Carpenters have their hammers and nails. Musicians have their instruments. Bakers have their flour and sugar. But what tools to PR Firm professionals use to make magic happen? Many! Even the best publicists and the best PR firms needs to keep abreast of advances in technology and online resources if he’s going to do his job right. Below, we give you a round-up of our favorite tools for do-it-yourself publicity seekers. Use judiciously!

Getting In Touch

The first thing a media relations practitioner needs, of course, is access. Believe it or not, publicists and the worlds best PR companies are not walking phone books who happen to have phone numbers for all the world’s journalists. For this, we use certain tools to look up all kinds information about specific journalists or media outlets. Cision and Burrelles Luce are two of our favorite online media list-building services. Annual subscriptions are pricey, but the services are indispensable to any publicist. Most American publicists and the best PR firms use one or the other to look up everything from phone numbers to email addresses to Twitter handles to even biographical information for any working journalist you can name, including tons of freelancers and bloggers. Both services are constantly updated to reflect changes in the media landscape. Conveniently, journalists can be sorted and lists can be made by “beat” and geographic location so if you need a press list of say, movie reviewers across the U.S. Canada or food writers Austin, TX, Cision or Vocus is your one-stop-shop. If you are a smaller freelancer or trying your own hand at your publicity a lower cost option is to purchase a list one by one. A trusted resource for this is

Getting Word Out

So you’ve written yourself a nice press release heralding your product or service. Now what? You need to get your news out there. Two tools top publicists use for press release distribution are PRWeb and PRNewswire. Now the thing to remember with both of these is that they have varying degrees of effectiveness, depending on which pricing packing you choose within each service. The less-expensive basic pricing packages of both are great for SEO purposes. They’ll get your press release posted on hundreds of web pages. However, if you want actual journalist eyeballs to read your press release and you’re aiming to secure some actual original editorial coverage, many believe that you must sign up for the pricier, premium packages. A heralded secret jewel in the Pr industry that is cost effective with the same PR bang as the high cost newswires is . We don’t know how they manage to do it, but releases distributed on their wires really get wind for as little at $199 per release.

Many publicists bypass Newswires and distribute their press releases to journalists the old fashioned way—through blast emails. But blast emailing a list of 300 journalists can be a time-consuming pain-in-the-tuchus. Not to mention, a lot of your emails can wind up unread, sitting in spam-boxes. To ensure that emails get read, many publicists use email marketing services like Constant Contact, Mailchimp and Vertical Response. A cyber-stalkers dream, these services allow you to see who opened your email, how many times and even what links they clicked on. To be sure, all three companies have strict no-spamming policies. So, if you add a journalist to your list, make sure he/she wants to be there! Otherwise, you get reported as a spammer. And, as everyone knows, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a spammer to go to heaven.

Be a source of information.

Ever see a random person quoted in an article and wonder how he or she got herself in there? Publicists have ways of tracking what kinds of stories journalists are working on and which kinds of sources or experts they are looking to interview. Our favorite tools in this category are HARO (Help A Reporter Out), Profnet and Publiseek, Journalists post queries on these service whenever they are looking to talk to an expert on a specific subject. Publicists scour them daily to match up clients with journalist requests and…voila!...your knowledge of baseball card collecting just got you quoted in the New York Times!

Does anybody even read this blog?

Make no mistake about it. New Media is a wonderful thing. Publicists love websites, blogs, online magazines and social media. A placement on a well-trafficked blog can be just as valuable as anything in a print outlet. But, with everybody and their mother starting a blog these days, how can you tell if a blog carries any influence or actually has any readers? We love sites like Free Website Report and Worth of Web because they allow us to measure traffic for just about any web site. They’re free and they’re a great way to find out if pitching a certain blog is even worth the effort.

So who picked up the story?

Once in a while, when you announce really big news, you can get more press coverage than you even dreamed.  A lot of journalists and bloggers may write up your news and not even tell you that they’re doing so.  On those happy occasions, the challenge becomes tracking  all the coverage.  For that, nothing’s better than good old Google Alerts and Yahoo Alerts.  Both free services have their search engine robots crawling the internet looking for your programmed keywords every moment of the day.  The minute your brand, initiative or company is mentioned, you get an email in your inbox letting you know that your hard work, researching, writing, calling and pitching is paying off.  It’s time to pop the champagne!