CRM vs. Contact Management Systems: What Do PR Firms Really Need to Manage Media Contacts?

contact relationship management

As part of your 2016 PR strategy, you’ve decided to get a better grasp on your day-to-day management processes. Your sticky note strategy, in combination with your Rolodex, Excel spreadsheets, and Outlook contact list, is no longer sufficient. You’d like to have a platform to manage all of your media contacts. You need an integrated PR tool that will allow you to keep up with clients and reporters in a single place. Most of all, you need technology that will improve productivity, revenue, and the lifetime value of media relationships within your PR firm.

You have been tossing around the idea of a contact management (CM) system, but recently heard that customer relationship management (CRM) software may be a better fit. Now you’re left wondering about the difference (if there is one) between contact management and CRM software.

You are not alone. The terms “contact management” and “customer relationship management” are often used interchangeably by software vendors, so it can be difficult to know exactly what each solution entails. Even more challenging is the decision of which platform is best for your business.

Which is which?

Contact management solutions are designed to increase productivity among an organization by helping you manage contacts, account information, and opportunities more efficiently. Often used in conjunction with email integration and calendar applications, a contact management system provides quick and easy access to account names and contact information. Most, however, consider CM to be only a small component of CRM.

Customer relationship management, by contrast, is a multi-module solution that records and organizes all contact interactions. CRM provides PR pros with important names and email addresses, but it also allows great visibility into contact behavior, outreach strategy, and the sales cycle. CRM is a more robust system than CM because rather than simply housing contact information, CRM delivers a holistic, 360-degree view of each pitch, media contact, and relationship.

What are the benefits of each solution?

A contact management system stores information, thus helping you to maintain contact with prospects, clients, and media relations. Most CM solutions:

  • Track all communication
  • Automate reminders for follow-ups and future communication
  • Organize contacts into groups by category
  • Store contact information, including addresses, phone numbers, and emails

A CRM system helps you maintain not just information, but relationships with prospects, clients, and media relations by easing processes along the sales funnel. CRM implies more than basic storage of contacts. In fact, the leading PR CRM systems:

  • Capture and track all correspondence and interactions
  • Alert you when it’s time to follow up with contacts
  • Store contact information, including addresses, phone numbers, and emails
  • Maintain up-to-date notes regarding each contact
  • Provide insights and analytics for strategic PR planning
  • Develop, implement, and track marketing campaigns
  • Increase retention rates among clients and reporters

What software is the best fit for my PR team?

Before purchasing a CM or CRM system, it is important to evaluate the size of your PR team as well as its various needs. The scale and goals of your PR firm will be indicative of the type of software you require.

Contact management software, for example, is generally used by individuals and small teams. Because CM is a standalone system, its scope is limited. It is primarily designed for individuals who need assistance organizing contacts. But if an entire team has access to a CM system and multiple people get involved in the outreach process, things can start to get messy. When using a contact management system, there is always the risk of double-pitching reporters, because your PR team may not maintain up-to-date notes regarding each recent conversation.

CRM, on the other hand, automatically captures those insights for you. Additionally, most CRM solutions today are cloud-based, so important insights can be shared across employees and departments within your PR agency. Anyone who can add value to a media correspondence or relationship can get involved. With CRM, PR teams are consistently aware of client and reporter interactions, and individuals can avoid stepping on each other’s toes throughout the pitching process.

Which platform is best for PR professionals?

The answer to this question is largely dependent on your specific situation. What are your goals as a PR firm? Are you looking to enhance relationship management within your agency and create a more client-centric CRM strategy, or are you simply aiming to manage your contacts in a single database?

If you are looking to truly identify opportunities and better manage media relationships, then the answer is clear. Unlike contact management software, CRM allows you to stay in the loop on trends within your contact lists, patterns in your marketing, and insights into your team’s pitching efforts.

For some PR firms, contact management may be sufficient. In most cases, however, CM software only serves as a temporary fix or segue into a more impactful CRM solution. Contact us today to learn about Bullhorn’s CRM solution for public relations.

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