Once considered the final piece of the automated marketing puzzle, public relations technology (PRtech)—like marketing technology (martech) several years ago—has now become an area of interest and focus for investors, innovators, and marketers alike.

That's largely because marketers, who have learned the value of technology in their organization, now see the value of PR as a measurable vehicle for generating quality leads and driving real brand awareness and business outcomes.

With nearly 5,000 solutions in the B2B marketing technology and PR technology landscape, however, it can be daunting to decide which technology your company should use.

To avoid being overwhelmed, keep in mind the following four important areas of consideration, along with related questions; they will help your marketing team identify the best solutions for your organization.

1. Prioritize the outcomes desired within various marketing functions

Viewing an organizational chart in line with the business outcomes associated with each marketing function can help you prioritize your focus. By isolating the most business-critical outcomes each function is responsible for—from communications to demand generation—you'll be able to better determine the best martech or PRtech solution for your needs.

Questions: On what aspect of the business are you looking to have a positive affect? What do you need to measure, automate, or launch to accomplish that goal?

If, for example, influencer sentiment or share of voice is your priority given this year's growth goals, then you'll know to home in on platforms that help you analyze and monitor influencer relations.

2. Determine how you will use the solution within your organization

PRtech built on artificial intelligence (AI) provides insight you can apply across functions, beyond your PR or communications strategies and teams.

For example, PRtech intelligence can be used to develop and place contributed content as well as identify the best messages for your advertising campaigns. Rather than simply purchasing solutions that monitor how many views an article receives based on an arbitrary circulation or reach, think about how you might use the data and insights from your reporting to have an impact on other parts of your marketing organization.

A more robust solution may cost more, but it may deliver a higher overall ROI for your entire marketing department.

Questions: Do you plan to use your PRtech solution simply to measure the effectiveness of PR campaigns? Or do you want your solution to drive better engagement with customers by understanding where they are reading your articles, or what they are doing once they read them? Would you like to use it to create more strategic content and campaigns based on what's proven successful in the past?

How you plan to use the technology you are purchasing—whether it is in one functional area or across functional teams—may determine what kind of solution you need, how in-depth the reporting should be, and even your budget for the solution. A cross-functional solution could deliver a better ROI, and that should weigh into your decision.

3. Do your homework: Search for solutions with real customers, ratings, and reviews

A simple search for the right kind of information can lead you to the right solution. Look for PRtech or martech platforms that are used by a respectable number of big-brand customers. Read the reviews and actual case studies depicting how those customers have implemented and succeeded with the solution.

Many of the solutions leading innovation in PRtech are provided by young companies. Take into account factors that determine the business's ability to offer helpful customer support and react to customer needs in a timely manner.

Questions: What size customers are using the product? Do they have real customer use cases or just hypothetical scenarios? Is the business profitable? Does it generate recurring revenue, or has it raised at least two sizable rounds of funding? Does the company have the resources to support you once you're a paying customer?

If you think they'll be too busy chasing down their next customer or trying to secure that first round of funding, it's unlikely you'll get the attention you deserve.

4. Consider the maturity of your marketing team

Evaluate how evolved and technically savvy your marketing team is, and select solutions best suited to the needs associated with that maturity level.

Questions: Can your team dive into and master a complex platform with tools that address multiple media channels (online, mobile, social, etc.)? Or should you start with a single-channel solution and then build on top of that foundation?

No single solution addresses every marketing function or outcome, so your team will eventually be using several platforms in tandem. Though some of those are intuitive and easy to administer, others require a steep learning curve, even for marketers comfortable with technology.

* * *

In summary: the martech and PRtech solutions you choose should provide added impact on sales, customer support, and brand awareness; the right solution can become an integral piece of your organization's marketing infrastructure.

PRtech is the missing piece to the automated marketing puzzle and the new secret weapon for marketing pros—whether their focus is PR, content, or advertising.

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image of Rebekah Iliff

Rebekah Iliff is the chief strategy officer of PR measurement solution provider AirPR. She is a contributing writer to Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, and PRWeek's The Hub.

LinkedIn: Rebekah Iliff

Twitter: @rebekahiliff