Does Salesforce's Technology Push PR Innovation?
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Holmes Report
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Does Salesforce's Technology Push PR Innovation?

Holmes Report

Despite perpetual wonderment of innovation, a good slice of the tech PR remains anchored in traditional media relations. Certainly, this is a reflection of client demand, given how the right media exposure can validate emerging technologies, increase valuations and get a company shortlisted by both buyers and those on M&A hunts.

Even a recent profile of Andreessen Horowitz partner, and OutCast co-founder, Margit Wennmachers illuminated her mastery with a classic example of media maneuvering. That said, innovation doesn’t always come in the way of new services (especially at the risk of alienating clients), sometimes it’s applying technology to make the practice of traditional PR smarter.

Take for instance, how Salesforce’s PR team manages its two US agencies: Shift and Hill + Knowlton -- as well as nine others globally.  Salesforce built “PRforce” using its own platform, Chatter, to minimize workflow fragmentation. All PR activities -- including media briefing docs, conference submissions, press releases, coverage and media engagements -- show up on a feed that streams both in-house and agency to avoid duplications and to coordinate efforts.

“Instead of calling or emailing, you post here so that everyone gets the benefit of the information,” says Salesforce’s PR manager Dane Vahey.  “You can tag people on feeds, if they need to see something immediately.”

Considering the inefficiencies of culling reports and sharing information, having a central sharing hub seems like a no-brainer. The roadblock is often agencies that are wary of sharing internal edits or documents not deemed “client-ready.” But ultimately, like in the case with Salesforce, if the collaboration is client-led, agencies adapt accordingly.

And there are instances of using marketing technology to push beyond the usual remit. Cisco shares its Salesforce-owned Radian6 platform with agencies Text 100 and GolinHarris. While the latter firm's monitoring remit isn't novel, Golin is also using Radian6 to shape content. This is a relatively recent application of the platform, albeit one that's become increasingly common. Meanwhile, Text 100 manages Cisco’s communications and runs its corporate Facebook and Twitter channels.

“For Shark Week, we created a piece of content to be shared across all of our social channels called ‘You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Router,’” says Cisco’s social media intelligence manager Charlie Treadwell, referring to the Discovery Channel’s week dedicated to shark programming. “We have weekly meetings with [Golin] to talk about engagement opportunities like this or for March Madness and how to create content around that.”

Of course, it’s not just PR that taps into the platform. Like many organizations, Cisco’s in-house social media team operates on the famed hub and spoke model, so the centralized command center routes, primarily tweets, to the right department -- PR, sales, support or human resources. About 240 employees now use Radian6 to monitor more than 5,000 daily mentions of the company across 70 Facebook pages and 100 Twitter accounts.

But this is just the beginning. As social listening and engagement tools become more sophisticated, they should more easily connect with a wider gamut of intelligence, ranging from CRM, email marketing or market research, among others.

“We’re working on that -- blending and joining data,” Treadwell adds.

The question remains, will this widen opportunities for PR -- or further narrow its scope?
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