Adobe alternatives (and other useful tools for freelancers)

So having gone freelance a few months back, there are already a few apps / services I couldn’t do without.  Some of which I used whilst working in agency but others have become an invaluable tool in running my business.

Anything you’d recommend for comms people as a go-to good value service?

Dropbox – for ease, for size, for price and for familiarity

Harvest – makes timesheet/project management and invoicing an absolute breeze.  Simple to add partners, other service providers, multiple day rates and multiple projects for the same client.  Good UX and great web app.

WordPress – specifically the profile template – a good light template for freelancers or consultants who don’t need a full site

Affinity Designer – because illustrator is to damn expensive and I just don’t use it enough to warrant it

Publisher Lite – as above but for InDesign  – this does the job as well as I need it to

PR Stack – a really useful resource looking at hundreds of tools PR use with input from across the community

Measurement metrics – not an app but a post from Stephen Waddington and friends on alternatives to the lousy AVE that fails to measure anything at all. .

What others should I take a look at?

Hey, wanna share a job?

Licensed under creative COmmons from LydiaShiningBrightly

Why not? I am sure you’d want a bit more time off, no? Part time hours / three days a week but a role that is still senior, meaningful and client facing? Someone with complimentary skills to bounce ideas off? A team, even though you’re the boss?

Sounds pretty idyllic I think….

Why don’t more people work as jobshares in PR? I mean you see the co-CEO model every now and again but why not other pairings? Have you ever applied for a job as a pair? Have you ever received a pair of CVs for one job?

Part time jobs are so few and far between and flexible part time jobs (i.e. home working) even more so. Surely the best all round is if two people share the job, providing full time cover but allowing flexibility in their timings and their homeworking status.

As a client, I get two brains instead of one (pref a left and a right!). As a junior member, I learn two lots of skills, instead of one. As an agency owner, I have doubled my ideas, my perspectives and my skills whilst keeping my costs the same. As the jobsharer, I get to keep my job, have time with my family, be office based 50% of the time, have cover when I am on holiday and have a partner with skills different to mine to ensure the clients and teams get a kickass service.

Am I missing something?

PR: if you start with tactics, you’ll probably stay there

Thanks for pitching our business……’re the winner!

We loved your ideas, we loved your team but most importantly, we loved your strategy and how honest you were about how we needed to change…….

… can you write a tactical plan as we really need to hit the ground running and show some results.

Sound familiar?

There is nothing better than winning and starting work on a shiny new account…the ideas are overflowing, enthusiasm is high and the team is desperate to show what they can do and wow their newest client.

But don’t rush.  Get it right at the beginning and the ideas you proposed will work.  Pick up where the old agency left off (which probably wasn’t working or they wouldn’t have changed) and you are doomed to fail the same way!

Whilst demonstrating value quickly is paramount with a new client, if you don’t spend time getting the strategy right at the beginning of an engagement, the chances are you’ll never get opportunity to make the tweaks you recommended and that the client hired you for.

PR pitching – 5 things you need to know before you start writing

1 – can you distil the brief and say it back to the prospect concisely?
2 – do you know who the prospect’s audience is, not just in broad terms but what they look like, where they shop, how they behave?
3 – do you know the last 5 big campaigns/stunts/ideas done in the client’s industry, what has worked recently. What do you need to avoid for sake of repetition?
4 – do you know the last 3 things the prospect did that really worked? What have they tried and failed to do well….
5 – do you understand the client’s key business problem….

personal brands: the halo effect for employers

Over the past few years I’ve had lots of discussions with friends and ex-colleagues about  whether their employers see value in their blogging efforts, networking efforts or whether they see it as a distraction from the commercial elements of the role.  Even in today’s social and search driven world, many companies don’t seem to “get” the value that their company’s brand can get from the individual brands held by their rising stars.

This article from Jay Fry at Poynter, examines just that.  Jay focuses on media organisations (but much of it is applicable to PR agencies IMO) :

The age of the individual brand was inevitable, a natural consequence of the way digital media has remade our reading habits. In print, columns have a home on a section front or on the opinion page, but online the basic unit of reader consumption isn’t the section or page, but an article — or a video or podcast.

When readers search for or share columns, what’s found or shared is a single article. Meanwhile, writers spotlight links to their own work on their Tumblrs, share them with their Twitter followers, and hope for comments on their Facebook fan pages — all activity that spotlights their individual brands and pushes the institutional brand deeper into the shadows.

How then can smart employers ensure that their agency’s brand benefits from the halo effect created by individuals?

…in the print era, there was no such thing as a reader who picked up the paper, turned instantly to C3, read one article and threw the rest in the trash. And the higher individual brands rise, the more likely someone will try to pick them off, or that individual will begin to think of himself or herself as distinct from the institution.

Jay identifies four ways in his original article and I think they can all apply to the PR world….here’s how:

Identify your most valuable individual brands. 

For PR agencies, this means identifying who are your most well-connected account staff and who has developed a solid (on and offline) network around them of contacts that could benefit the wider organisation?

Turn centrifugal force into centripetal force, or at least balance them.

See how you can accommodate the interests, passions and direction your rising stars want to go in within the business.  How can their hobbies/external interests be applied within their jobs? Be interested in their interests. Look for commercial ways to support their ideas and digital personalities.

Make your individual brands into institutional gateways.

Work with your high-profile employees to become links to your organisation’s brand. Encourage them to explore ideas across both blogs or sites, look at ways you can cross-post or feed content into the company homepage and LinkedIn pages, share materials across the individual’s own and the company’s Slideshare accounts. Involve your rising stars in the agency’s ‘s social media strategy so they get to input and co-develop how their own brand interacts with the wider agency footprint. Don’t scare employees off with guidelines and rules, ultimately, search is driving people to your site so look at ways that the two parties can collaborate and share traffic and content.

Get really good at building brands.

Help your existing employees build their brands to levels of those you’d target were you hiring/replacing them.  it is cheaper to build up the people you have than hire new, agencies are always looking at ways to retain staff and keep retention levels high. It is also great practice to work with staff on their personal brands encouraging the halo effect to spread throughout the organisation.  People remember people, not company names so prospects will often search down an individual and not an agency anyway. Help your staff become easy to find and impressive in digital terms and it will only benefit you as an employer in the long run.

Important to remember though that just as you gravitate to people with high public visibility, so do others in the market so make sure you are looking after these people from an HR perspective too. Don’t underestimate the importance of good HR practice, appraisals, remuneration and above all, interesting projects to work on. Building the brand is one thing but keeping the value high relies on relevant and recent achievements so make sure your staff are getting the opportunities, support and clients they need to stay high-profile.

This is cross posted with my employer, Ruder Finn 🙂