Digging Deeper into Digital Tools

By Scott Covelli, EPIC Creative

Ren LaForme

As a follow-up to Ren LaForme's crowd-pleaser presentation last year at the 2018 TOCA Annual meeting, the Poynter Institute digital specialist returned in 2019 with more tools and updates. The digital tools he highlighted are designed to help us avoid misinformation, tell better stories and make our overall lives easier. There's even one that helps you drink more water.

The tools are out there; we've just got to find them and use them. This is that first step.

Tools that make your work easier
Workdays can quickly become tedious or disorganized if we're not intentional about how we do things. It's also hard to change your ways when you're busy enough trying to get everything done. LaForme shared several tools that make daily tasks easier and life more organized.

  • Otter and Descript can automatically transcribe audio for you from interviews or meeting notes.
  • ContactOut helps you find people and their bios through LinkedIn.
  • Canva and Headliner can aid in your social media efforts, giving you more engaging options to share your content.
  • Sortd and Toby help organize your to-do list and online research.


Tools for telling better stories with data
We're in a world where data is being collected everywhere. Netflix is using algorithms to determine what kinds of shows to make. Coca-Cola used their freestyle machines to develop their next go-to-market flavor (it was orange vanilla). So, as communicators, how do we take all that raw data and tell meaningful stories with it?

  • Infogr.am and Datawrapper are tools that help you display data visually in your stories through icons, graphs and maps.
  • Google Dataset Search helps find digestible data through Google that you can use.
  • Data.World doesn't just give you data, but it also gives you tips on how to analyze and display it.
  • Tabula allows you to pull data from PDFs and turn it into spreadsheet files.


Tools to survive the ‘Misinfonet’
Despite all the data out there, there are still just as many "hot takes" and speculation that can spiral out of control. It doesn't even need to be nefarious to be damaging. If one misinformed influencer shares inaccurate information, it can reach millions of people in an instant. With our communication goal of always being accurate, these tools can help.

  • TwitterAudit analyzes your (or someone else's) Twitter account to see how many of their followers are bots.
  • Facebook and Snap Live Maps allow you to see geo-tagged videos in real time.
  • RevEye and Google Image Search lets you reverse-search an image to find the source.
  • Who.Is shows you who owns or hosts a website so you can tell if it's legitimate or fishy.


Tools to help you take care of yourself
Contrary to what some may say, it's not all about the work. You've got to take care of you first and then the good work will come after it. The healthier you are, the better you'll do at your job. These tools can get you in the right space in many different ways.

  • Nudge keeps you productive by encouraging you to not waste your day on social media.
  • Boomerang and Google's "Snooze" function allow you to schedule or delay e-mails to more appropriate times.
  • As a part of Boomerang, Inbox Pause can help you focus by pausing all incoming e-mails in your inbox.
  • Just Not Sorry is a fun spin on tools like Grammarly, automatically highlighting or removing self-defeating words from your e-mails.
  • PlantNanny is a gamified reminder to drink water throughout the day.
  • LastPass claims to be the last password you'll ever need, saving all your passwords in a safe place and suggesting good ones for future logins.


Remember, tools don't do the work for you, but they help you do your best work. A hammer isn't going to build a house for you, but it makes it a lot easier. With these tools, LaForme can help all of us be better communicators in the turf industry.

To see all of Ren's tools and trends, visit http://poy.nu/toca19.