles are out in the open, BuzzSumo helps you to keep on top of the conversation with real-time monitoring and alerts for mentions. Pricing starts at $199 per month for 1 user with the enterprise subscription costing $999.
Buzzstream is an outreach tool that lets you send and track outreach emails, including finding email addresses and measuring performance. You’ll also be able to build lists of bloggers and journalists you’ve worked with before, helping you to keep a record of the work they’ve done, your conversation history, and any other relevant notes and details. You can then track the work they’ve produced or shared, attach it to relevant metrics and understand how fruitful your relationship is.
Measuring activity is key to making improvements and one of the biggest metrics for those working in digital PR is open and response rates from emails. As mentioned already, some journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day, meaning you need to make yours stand out as much as possible. Moreover, you also need to manage your relationships and past communications, something which Buzzstream will also allow you to do. Pricing starts at just $24 per month, for 1 user and 1000 contacts.
If you’ve ever wished that you could manage all your PR campaigns from end to end in one tool, Meltwater might be the one for you. Equipped with a comprehensive PR suite, Meltwater can help you automate a great deal of your PR processes, such as print and broadcast monitoring as well as social media listening. In addition, it also helps you to manage media contacts and perform outreach tasks, maintain and build relationships with the press, and even send out your press releases before measuring their impact.
One of Metlwater’s main selling points, aside from the fact it brings together all your essential tasks in one place, is its commitment to simplifying data. Data is crucial to the success of your PR campaigns, but analysing it can be complicated and time-consuming. Metlwater breaks down trend data into accessible insights, helping you to get exactly what you need to build the best campaigns possible. Pricing is customised, however you would be looking at several thousand dollars per year to give you a ballpark.
Muckrack [Free + Paid Options]
If you need to find some new journalists to flesh out your contacts list, there’s no better place to look than Muckrack. Considered to be an industry staple by many, Muckrack boasts one of the most extensive media databases containing journalist information and outlet data. Not only can you find journalists to work with and access their profiles, but you can also manage your workflow from end to end through their public relations management platform. Easily monitor your campaigns, social media and outreach activity all in one place while generating internal reports and building your external relationships. Again pricing is bespoke with some estimates being around the $10,000 per year mark.
Hunter [Free + Paid Options]
One of the hardest parts of building relationships with experts and media representatives is finding the right way to get in contact with them. Hunter aims to make this a lot easier. If you’re trying to get in touch with someone from a particular publication or brand but aren’t sure where to start, Hunter can help you to find the right person along with their e-mail address in a matter of seconds.
However, if you’ve used similar services before, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to find the e-mail address you were given wasn’t accurate. This is why Hunter employs a three-step process to put you in touch with the people you’re looking for, which includes using proprietary technology to verify each and every email’s validity. You can create a free account and run up to 25 lookups per month, with paid-for subscriptions ranging from £41 per month up to £419 per month for 50,000 lookups.
X – a.k.a Twitter [Free + Paid Options]
A go-to for both PR professionals and journalists everywhere, Twitter is one of the best places to stay on top of trends and scout out opportunities as they happen. Make sure you’re following journalists that work in the industry you’re representing and save any relevant hashtags. Try to use your account to build relationships with the media and create a profile that shows you to be trustworthy and engaged with your online community. Simply creating an account and sending out requests is unlikely to be particularly fruitful, so take the time to build meaningful connections that will last for years to come. Free unless you want to be a blue tick member which may help you earn trustworthiness and improve engagement on your tweets and replies.
Step up your social listening skills and glean all the latest insights into trends with Brandwatch. This tool makes it easy to tap into what your customers are talking about and keep up with an ever-changing online world, helping PR teams to craft better stories for their target audiences. But social listening isn’t just about positive news and trends, it’s about crisis management as well. Brandwatch will help you to spot early signs of potential crises, giving you time to step in and mitigate the fallout. It can also help you to keep an eye on your competitors, conduct market research and monitor any trends that are of interest to you. Pricing is customised, so drop them a message for more information.
Hubspot [Paid – Free Trial Available]
Well-known and loved by marketing teams globally, Hubspot is an industry-recognised CRM tool that can help you to connect every corner of your PR process together. You can track all of your campaign activity in one central hub and monitor any traffic, conversions and sales your work generates. Hubspot also helps you to maintain up-to-date contact information for journalists, which means you can scrap your Google docs and be well on your way to being GDPR compliant.
What’s more, communicating with these journalists and media contacts will be much smoother, as you’ll be able to generate stock responses and templates to speed up repetitive emails. Hubspot also makes it much easier to build articles and even publish website content, making sure that you can get your message out there more easily. Prices start at just £18 per month for the basic subscription.
Roxhill [Paid – Free Trial Available]
If you need a tool that lets you easily manage your media contacts, reduces the time you need to spend sending emails and makes distributing press releases a much smoother process, try Roxhill. Much more than just an interactive database, Roxhill is specially designed to help PR teams build lasting relationships with journalists. It offers dedicated online pitching tools, webinar functionalities and social feeds to help PR professionals and journalists to connect on a deeper level.
But Roxhill doesn’t just allow you to build lists of your existing media contacts, it helps you find new ones that are relevant to your goals. You’ll also be kept up-to-date about job role changes and contact information, so you never have to worry about having awkward conversations with journalists who no longer work at the publication you thought they did. Pricing is customised but they do offer a free trial.
Cision – [Paid]
Similar to Roxhill, Cision helps PR teams to get in touch with journalists and publications relevant to their industries. Whether you’re hoping to get in touch with bloggers, magazine editors or even freelance writers, Cision has an extensive database of professionals who work in all kinds of industries which you can sort into lists. Once you have a selection of contacts ready, you can schedule and send pitches through Cision. You have the option to send the same pitch out multiple times or personalise each one depending on the journalist you’re reaching out to.
Cision also offers analytics so you can review how many of your pitches have been opened or clicked on. This will allow you to refine your pitching strategy going forward and help you to understand which journalists are more responsive or willing to work with you. Even if a particular contact doesn’t respond, an opened email can indicate they may respond to the right opportunity. Pricing is bespoke but consider having to pay thousands of dollars a year for a subscription.
Google Tool Suite (Trends, News & Keyword Planner) – [Free]
Not just the preeminent search engine, Google also offer some really great free tools to help PR professionals including Google Trends, which will help you identify what topics users are searching for and which ones are increasing or decreasing in popularity. You can drill down to a granular level which is perfect for looking and how trends change in different locations (countries, cities etc).
In addition to trends, Google News is also an important tool to quickly see what topics or brands have been making the news and the type of coverage they received. It’s perfect for a really quick overview to get a topline insight into how popular any particular topic or entity is.
Finally from Google, there is Keyword Planner, a tool that finds keyword lists along with search volumes. Although you do need to register for an Ads account to get this tool working, it is well worth doing so, particularly if you don’t have a paid subscription to any other keyword tools (such as SEMrush or Ahrefs). This tool is ideal for finding how popular various topics are and which kinds of terms are associated with the seed keyword.
ChatGPT [Free + Paid Options]
ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a tool that generates AI responses based on human query inputs. Unlike an informational retrieval engine like Google which broadly speaking returns the same results each time (disregarding variables such as search history, device and location etc), ChatGPT creates a unique output each time a query is submitted (although some responses may be similar for two users searching very similar queries).
As such, it is seen by some as a threat, fearing their job creating content will be replaced by AI. The truth is for those working in digital PR, AI can help with basic research and content creation. Moreover, it should be there to assist you, not replace you. If you have a tight deadline, you might want to get a basic content outline or plan done through AI, so you can spend more time working on other parts of the PR process.
As with any tool, using your own judgement is the crucial part as to whether you find it useful or not. Below you can see a screenshot of what it produced versus this blog; as you can see it gives some guidance but nothing more than that, which illustrates the above point: AI tools should be used to assist not to replace.
If you want to try ChatGPT out, the good news is it’s free to use, with the option to upgrade for $20 for a monthly subscription which stops your responses from being delayed at peak periods.
Build Better Campaigns with the Right Digital PR Tools
While digital PR tools won’t magically transform your campaigns overnight, they can give your team the support they need to deliver even more value on a day-to-day basis. From speeding up manual processes to delivering cutting-edge insights, the right digital PR tools are undoubtedly one of the stepping stones to success. But don’t forget, not every tool on this list will be right for everyone. Make the most of free trials to figure out which tools work for your needs and spend some time building your perfect PR toolkit. l