- SquirrelPR is software for PR agencies, banks, tech companies and others
- With SquirrelPR, your content can reach thousands of Journalists with the click of a button in a minute
- SquirrelPR was built for damage control, reputation management, speedy distribution of press materials and lots more.
If you think you have seen all the amazing innovations coming out of Africa, you might be in for a little surprise when you encounter SquirrelPR.
SquirrelPR is proof that there is still more innovations coming out of the continent as African entrepreneurs continue to seek ways to apply technologies that make processes simpler across all sectors.
This past week, I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with James Ezechukwu, who is the Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of SquirrelPR, and I present to you the excerpts of our interaction.
Tell me about SquirrelPR
SquirrelPR is software built to streamline processes of PR operations. It makes processes like press distribution, management of press conferences, and general relations with the media completely seamless.
Currently, the media space looks like a distant relation to most businesses; the media appears to be the place they only run to when it becomes absolutely imperative, but this should not be the case. We think every business needs to maintain some kind of relationship with the media. Therefore, what we do at SquirrelPR is to connect businesses to journalists, enabling them to have a one-on-one connection and build a relationship that their brands need.
On SquirrelPR, you can distribute press releases without intermediaries. The SquirrelPR software facilitates the connection and lets you distribute your contents directly to journalists. You can reach as many as a thousand journalists in just one click and under three minutes. You can also monitor the distribution of your press release across the web, without leaving leaving SquirrelPR dashboard.
Also, you can organize press conferences and media parleys, managing invitations, check-ins, check-outs, send press kit and receive post-event feedback from attendees.
SquirrelPR helps you maintain steady connection with the media through interactive messaging. And many more PR-related actions you can perform on SquirrelPR.
It has the same spelling as the animal Squirrel. Did the animal play a role in inspiring the name or business?
Yes, you probably have heard of the Gung Ho principles. It is a set of management principles that enable organizations to boost productivity. One of them is called the spirit of the Squirrel, which helps employees know that their job contributes to something important in the world.
We believe that SquirrelPR is critically important as it will play a significant role in any organization’s mission to maintain a sterling brand reputation through a healthy relationship with the media.
Beyond that fact, we also wanted something that represents speed and diligence.
Traditionally, going through PR processes and trying to do things yourself takes a lot of time. You can spend hours sorting your media database in a spreadsheet or hours sending press releases to a large number of Journalists, and then, spend a week or more, waiting for your press releases to appear in the news. However, on SquirrelPR, you can do all these in a few clicks, send press releases and have them in the news within 24 hours.
We have carefully reduced the need for intermediaries, increasing the distribution and pickup rates and reducing publication times in exchange.
Your solution helps discover practicing Journalists in Africa; is your platform like a forum for Journalists or do you just connect them with the media houses?
There are basically three ways journalists are onboarded on the SquirrelPR platform, the first is through direct sign ups via a link on the website.
Secondly, as a business, you may have been dealing with some Journalists, managing them with Gmail or Excel spreadsheets. Businesses can send the journalists they work with invitation links to join the platform, right from their dashboard on SquirrelPR
Finally, if you have a long list of Journalists, you can simply upload the list as a CSV file on the platform.
The Journalists you invite are exclusive to you; other users on SquirrelPR do not have access to them unless they upload the same Journalists as you.
In this industry, we understand that the number of Journalists you know as a PR person is a bragging right to an extent. Nevertheless, while we aim to democratize this, we must respect our users’ preferences.
Asides these three ways of bringing journalists on board, we are building a community where Journalists can be accessed easily. However, we do not want any random actions, you cannot just go to a Journalist and start sending press releases, there has to be a formal onboarding process.
On the profile side, you can see a Journalist and send a message saying, “I’d like to connect with you”. If the Journalist permits you, you connect with the person who automatically gets added to your list.
While you may not have known them before coming to SquirrelPR, there is still a good chance for you to discover Journalists and connect with them.
James describes this as “connecting with a thousand journalists with the ease of connecting with one”.
While SquirrelPR’s service is completely free for Journalists, it is subscription-based for businesses.
SquirrelPR connects journalists to brands and businesses which they didn’t have access to previously, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.
You launched in February this year and have garnered over 600 journalists. How were you able to do this and what are your strategies to further grow the number?
It is the SquirrelPR magic! There is a social side to it. Asides businesses who bring in their Journalists, we are also speaking with media houses to onboard their Journalists. It has been a lot of footwork, but we are just getting started. The plan is to bring every Journalist in Africa onto the SquirrelPR platform, giving every business wide access to the media. There is a lot still coming on SquirrelPR.
Can you tell us some businesses you’re currently working with?
SquirrelPR is currently working with banks, PR agencies and other tech companies. So far, SquirrelPR has distributed over a hundred press releases and they were all sent by businesses.
What are the challenges you faced at the initial stage? How did you overcome them and what are the current challenges and strategies to address them?
We had the challenge of misconception. Some of our target audiences are PR agencies and at first, they saw us as competition. We had to make them understand that we are not competition as we are not a PR agency. We are a media tech company offering software for PR agencies and PR/corporate communications practitioners. That is why we now have a number of PR agencies using Squirrel for their media management.
Some of the Journalists you would find on Squirrel were brought in by PR agencies because they had Journalists they have been working with. They have used and experienced the platform and seen that we are working for them, not against them.
On the supply side, which includes the Journalists, there is the question of “what’s in it for me aside from getting your content out there?”. We are working on this through numerous initiatives that benefit the journalists beyond pecuniary incentives.
Beyond the software, there’s a community/human side to SquirrelPR. We are building a community of Journalists in each region we operate/ or plan to expand to. We understand that as a business, building relationships with the media through the SquirrelPR platform is important, but ultimate loyalty comes from the foundational relationship the SquirrelPR brand has built with these Journalists. It’s a relationship business, and we understand that much.
It’s not just about businesses, it’s about exposing the African media to the world. The core idea behind SquirrelPR is that someone in India, China, Europe or North America can engage a Journalist in Lagos, Nigeria, Accra, Ghana or in Nairobi, Kenya with ease. It’s a movement where the Journalists are major players and we have a lot coming for them in terms of capacity building, events, partnership and monetisation.
We are also inculcating physical interaction to enable potential users to understand what we are doing and what is in it for them, changing their mindsets. For this reason, we have regional managers who interface one-on-one with media houses, telling them what we are trying to do.
There are still lots of challenges but we will keep tackling them as we progress.
What’s your competitive edge in the industry considering we have the likes of APO, Business Wire, PR Newswire?
At the core of the SquirrelPR solution are features that would eventually make APO a SquirrelPR user because we built a tool they will need to accomplish more. APO currently operates a press distribution agency that handles press distribution directly for clients. So, you send your press releases to them and they send them to their Journalists. SquirrelPR offers much more than that, while allowing businesses to handle their media distribution themselves more efficiently.
We would have clashed in terms of pricing but since APO is also our ideal target user; we do not see it as a problem.
We charge quite reasonably low and our services take just 24 to 48 hours to get your release out there. This is an added advantage for PR agencies, plus ours is Do-It-Yourself. We do not have any hand in your distribution, we are just a pipeline. We leave the decision of the strength of your story with those who should actually be the judge – the journalists.
The speed, price, approach and our open database are the edge we have over others. Users know who exactly they are sending their press releases to, you can track the publication of your content without having to go to Google to search – a query button does all of that for you, sending a comprehensive report to you.
The idea is to simplify the entire process. The PR industry, particularly in Africa, is least digitized, so we are leveraging technology to change this.
We are first in the market for DIY press distribution tool, fully automated, no intermediaries. We are targeting the global market and have built scalability into SquirrePR. All that you need to use the platform from any country is to upload your Journalists or search the platform, target them on SquirrelPR and send them the press releases in the language they understand.
You can pick 2000 Journalists and with the push of a button, your message is sent to them within a minute. You can also relate with just a single Journalist through interactive messaging.
Also, you can sort your contacts into groups. Most journalists cover specific sectors of the economy, SquirrelPR grouping allows you to create specific target groups such as Lagos tech reporters, financial market reporters, etc. for your distribution
What would success imply for SquirrelPR?
We measure success in three ways; first is the number of Journalists we bring to the platform, second is the number of businesses using SquirrelPR and the third is the distribution rate and we have recorded over 90% distribution rate.
We are surprised at the speed because we have not done any major marketing; it has been one-on-one selling and word of mouth.
Next milestone is to onboard at least a thousand Journalists by the end of the year. However, with the current numbers, we will likely surpass this.
On growth plans, SquirrelPR sees a gradual expansion in Lagos first, then Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
How are you planning for a future where metaverse, AI, etc will play a major role in the media and PR space?
We are a startup and one of the hallmarks of startups is fluidity and being open to change, we implement as we progress.
We are currently exploring Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing for our social intelligence tool. It is more like your eye on the media space so you can relax and have SquirrelPR handle all your media worries including fake news.
We are here for damage control, reputation management, speedy distribution and lots more.