These are some of the software tools that I use. They are all free or low cost alternatives to expensive enterprise level tools. When I work with clients it is often using expensive enterprise tools, but for my own personal needs these are the ones that work best for me. This list will change as I add new tools and remove ones I stop using. Some of the links to the low cost tools are affiliate links, which means I get a small payment if someone subscribes. However, none of them are listed for that reason. They are all listed because I personally use them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Productivity and tools
AppSumo is a site that start-up companies use to promote their new software services. This means you can often buy a lifetime subscription for about the cost of one or two months of the usual subscription cost. Usually this is about $49. Many of the deals can be ‘stacked’ so you get extra accounts, which mean they are great for small PR agencies, PR teams or digital agencies. I’ve bought loads of tools that are really useful to me as a small business owner including PieSync (syncs contacts between hundreds of different services), SocialBee, PeakMetrics, Design Wizard and many more.
Eyeson is a video meeting tool (think Zoom) with three big benefits. Firstly, you can start a meeting easily in seconds as it doesn’t need any downloads and simply works in the browser (great if who you want to talk to has restrictions on installing software). Secondly, it is low bandwidth so great on limited or busy internet connections. Thirdly, it currently has a lifetime deal on AppSumo for $69 (for a package that is just below the team package which is usually $99 a month).
OneNote is my most important tool for keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, research and just generally organising my life. It’s the unsung hero of Microsoft software. Lots of geeks can’t get past there prejudice against Microsoft and therefore miss out on by far the most powerful note taking app there is is. Did I mention it’s free? Compared to Evernote it’s like pitting a Porsche against a moped with flat tyre.
Otter is an AI powered transcription service. You can use the Android, iOS or web app to record a meeting or conversation and see it being transcribed live in real time. You can also upload recordings you’ve made. The first 600 minutes per month are free. A paid account gives you more minutes and extra features such as collaborating with others in a team.
Insight and research
Feedly is a news reader that enables you to subscribe to news sites and blogs to stay on top of news, issues and trends in relevant subject areas. It’s probably the most important way I stay on top of trends and news about the future of public relations and communications. Unlike social media sources which are massively distorted by algorithms and group think you can use Feedly to get news and opinion direct from the best expert sources. It’s available as both a free and paid for professional version.
Pocket is another content collection app and can integrate with Feedly and SocialBee. I use Pocket to save content that I find interesting from Feedly. that my network shares on social media, or I find while searching or using other tools. I tag it to use later when writing blog posts or creating presentations for talks or training courses. I’ve also linked it to SocialBee so I curate interesting and relevant content that I can share on my own social media channels.
Answer the Public started as a free tool from Coverage Book. However, it proved so useful and popular, it’s now available in a free version and a more powerful paid version.
Answer the Public trawls Google and Bing to find out what questions people are really asking and what shows up in the autocomplete in the search bar. You can then create content and news that does what it says… answer their questions.
Google Trends analyses the popularity of search queries and lets you compare trends. You can do this for different time periods such as 2004 to now, the last 12 months, past hour or day or even custom time periods. You can use it as a proxy measurement for awareness or interest. You can also compare trends for different search words or phrases.
BuzzSumo is a great tool to help you understand content. Its best feature is it shows you the most shared content for keywords or phrases. This helps you to understand what sort of content is most likely to be shared and where it is likely to be shared from.
Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that gives you a vital piece of information that the Google Keyword Planner tool doesn’t. The Google tool used to give you the average monthly search volumes, but Google now only makes this data available if you are spending a decent budget on Google advertising. This extension means you can once again get access to that data for both the term you are checking and for similar search terms.
Airtable is like a cross between a database and a spreadsheet. It’s a great way to store the results of your research. But it also has multiple other uses such as story boarding videos and podcasts to lightweight project management. To give you inspiration it has a huge library of templates and a gallery showing how other people and companies are using it.
Listening, monitoring and analytics
PeakMetrics is one of the myriad of news and social media monitoring tools and is one of the ones I currently use personally. I mainly use it to monitor topics such as communication measurement and evaluation so I don’t miss any of the latest research, best practice or news. It provides RSS feeds of the terms I’m monitoring so I can see them in my news reader Feedly.
BrandMentions is another web and social media monitoring tool, but one that makes it particularly easy to monitor brands. When you enter the brand to monitor it identifies it by its website and social media presences. At the moment (February 14, 2020) it’s available as an AppSumo lifetime deal for $49. There isn’t a directly comparable monthly plan, but it’s closest the $79 a month plan!
Talkwalker Alerts is a better free alternative to Google Alerts. Use it to monitor news, blogs, discussion or Twitter and get alerts as an RSS feed or email. There is a ‘Best results’ option which is meant to filter out ‘noisy’ results. You can also choose which languages to monitor.
Social media and content
SocialBee is one of the myriad of different social media management tools and is the one I currently use personally. You can schedule content, see previews of your posts, add content in a variety of ways including browser extensions, RSS feeds, Pocket or Zapier. My favourite feature is it’s really easy to create variations of posts so each channel (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest) can be different.
Visme is an online design tool that makes it really easy to design charts, infographics and web graphics optimised for different platforms. It can also produce GIFs and has a huge library of animated graphics, icons, shapes etc you can use. I’ve recently started using it on free six month trial. It’s my main design tool at the moment, but as I already have a lifetime subscription to Design Wizard I’ll decide at the end of the trial which I’m going to use.
InVideo is an online video editing tool that makes it really easy to create short videos. You can use stock video footage and photos available in the app or upload video you’ve shot yourself on a smartphone or video camera.
Design Wizard is similar to Canva and is the design tool I’ve been using as I bought a lifetime deal on Appsumo. It’s an Irish company and I’m a big fan of supporting European start-ups and tech companies.
Mailerlite is a powerful and easy to use email newsletter or marketing tool. The free plan for less than 1,000 addresses offers lots of powerful features, while paid plans let you cost effectively grow your list.
RocketLink is three tools in one. It lets you create short URLs so share on social media and use for tracking, but it also adds retargeting pixels to those links. This means every person who clicks on it can then be retargetd with adverts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc even though they haven’t visited your website. It also lets you create Call To Action (CTA) buttons which appear over the page you’ve shared and direct people back to your own website. I’ve only recently started using this tool.
Sniply is another short URL service similar to Bitly, but the main benefit is it creates a Call To Action (CTA) button which appears over the page you are sharing and direct people back to your own website. Unlike RocketLink it doesn’t do retargetting pixels. It’s main benefit is there is a free version of Sniply which lets you have up to 1,000 clicks a month. I’ve been using this tool for years. It works best the more closely related the page on your own website or blog is to the page that you’re sharing.
Hosting, blogging and podcasting
Podcast.co is a podcast hosting company. One of the things I like about it are the ability to add more than one user so you can manage multiple podcasts for a team or clients. Another is that it’s a Manchester, UK based company. I started off my podcasts on Anchor, but then switched to Podcast.co to make it more professional.
Anchor is a free podcast hosting service that is now owned by Spotify. Apart from being free one thing that sets Anchor apart is that it has a really easy to use Android and iOS app (and a website dashboard) that lets you record your podcast and add sound effects and music.
Envato is a digital assets site where you can everything from WordPress themes, plugins and stock photos to stock video, music and sound effects. It has various options ranging from free, to monthly subscriptions and one off purchases.
Some of the links above are affiliate or referral links which means if you subscribe to the service then I get a tiny commission. However, none of them are listed for that reason (as there are some tools which offer a lot more commission). They are all listed because I actually use them.