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25 Time Management Tools for PR Professionals

I recently re-read Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. The synopsis of the book is very straightforward: there is a lot more time in the day if you manage it effectively. Though not as revolutionary as David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, both books make the case that small changes can have a huge impact for our available time and productivity.

I want to put this thesis to the test. Productivity tools are nice, but I want to show that by using some combination of them, you can save a substantial amount of time each week, month and year. I think you will be shocked by how much time some of these tools designed for the office and home could give you.

This is a robust post, so I’m going to give you the bottom line upfront: By implementing a few of these tools you can save more than 48 hours a year: two full days, or one extended work week. Here’s an outline just in case you want to skip ahead:

PR Tools

Trigger-Action Tools

Calendar Management Tools

Email Management Tools (Unified Inbox)

Note / Reference Tools

Recording Apps / Transcription Tools

Hands-free tools

“House-in-Order” Tools

Time Management Systems

Warning: You will probably save more time with these tools than described

Just a warning: all of these estimates are obscenely conservative. I don’t want to oversell anything, and I do that at the expense of realism in some cases. I really want to prove the point that small changes can have huge benefits, but in many cases your output is going to be far more prolific than I estimate, as will the time savings for some of these tools. Also remember that I’m trying to capture your own personal time savings. Some tools have benefits far greater than your own personal time, but that’s not what this post is about.

One last thing about this list: you won’t see list apps on it and that’s not an error. David Allen advocates for a coherent system to process all of your open projects and their actions, and brainstorming lists are somewhat counterintuitive to managing a productivity system. You may disagree with that logic, but from a systems perspective lists it’s difficult to calculate a time savings for these tools unless they’re integrated into a process.

PR Tools

PR Tools Time Management

1. Cision PR Campaign Management Software

 

 

If you’re reading this blog you probably understand how incredible the Cision PR Campaign Management Software is. There are a lot facets to it, in the spirit of oversimplification let’s clue in on the journalist / blogger database. These tools allow you to easily find influential journalists and bloggers in your target verticals.

Time benefit: Let’s assume you have fixed PR campaign goals and that there is a correlation between blogger impressions and conversions. Let’s also assume that a piece of content requires one hour of editorial work (assuming that you’re not producing the content yourself). Using Cision to get better distribution and outreach, we’ll assume that you could accomplish your goals more efficiently – estimating that you could do the equivalent of one less piece of content per month and still accomplish your goals.

Quantify it: 1 hour monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 3 minutes

Weekly: 15 minutes

Annually: 12 hours

2. SocialBro

 

 

For PR practitioners who deal heavily with social media campaigns and love analyzing from every conceivable angle, SocialBro may be an ideal complement to Cision. Where Cision excels in doing all of the heavy lifting for you, SocialBro gives you exceptional analytics flexibility and the unique benefit of exporting Twitter datasets to Excel for further analysis (pivot tables and vlookups? That’s my idea of heaven!).

Time benefit: Let’s assume you have fixed PR campaign goals and that there is a correlation between blogger impressions and conversions. Let’s also assume that a piece of content requires one hour of editorial work (assuming that you’re not producing the content yourself). Using SocialBro to get better distribution and outreach, we’ll assume that you can use the SB analytics to gain sufficient inroads with key influencers so that you could do the equivalent of one less piece of content per quarter and still accomplish your goals.

Quantify it: 1 hour monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .7 minutes

Weekly: 3.5 minutes

Annually: 3 hours

(I need to interject a disclaimer that I receive a free SocialBro account for my past advocacy of SB, though I receive no incentive for mentioning them)

3. PRWeb

 

 

Of course, Cision now boasts the number one press release distribution network in PRWeb. PRWeb allows for immediate, targeted distribution of press releases to thousands of journalists and bloggers from one platform.

Time benefit: Let’s assume there is a correlation between media impressions and conversions. Let’s also assume that a piece of content requires one hour of editorial work (assuming that you’re not producing the content yourself). Using PRWeb to get better distribution and outreach, we’ll assume that you would get one more major media impression every quarter (given the magnitude of the tool this is egregiously conservative). You could accomplish your fixed goals more efficiently – estimating that you could do the equivalent of one less piece of content per quarter and still accomplish your goals.

Quantify it: 1 hour monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 1 minutes

Weekly: 5 minutes

Annually: 4.3 hours

4. HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

 

 

If you’re creating content, you know that expertise influences buying behavior (the wine market is a very explicit example of this). Rather than seeking out thought-leaders and experts, HARO creates an opportunity for them to (immediately) pitch you. From a PR content standpoint, this is a really powerful (essential) tool.

Time benefit: Let’s assume that the alternative to using HARO is to research and pitch individual influencers to contribute to your content pieces. HARO saves you research time (which I’ll arbitrarily estimate as five minutes per content piece), and pitch emails (which I’ll estimate as ten minutes back and forth). We’ll assume you create one piece of content per month (presumably because the Cision PR Suite has made you the PR equivalent of Tim Ferriss).

Quantify it: 15 minutes monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .75 minutes

Weekly: 3.75 minutes

Annually: 3 hours

Trigger-Action Tools

Trigger Action - Time Management Tools for PR

One of the more exciting web applications of recent memory are trigger-action tools (my opinion). Trigger-action tools connect disparate apps: when an action is performed on one platform (a text message for example), it would trigger an action on a different network.

If you’re like me, you may sense the immediate value of this but can’t entirely grasp how this is helpful. Some examples: I read articles in digest form delivered once a day (see below), my Instagram photos are automatically posted to Facebook, my blog entries are automatically posted to Facebook, I automatically Tweet blog entries, I send scheduled email reminders of deadlines to writers, I send new contacts to Evernote, et cetera. You’ll find that my use of these tools is relatively pedestrian compared to more involved users, and I save a ton of time using these tools.

5. IFTTT

 

 

IFTTT is a free trigger-action tool (as of this writing they are exploring a paid option as well). The free aspect probably clues you into some limitations: a lot of the apps (Yammer, Evernote, Onenote, etc.) can’t be used as triggers, and most of the enterprise-level integrations that Zapier boasts are missing. That said there is plenty that you can do in IFTTT.

Time benefit: There are a zillion ways that we could measure time savings with IFTTT, but for the purposes of this piece we are going to focus on a consolidated Inbox. I mean this in the GTD sense, meaning that it encompasses anywhere that you get project input (and not just email). For example, you may get text messages from a journalist or a colleague with actionable items: you could set up IFTTT so that you receive those messages in your email inbox. You could do the same with social networks. So we’ll assume that there are three messages per day that are forwarded to a unified inbox, which saves you 15 seconds each (for coordinating between apps):

Quantify it: 45 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .75 minutes

Weekly: 3.75 minutes

Annually: 3.25 hours

One of my favorite uses of IFTTT is the email digest feature. Instead of combing through a feed reader or going to different sites, IFTTT collects all of the posts daily or weekly and sends them to you in a digest email. Instead of reading the Sunday paper in bed on Sunday mornings, I read the Cision blog. Here’s a quick recipe to do this:

 


 

6. Zapier

 

 

I discussed the differences between IFTTT and Zapier a bit above. In more detail: Zapier is free for three trigger-actions and a finite number of total executions of these every month. Zapier has a really impressive complement of integrated apps, and has the advantage over IFTTT of having note taking and bulk storage apps (Evernote, OneNote, DropBox, Google Drive) as triggers, meaning that you can drop a file for reference and trigger an email for action based upon that reference material.

Time benefit: We’re going to assume the same time savings for IFTTT and Zapier, although the concept of unifying an inbox is probably more feasible with Zapier since you can use Yammer, Evernote and all of their enterprise integrations as triggers to create another action (most likely email).

Quantify it: 45 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .75 minutes

Weekly: 3.75 minutes

Annually: 3.25 hours

Calendar Management Tools

Calendar - Time Management Tools for PR

7. Calendar Apps (General)

 

 

There are an abundant number of smartphone calendar apps out right now. I use Sunrise, but there are a wealth of equally great applications to choose from.

Time benefit: The benefit using this type of application comes from consolidating calendars. Odds are you have a work calendar and maybe use Google Calendar or your phone’s native calendar to track personal appointments, kid stuff, et cetera. We’ll assume that you check your calendar one time every day and that the time savings comes from not having to vacillate between the two (or more) calendars – 15 seconds per calendar check.

Quantify it: 15 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

Email Management Tools (Unified Inbox)

Post Man - Time Management PR Tools

8. Unified Inbox (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc)

 

 

I have five email addresses. And although I think I’m probably aberrant relative the general population, I don’t think it’s unusual for a person to have two or three. A unified email inbox is one that uses POP3 or IMAP protocol to retrieve external mail to one application. I’ve used Gmail in the past, and the video above discusses how to coordinate this in Outlook.

Time benefit: Let’s assume that you get three email messages per day on external email sent to your unified email inbox. Assuming 15 seconds per vacillation back and forth you would save 45 seconds per day.

Quantify it: 45 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .75 minutes

Weekly: 3.75 minutes

Annually: 3.25 hours

9. Inbox

 

 

Google Inbox is the new hot thing. I was super excited when I finally got my invite and got to try it out. And I don’t love it (which is not to say that it is not useful – I am a curmudgeon). Inbox is an extension of the Gmail categorization that happened a few months back. It’s neat, it’s fast, but compared to IQTell (which I use primarily as my email inbox) its features aren’t as robust. It has pinning and snooze features that I ignore because they’re counter-intuitive to the basic GTD principle of immediately processing your inbox.

Time benefit: I think you could probably navigate Inbox faster than you could any of the alternatives (once you get used to it), but I still think it’s prudent to attribute the general timing that we calculated above (15 seconds saving, three times daily).

Quantify it: 45 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .75 minutes

Weekly: 3.75 minutes

Annually: 3.25 hours

10. IQTell

 

 

IQTell is a more robust app than simply a unified inbox. It also unifies calendars, integrates Evernote, notes and a GTD-oriented project/action database. The value of this to GTD fans is pretty evident, but even without that you can probably understand the value of having your calendar and email on one screen. And for the purposes of this piece, we’ll ignore some of the GTD features of this tool and calculate its time savings based upon unified email inbox (45 seconds daily), unified calendar (45 seconds daily), and Evernote (15 seconds daily). I don’t know of any other app that has this level of integration built into it.

Time benefit: IQTell gives you a unified email inbox, unified calendar, and Evernote integration in one app.

Quantify it: 1 minute 45 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 1.75 minutes

Weekly: 8.75 minutes

Annually: 7.6 hours

(I need to interject another disclaimer that I receive a free IQTell account for my past advocacy of IQT, though I receive no incentive for mentioning them)

Note / Reference Tools

Notes - Time Management PR Tools

11. Evernote / OneNote

 

 

When I started in managerial roles, it was expected that I would always have a pen and paper at the ready to note problems, concerns, tasks, et cetera. There’s a very cogent reason for this: our short-term memory can only store between 5 and 9 items at a time. Fast forward past the stone age: smartphones and cloud computing give us a class of note taking tools (Evernote, OneNote) that replace pen and paper with the additional benefit of never getting lost (more on the research on losing notes here), and the capability of being indexed quite easily.

Time benefit: For these tools we’ll focus on the note taking task. When you take a note it frees you to think of something else saving you the time to come up with redundant ideas. We’ll say you capture two notes per day and that each note saves you 15 seconds. (Do yourself a favor and read one of the many books on using Evernote and you will see how it can save you minutes per day and days per year…. but I digress…)

Quantify it: 30 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .5 minutes

Weekly: 2.5 minutes

Annually: 2.2 hours

Also, if you’re new to Evernote definitely get the “Evernote Web Clipper” applet for your browser. It is insanely helpful: you can capture web pages, selected texts and other web content directly from any browser (except maybe Tor).

12. Dropbox / Drive

 

 

I am not a huge fan of DropBox, Google Drive and these types of storage solutions for productivity. I find Evernote a much more complete solution for these tasks (although I’ll admit that Google Drive’s Gmail integration is pretty helpful at times).

Time benefit: Let’s say that you get a similar benefit to Evernote in that you can process a thought immediately to a cloud document (15 second time savings) one time per week.

Quantify it: 15 seconds per day breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

Recording Apps / Transcription Tools

Microphone - Time Management PR Tools

13. Google Hangouts / Google Phone

 

 

If you take a lot of notes on the phone or do a lot of interviews, Google Voice and / or Hangouts is / are something you should look into. Using either is a bit more involved than simply using a phone, but by pressing one button you can record an entire conversation. It also has built-in transcription, which is only worthwhile for humor (the transcriptions are notoriously bad, as evidenced here). I have my phone ported to Google Voice, so I also can receive and send text messages through the Voice app, but I’m not sure that’s much more useful than usual text messages.

Time benefit: Let’s assume you save two minutes per month not having to follow-up or double-check on conversations you’ve had.

Quantify it: 2 minutes monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .10 minutes

Weekly: .50 minutes

Annually: .4 hours

14. Skype

 

 

Skype doesn’t have the same built-in capability to record as Google’s products, but there are plenty of third-party tools that are built specifically for this purpose (here is a list of some). Skype and Google Voice / Hangouts have a lot of the same productivity advantages, each with deeper product integration to their parent company’s tools (Microsoft and Google).

Time benefit: Ditto Voice / Hangouts (at least for our purposes).

Quantify it: 2 minutes monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .10 minutes

Weekly: .50 minutes

Annually: .4 hours

15. Rev / Transcribe

 

 

If you’re recording audio of your calls or any conversations for that matter, transcribing them is a helpful way to get access to that information without having to listen to them over and over again. AND, if you’re creating video or audio content for the web, you’ll probably be well-served to have an accompanying transcript of the piece along with it. The good news is that there are a lot of transcription services that focus on digital files, two of the most prominent being Transcribe.com and Rev.com.

Time benefit: Let’s make the Cision assumptions: you have fixed PR campaign goals and that there is a correlation between impressions and conversions. By transcribing content, you would get more distribution from read-only visitors and from search engines. You could accomplish your goals more efficiently – estimating that you could do the equivalent of one less piece of content per month and still accomplish your goals.

Quantify it: 1 hour monthly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 3 minutes

Weekly: 15 minutes

Annually: 12 hours

Hands-free tools

Time Management PR Tools - Hands Free

16. Siri, Google Now, Cortana

 

 

“Siri, how can I save more time?” You could probably start by using Siri more often. Automated personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now have the capability to process commands and queries and perform elementary tasks in response. For productivity purposes, this is not insignificant. In fact, if you have a smartphone with this feature you should probably be using it (a lot) more often. I even use Siri to read Kindle books on my iPhone while I’m running (if you’re curious, here’s how to do it).

Time benefit: All three of these products are mature enough that you could feasibly use them for minor data input (calendar details, search) and save the time it would have otherwise taken you to type these things out. We’ll assume you could do this once every day for a time savings of 15 seconds.

Quantify it: 15 seconds per day breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

17. Google Glass

 

 

Google Glass gets a bad rap because it’s quirky, expensive, bulky, (your adjective here). Still some people love and use Glass, and it has an added benefit of apps specifically designed for voice command. This is pretty cool, and useful from a productivity standpoint.

Time benefit: Even though there is some level of sophistication beyond Siri and the gang, I’m going to ascribe the same time savings for Glass that I do for the others. If you use Glass regularly you can see how this would be amplified by quite a bit.

Quantify it: 15 seconds per day breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

18. Amazon Echo

 

 

The newest automated voice assistant is named Alexa, and she is housed in the Amazon Echo device (which as of this writing hasn’t been released). It’s kind of a cool concept, especially since it’s voice activated and appears to have a more robust functionality than its smartphone compatriots.

Time benefit: Since no one has actually used Echo, we’ll assume the same time savings that we did for the other apps / hardware.

Quantify it: 15 seconds per day breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

“House-in-Order” Tools

Time Management Tools - House In Order

19. Trackr / Tile

 

 

A couple of times every week, I misplace my wallet or keys or phone. I can login to iCloud to find my phone quickly, but for my wallet or keys, I could spend a half an hour a week searching (part of this is on me, and part is due to having a couple of curious preschoolers who like to play with these items). Then I found Trackr (Tile is a similar product), a device that you attach to your stuff to be able to locate it fast through a smartphone app.

Time benefit: These products help you find anything you’ve lost almost immediately. We’ll assume that you lost one thing per week (your car in a parking lot, your wallet in a hotel, your keys to preschoolers) and that you spend 10 minutes per week looking for these things. {Please ignore the fact that I just admitted to spending 26 hours a year looking for my keys}

Quantify it:10 minutes weekly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 2 minutes

Weekly: 10 minutes

Annually: 8.7 hours

20. Google Maps / GPS / Waze

 

 

As I was driving this weekend, I realized how advanced Google Maps (and most car GPS devices are). Specifically, Google Maps has a feature where it shows alternative routes and the additional time that it would take you by using these. This got me thinking: how much time do we waste taking the most congested route home? I decided that even for my most habitual routes I should rely on Google Maps more. A recent article further proved this point: a Los Angeles neighborhood is upset because outsourced traffic app Waze is redirectly a lot of traffic through their streets. Waze would be another means to minimize your commute.

Time benefit: Let’s assume that by using these you could save five minutes in driving time every week by using one of these tools.

Quantify it: 5 minutes weekly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 1 minutes

Weekly: 5 minutes

Annually: 4.3 hours

21. Automated Vacuum Cleaner

 

 

This is going to seem non-sequitur, but bear with me. I have a black lab that sheds like nobody’s business, and I have to sweep and vacuum at least once per day to keep the house from looking like a zoo. I got fed up and bought a Neato robot vacuum. That thing runs twice a day, my carpet is immaculate AND I spend zero time cleaning. One of the points in Laura Vanderkam’s book (referenced above) is that despite having more hectic schedules than our parents, we have about as much free time as they did at the expense of cleaning.

Time benefit: Let’s assume you save one hour vacuuming every week with an automated vacuum.

Quantify it: 1 hour weekly breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 12 minutes

Weekly: 60 minutes

Annually: 52 hours

Time Management Systems

Time Management Tools for PR

22. Pomodoro Technique

 

 

Pomodoros are probably the easiest and most useful systems that you can incorporate into your work routine to immediate impact your productivity. The concept is rather simple: you engineer your work space so that you have 25 minutes of uninterrupted work time. There is some scientific and some intuitive evidence to support why these work, but in essence we just work better when we’re focused on one task for a period of time.

Time benefit: We’ll assume that you’re able to schedule two Pomodoros per day, with the increased productivity netting you about 3 minutes per day (90 seconds extra productivity per pomodoro).

Quantify it: 3 minutes daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 3 minutes

Weekly: 15 minutes

Annually: 13 hours

23. Seinfeld Method

 

 

The Seinfeld Method is derived from a story about Jerry Seinfeld. When asked by an amateur comedian how to improve his act, Seinfeld told him “don’t break the chain.” This isn’t an especially great method of productivity for everything, but it can be useful to accomplish repetitive low-compliance tasks that need to be done.

Time benefit: Let’s assume that you might otherwise skip a task, and that you are prone to procrastinate one time per week. If it takes you just as long to do the task, then you would save the time to think about the task again – 20 seconds a week.

Quantify it: 20 seconds per week breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .07 minutes

Weekly: .33 minutes

Annually: .2 hours

24. Franklin Planner

 

 

When I started working as a manager, I was quickly introduced / enchanted by the Franklin Planner / Dayrunner / all-in-one utility book. For those who are unfamiliar, it would be similar to the IQTell app but in paper form. It was very trendy and effective at the time because the only digital communication medium was email, but it is quite antiquated for a cloud-based world. LinkedIn houses all of your updated professional contacts, your calendars are kept online and in the cloud, your notes can be kept in Evernote. There is a lot of upkeep to this method of time management, but it does have the benefit of consolidating your calendars, which we’ll ascribe to this method.

Note that Franklin Covey (the creator of the Franklin Planner) have web and mobile applications that perform the same function, I just include this example to show how much more productive you can be using cloud computing tools.

Time benefit: The benefit using this type of application comes from consolidating calendars. We’ll assume that you check your calendar one time every day and that the time savings comes from not having to vacillate between the two (or more) calendars – 15 seconds per calendar check.

Quantify it: 15 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): .25 minutes

Weekly: 1.25 minutes

Annually: 1.1 hours

25. GTD

 

 

I have an unabashed man crush on David Allen. His book Getting Things Done articulates in such common-sense language the rationale behind immediate processing of tasks, how to organize them, and how to make sure you capture all of them. Re-reading the book, a lot of the tools available to him when he wrote the book are antiquated now. By using technological tools (especially trigger-action tools and consolidated email and calendars) you can simplify the GTD even further. There are a lot of ways to approach time management measurement and GTD, but I want to harken back to short-term memory.

One of the GTD mantras is “mind like water,” meaning that instead of keeping stuff in your mind, you keep it in a trusted system and react to new inputs. We determined that an average person can remember 7 items in their short-term memory at any given time, so we’ll assume the benefit to be one daily purge of your short-term memory (you don’t have more than 7 thoughts per day, right?)

Time benefit: 7 actions captured in a system saving you 15 seconds per action (having to keep thinking about the stuff until you do it).

Quantify it: 105 seconds daily breaks down as:

Daily (5 days): 1.75 minutes

Weekly: 8.75 minutes

Annually: 7.6 hours

What will you save?

Time Saving PR Tools - Savings

You can’t use all of these of course, but let’s calculate a hypothetical time saving using some of these.

I’m going to assume that you’re using Cision and PRWeb already (so we won’t count those), but are underutilizing HARO. You’re either using IQTell or a combination of Unified Inbox, Calendar, List and Note Apps. IFTTT further consolidates your inbox. You lose your keys, wallet or car once a month and Trackr helps you find them immediately. You leverage Pomodoros and are mostly GTD-compliant. You save a few minutes a week leveraging real-time mapping with Google Maps. An automated personal assistant does some data input that you would have otherwise had to type yourself. Let’s see how much time you could save (unit of measure for this table is minutes):

Tools Time Saved Daily Time Saved Weekly Time Saved Annually
IFTTT / Zapier 0.75 3.75 195
Trackr / Tile 2 10 520
Google Maps 1 5 260
Unified Inbox 0.75 3.75 195
Calendar 0.25 1.25 65
Pomodoro 3 15 780
Evernote 0.5 2.5 130
GTD 1.75 8.75 455
HARO 0.75 3.75 195
Siri, Echo 0.25 1.25 65
Total 11 55 2860

Forty-eight hours a year is a good chunk of time (one full work week), and it should be evident that you can optimize most of these to save a lot more time (you might be able to double this just with a robot vacuum). Keep in mind also that the numbers that I used to account for time were deliberate underestimations, and you would probably see a lot more time savings and/or increased productivity with these tools.

Hopefully you find some tools here that are useful, or at least this reinforces your productivity behaviors. If you find yourself pressed for time and need some motivation to put some of these techniques into action, you might heed the thoughts of author Tony Dovale:

“There is no such thing as time management. There is only the mindset that optimally manages the self and its actions.”

About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.

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