For Gisela Blaas, Managing Director of the communications agency Com.Sense in Augsburg, good contacts are worth their weight in gold. Because they represent the most important basis in the daily work of the agency owner with emphasis on the topic area logistics. Regardless of whether it’s customer care or the international LogPR network she founded, Gisela Blaas sees the high quality and individually oriented communication culture as the guarantee for her lasting success. Rather negatively clouded, however, are the previous experiences she had with a total of four different software solutions to support her PR work. This is because they caused dissatisfaction mainly due to functional deficiencies. Only the PR software PressFile offers Gisela Blaas the level of professionalism that makes her feel completely at ease.

Logistics specialist

The Augsburg-based communications agency Com.Sense exclusively supports clients from the logistics industry in their press relations and also conducts studies on their behalf. In addition, Gisela Blaas works as a systemic coach for companies in difficult situations, ensuring functioning interfaces or a good working atmosphere in cooperation with several parties. One important point for them is their own reputation: “In the PR industry today, it is more important than ever to leave a positive impression. This starts with the first personal contact at trade fairs or on-site visits, includes the various presences in social networks, and doesn’t stop at providing journalists with information. The problem with this is that there is a risk of losing track after a while and, for example, only remembering some people in a blur. That’s why I’m particularly dependent on support from appropriate IT solutions in this regard.” For her as the boss, however, it weighs particularly heavily when the overview is gradually lost due to technical inadequacies in these software solutions. For example, when data has to be searched for or researched again, and efficiency ultimately suffers as a result. Such flawed structures result in a loss of time that no agency can afford these days. Gisela Blaas sees the IT-supported development of networks and the enrichment of data sets with personalized information as influential and important success factors.

Journalists expect more quality in communication

To support her thesis, Gisela Blaas had conducted her own study on this topic at the beginning of the year. For this purpose, it surveyed more than 70 journalists on media relations in the logistics industry. She collected data using completed online questionnaires consisting of three statistical and 15 content questions. Result: The criteria regarding the form and quality of sent press releases have the highest priority. Journalists are generally open to well-structured media relations. They see this as a relief when the incoming information is presented in a clear and time-saving way. For PR agencies, this means a win-win situation, as both sides benefit from a lively exchange of information. Press relations also contribute to greater transparency in the logistics industry. Many companies want agencies to provide more thoughtful shipping up front. Because otherwise the message in the mailbox does not match the editor’s subject area.

A history of failure

Gisela Blaas looked around early on for a software solution that would support her in her work at her own agency, because: “It was quickly clear to me that it wouldn’t work without a suitable IT solution. I also had clear ideas about what the future software for contact and distribution management for mailings should look like.” Their experience in this area goes back a long way. Back in 2009, she founded the international network LogPR together with other PR consultants in the logistics industry. According to their conviction at the time – and still valid today – people benefit above all from the exchange of collected data in a central location. LogPR therefore offers its members from the PR industry all the information they need on a common online platform. This enables journalists to more easily research topics and download press releases, photos and films of all participants. “LogPR’s press portal allows press representatives to do research at their leisure, and in doing so they are not overloaded with news items sent to them. In addition, I then use PressFile for targeted mailings. This combination is a more effective offer, instead of just blindly sending out scattershots. With my press work in the logistics industry, I serve a comparatively small circle, which makes it all the more important for my work not to end up in the spam filter through indiscriminate mass mailing. Once you’re in there, it’s very difficult to get out again,” says the agency head, explaining the challenges of day-to-day business.

The mailing solution already in place for the LogPR network at the time was unfortunately unsuitable for their own agency purposes, as it turned out to be more of a tool for newsletter mailings, mainly addressing a broad mass of recipients. However, it was not designed to maintain individual personal details and was therefore unsuitable for effective press distribution. This is because Gisela Blaas’ requirements go beyond standard functions, such as sending e-mails and creating and maintaining distribution lists. It attaches particular importance to personalization options for the form of address and additional functionalities similar to those in a CRM system, which, for example, allow personal information to be stored. “After the mailing solution was out of the question, I was quickly determined to find a new, more suitable replacement for daily support,” she recalls, because: “Many applications are often only intended for ‘blind’ mass mail distribution. Here, proper contact data maintenance is only possible in a rudimentary way – if at all – in the associated database. In addition, the structure and functions of many tools are not specifically designed for everyday agency work or were even developed completely without in-depth knowledge of the often special ways of working.” The subsequent switch to an IT solution with SQL database connectivity only briefly fulfilled their expectations of the product. It quickly turned out to be a disadvantage that a local installation of the complete system on the computer was necessary to use the program. “I could have somehow come to terms with the new location that was forced on me. But what was worse was that my computer couldn’t cope with it at all and crashed several times because of the software,” says Gisela Blaas.

A search with several intermediate stations …

It further explored the market and the following system change brought at least a slight improvement. However, after a rather short and positive familiarization phase, the difficult moving and combining of created distribution lists turned out to be a big time eater. Added journalists, for example, could only be assigned to a new address list in a cumbersome way. “Negative factors like these didn’t give me a moment’s peace while I was working. My love of experimenting with technological aids also motivated me to keep looking for a solution that was even better suited to my needs,” she says, describing her state of mind at the time. Influenced by the consistently negative experiences, however, she did not want to settle for a compromise solution: “Due to my own high standards in data maintenance, I used the previous PR software solutions almost exclusively on my own. Only in this way could I bundle the information in one place and control the general structure – within the scope of the respective possibilities. I didn’t have the time to immediately look for a new tool, so I could tolerate the disadvantages of software for a while. But in the long run, of course, this condition was untenable.”

… and a happy ending

As the self-employed head of a communications agency, Gisela Blaas finally took a close look at her competitors in the surrounding area as part of a standard competitive analysis. She came across the team from Press’n’Relations in Ulm. Through its subsidiary PressFile Europe GmbH, founded in 2009, the PR agency not only distributes the PressFile software in Germany, but since 2001 the IT solution has also been used internally in the daily office routine out of conviction. In 2011, the company also took over the further development of the solution originating from the USA. After a brief conversation and agency visit, Gisela Blaas was quickly convinced of the benefits of PressFile. Because it found a well-developed and mature product. “Above all, the point of ‘lived everyday suitability’ was decisive for me. Added to that was the clear focus on the PR industry as well as the constant further development.” She has been using the web-based tool since the beginning of this year and has not regretted the system change for a second so far. The agency manager appreciates her new helper more and more every day. “A first big advantage of PressFile for me is the personalization option when sending out. It can be implemented quickly and has had a positive effect very quickly. Despite a large number of recipients, I can now address each individual with a personal salutation. Since I have been in contact with most journalists for years, a relationship of trust has often developed. This is also reflected in the e-mails. In the program, I now specify the salutation once before sending, thus saving time in future mailings and maintaining etiquette. Clearly arranged distribution lists, which I have compiled, enable me to send out quickly for any occasion. I was also enthusiastic about the possibility of assigning keywords to contacts. This way, I can reach all relevant addressees across distribution lists by selecting a common keyword. This really saves me a lot of time,” says a delighted Gisela Blaas.

The smaller the circle of recipients, the more important the appropriate dispatch

The database of the communications agency Com.Sense currently contains around 1,100 contacts. While not all of these are used regularly, they are used when needed. That is why not every contact appears in every recipient list. However, PressFile allows you to quickly operate and update contacts that are rarely used. On average, Gisela Blaas sends out two to three mailings per week in the form of user reports, press releases and invitations. Thanks to the integrated logging function, the software offers her the possibility to see at any time when and in what form the last contact took place. “I find the design of PressFile very clear and it is convenient that there is an annotation field for each contact. Since I like to take personal notes on a person, this information makes it easier for me to start a conversation when I get back to an editor after a long time, for example. Thanks to the clear layout, I can still see all the information side by side at a glance during the call without having to switch windows,” says Gisela Blaas enthusiastically about the functionalities of PressFile. She adds: “In addition, it is now finally possible for me to compile distribution lists in an uncomplicated and clear manner. I can now maintain and link all media, address lists and contacts in a more time-saving manner. I really like being the master of my data again.”

However, she initially had mixed feelings about the formatting options for mailings: “For me, it has advantages and disadvantages. The rather strict specifications in the old solutions gave me the feeling that I was being guided more as a user. At the same time, after a short training period, I now have the opportunity to respond more individually to the layout wishes of my recipients. PressFile offers a wide range of formatting options here, roughly comparable to an e-mail. Thanks to the intuitive design, paired with a qualified briefing, the required training period was kept within limits for me.” Since the solution is web-based, it has also increased flexibility for the agency owner in her work. “I can easily access my data while I’m on the road. I can also plan and save mailings in advance. PressFile then sends them automatically at a predefined time, right down to the minute,” says Gisela Blaas, summing up her initial experience with her new solution.

Clipping management including important key figures

Gisela Blaas describes herself as a “metrics-driven person with a keen interest in new technologies.” As an agency owner, it is important to her that all the results of her work are measurable. PressFile is also very helpful in this respect, because every clipping and every publication can be stored together with the most important key figures. “With the push of a button, I get an overview that lists for my customers how many people their message reaches,” she says. In the past, important key figures of their evaluations had to be additionally entered into Excel tables, as there were no possibilities to add them within the program. With PressFile, it can organize publications and key figures in one solution for the most complete evaluation of its work. If required, it creates an overview for the customer at the push of a button, thus underpinning the track record of its work. All in all, the system change was worth it for Gisela Blaas: “I feel like I’ve finally arrived where I wanted to be from the beginning. My work processes are now simpler and more time-saving. All in all, I now communicate in a higher quality and have better contact management with more options for personalization and evaluation.”