A Day in the Life of: Ben Liwanag, Account Associate

As news breaks and we work to tell our clients’ stories, my days are always different. In fact, the only constant in my work week seems to be a morning cup of coffee, Taylor Swift on repeat and a delayed L train packed full of antsy commuters.

At Highwire I’ve had the opportunity to consistently level up and take on more strategic and advanced tasks, all thanks to the help of team members willing to mentor and guide me through the process. But for those interested in my day-to-day responsibilities, fret not. Every campaign, proactive pitch and rapid response release have their similarities.

I would break my role as an intern and now account associate into three different categories: content, media relations and being the team’s media maven in the making. These three main roles allow me to help the team stay  #AlwaysWired and #AlwaysWinning. So, mom, I’ve decided to answer your questions about my job for the future Highwire Walkers and curious cats on the web.

“You read the news a lot. What’s going on in the world?”

Fortunately for my coworkers, I stay up-to-date on more than just Taylor Swift news. A core component of my job is to constantly read the news and understand what reporters are writing about and broad trends that affect our clients. I have to be the first to catch breaking news.

There are a few different things that this news monitoring results in, the main action being news scans that ranging from daily to bi-weekly and weekly. I’m responsible for compiling anything relevant to our client, whether it is a new product launch from a competitor or new industry data. These news scans are shared internally and directly with our clients, and give us a broader look at the news cycle and what actions we need to take from a media standpoint. Besides being a client deliverable, it’s an important task that gives me an extra edge in the core component of my job, media relations.

“What does pitching mean?”

Brilliant songwriting is at the heart of any Taylor Swift song, just as media relations is the heart of my day-to-day role. Broadly speaking, I’d narrow this down to three core components that I particularly work on; creating media lists, drafting pitches (story ideas) and pitching (sharing with reporters).  

The key to any successful media campaign is finding the right reporters to tell your stories, and that is where media lists come into play. Whether it be curating old lists, incorporating reporters from news scans or identifying a reporter for an exclusive, spending time on media lists is critical to the success of any media campaign.

Additionally, spending time talking to reporters and sharing our news is another integral part of my role. Reporters will always say “tell me why.” Pitch writing is how we answer that question. Because we never want to copy and paste, either a teammate or myself will then draft a pitch outline with “the meat” of the narrative in it.

This is then where I spend most of my time adding the personal touches and some ideas that will most likely pique the specific reporters’ interest. News scans are especially helpful in letting me tailor each pitch to a reporter, because they allow me to really see what reporters are interested in. While this can be challenging, it’s the biggest part of the work I do. It’s also the most rewarding, especially seeing the work I do in the media.

“What’s a byline?”

I define public relations as storytelling. Part of how we tell clients’ stories is through bylines — basically a contributed article on a specific topic. While I’m not an expert in cloud computing or debt consolidation, my clients are. As an account associate, I regularly team up with client executives to help compile their thoughts and expertise into a meaningful story.

On any given day, you can find me researching different topics to help showcase my clients’ expertise, looking at how the team can speak to a given topic to meet business goals or on the phone learning more about how they see a specific topic. From here is where the magic happens, known as byline writing. While the process can be tedious, it’s an exciting aspect of public relations that plays a big role in clients’ communications strategy.

“What’s coming up that you’re working on?”

Well, mom, this is a question I’ll have to save for another time – I can’t give away any spoilers, but what I’m working on now will be in tech news headlines soon. But for the future Highwire Walkers and PR pros, this is just a snapshot of my role at Highwire. Every day is filled with new opportunities, another media list and keeping up with the news. And for those interested in PR, I know places where you can truly be a part of something different.

Behind the Scenes with Black Hat Comms Lead

Logo of the Black Hat conference

It’s nearly time for Black Hat USA and given RSA was so late in the year, it seems to have snuck up on everyone quicker than ever.

But no fear, Highwire’s Cyber Squad is on top of it—this year, we interviewed Kimberly Samra, PR Manager for Black Hat and lead for UBM’s technology portfolio, to get a pulse on what the hottest trends at the show will be and how attendees and PR practitioners alike can make the most of their time at the conference this year.

See below for information ranging from themes that will attract a lot of attention at the show—including election security, critical infrastructure and privacy—and tips for how to break through to reporters and tell your story. We hope this information helps you make the most of your time at Black Hat. If you’re heading down and want to meet up with the Highwire Cyber Squad, please email us at secleads@highwirepr.com.

Now, back to our scheduled programming to get the inside scoop from Kimberly Samra, PR manager for Black Hat:

Q) How has PR at Black Hat changed?

The PR landscape has certainly expanded with the growth of the security industry. While we still see the usual big-time security reporters covering the event, coverage is shifting across multiple verticals as the industry transitions and becomes such an essential part of our everyday lives. As discussed in Black Hat’s new research report, “Where Cybersecurity Stands” security has quickly become mainstream, touching everything from politics to international relations, commerce, money and human relations—it really has a hand in everything these days.

So as PR folks ramp up for the event, they should tailor their outreach strategies thinking beyond items specific to security and ensure their pitches demonstrate how people and consumers are affected on a grander scale.

Q) Have you seen a shift in Black Hat audience? More CIOs and technology buyers?

As the event grows we definitely see a wider range of professionals attending. While the Briefings program is at the core of what we offer to our audience, we’ve seen our Business Hall expand to welcome top vendors in the industry interested in sharing their latest and greatest tools and how they’re pushing security innovation forward through advanced research. Our Black Hat CISO Summit has also grown as more executives are making security a top priority.

Black Hat as a whole really brings together every aspect of the industry and is a hub for all things security. It’s the must-attend security event of the year and we’re happy to continue adding to our offerings and the content media is exposed to so they can report critical insights to the public.

Q) What are the top trends you expect to see at the show this year?

Of course we always see a lot of attention around big-name vendors, mobile, IoT, payment systems, critical infrastructure, etc. However, not surprisingly, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around voting technology and privacy. As folks look toward the upcoming elections and draw from all the controversy around the 2016 U.S. presidential race, they’re looking to security experts to answer questions about how vulnerabilities found in voting technology could affect outcomes and any other potential issues that could unknowingly change the course of political history.  

Privacy on the other hand is a vast issue that remains top of mind for people on many levels—from those working in government, the enterprise level and everyday citizens. We’ve all seen headlines pertaining to the Facebook investigation, the global effects of GDPR, and continued reports of security breaches. It’s no secret that people are questioning their privacy and how their data is being used. It’s a widespread topic and the research being done within the security industry is pertinent to learning more and making moves toward protection.

Q) Is there anything new happening at the show?

Yes! We’re really excited about a number of new offerings this year, specifically the expansion of our community programs. Black Hat has taken strategic steps over the years to ensure our program expands and continues to welcome and serve a wider audience. A few years back we began work around inclusivity through dedicated diversity programs. We’re proud that these programs have continued to grow and that we’re now able tap into programming specific to the needs of the community on a much larger scale.

On the Briefings side, we’ll see content coming from the new Community Track, which was developed to provide a forum for discussion on relevant issues currently impacting the InfoSec community. These talks will dive into important topics including careers, legal issues, inclusion, diversity, attribution, substance abuse, mental health, burnout, security awareness, work-life balance and more. We’ll also be holding Community Workshops which have been made to encourage collaboration among the Black Hat community; attendees will be exposed to everything from personal digital resilience to mentorship and career-building strategies.

And of course, we’ll see the return of our scholarship program and our work with non-profit partners, two items we’re really passionate about as we engage with and encourage the next generation of security professionals and give back to the community we service.

Q) What advice can you offer for companies looking to prepare to pitch reporters at Black Hat?

Companies should keep in mind the scale of Black Hat as well as the happenings throughout the week—remember, it’s called “Hacker Summer Camp” for a reason. Do your homework and tailor what you’re trying to pitch specifically to the reporter you’re reaching out to—a pitch that’s only specific to a security product announcement won’t always do the trick.

Questions you should ask yourself: Are you familiar with the headlines out there right now? Does your content pertain to big topics like privacy, critical infrastructure or maybe companies a certain journalist regularly writes about? Think of yourself as a valuable source rather than someone trying to simply sell a reporter on a story.

Also, make it easy on them! There is so much going on leading up to the event and especially onsite, you don’t want your news to get swept up in the hustle bustle especially if press have to decipher your message and how it applies to a potential big story. Take a step back, focus on what the big takeaway is, and figure out the headline—if you were a reporter, how would you envision the story? It’s like delivering a ready-made gift.

And start now! Don’t wait to get your news out to registered media. Remember, their schedules are packed onsite so you need to get on their radars now so they can make time for you.

See here for an interview with Black Hat communications director from 2016 for a look back at trends over the years.

Learn more about Highwire’s security practice here or reach out to us at secleads@highwirepr.com to continue the conversation. We’ll be at the conference, so we’re looking forward to meeting you on the show floor to hear your story!

Tech Storytellers Gather to Discuss the “Evolution of the Story” in NYC

Highwire has been exploring “the story” throughout 2018 as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. While headlines, platforms and trends have changed significantly over the past 10 years, the unified goal of PR and the media has remained the same: to tell a compelling story. However, the ever-changing media, political and technology landscapes all have a large impact on what that story is and how best to tell it.

To dig into this concept further, Highwire invited some of the sharpest tech storytellers to discuss how the story has evolved and what the next 10 years will bring for PR and journalism. The media panel took place on June 27 at Work-Bench and was moderated by Highwire Account Director Ken Bruno. Panelists included Kerry Flynn, Marketing Reporter at Digiday; Polina Marinova, Associate Editor at Fortune; Anthony Ha, Senior Writer at TechCrunch; and Sean Ludwig, Communications and Marketing Director at Tech:NYC.

Over the course of the panel, these storytellers shared their insights into what trends are having the biggest impact on journalism and how PR pros can work successfully with the media.

The State of Journalism

We’re seeing the disruption of traditional media, with business model changes and restructuring at many of the largest media organizations. Meanwhile, smaller online outlets are delivering high-caliber reporting that is capturing the attention of many young readers.

The move toward subscription-based content and paywalls is really having an impact, noted Marinova. What these outlets are after is more quality journalism, but she expressed doubt that people will pay for more than just The New York Times and The Washington Post. Despite these concerns, Marinova was optimistic that quality journalism will still have value for readers.

“We’re all trying to figure out how we’re going to make money in the next five years,” said Anthony Ha of TechCrunch. The industry is still finding this path, and it will be a bumpy one, but Ha said there are still great opportunities for high-quality work. “Clickbait still exists, but most publications who want to be respected are interested in more than just chasing traffic.”

The Changing Reader/Reporter Relationship

In the era of social media, fake news and citizen journalism, the relationship between a reporter and their readers is increasingly complex.

“Social media has knocked all of those barriers down — and maybe that’s okay,” said Ludwig. Instead of receiving an angry email a few days after you publish a story, now journalists are called out instantly on social media when they make a mistake. This has created a very public and instant accountability for the media.

“Journalists have become more accessible than ever, which means that sometimes we are going to put our foot in our mouth,” said Flynn. She has been especially interested in seeing how major news personalities are responding to criticism online in real-time.

The Impact of Diminishing Trust in Social Media

Some industry pundits believe that social media is at an all-time low, which is impacting both the tech and publishing world in tandem. The publishing market will have to navigate the lasting impacts of social media backlash and we may see media organizations adjusting their publishing strategies.

“I hope publishers have learned their lesson about relying too much on social media for content distribution,” said Flynn. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I have faith that the younger generation gets it and will do their research when getting news from social media sites.”

Ludwig said that educators have a responsibility to teach the younger generation how to use social media in a healthy way and how to separate real news vs fake news online.

Tips for PR Pros

Panelists agreed that while new mediums continue to change how journalists and PR professionals communicate, the most important thing will remain the same: it’s up to PR pros to know what is the right fit for a publication and its audience. Do your research and know exactly what a reporter covers before pitching them.

“Journalists are humans, and every one of us is different,” said Flynn. Don’t be afraid to stalk reporters online to get to know their coverage and what will be most valuable to them.

“Keep your emails short and to the point,” said Marinova. “A quick ‘hey do you cover this’ is fine, and then we can have a longer conversation if it’s a good fit.”

Stay Tuned for More 10th Anniversary Updates

Keep an eye out on the blog as we continue to delve into what the next 10 years may hold for tech sectors like security, enterprise and AI. We’ll be publishing a series of blogs from Highwire’s subject matter experts as we continue to celebrate our 10th year.

Real Interns of Highwire PR – Top Tips On All Things PR

Highwire’s Internship Program helps college graduates build the foundation for a long-term career in PR. This internship provides opportunities to work directly with client teams and to gain relevant hands-on experience. Across our four offices, our interns help create content to help tell our client’s stories and develop a strong foundation of skills for a career in PR. Learn about a few of our current Highwire interns below!

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Highwire’s Media Panel – The Evolution of “The Story”

This year, Highwire is celebrating 10 years as an agency. Tapping into our inquisitive nature as communications professionals, we took this opportunity to invite esteemed journalists and PR peers through our doors to discuss the evolution of “The Story.” The tech and media world has changed tremendously, from the rise of the gig economy to the decline of print, but one thing has remained the same — a good story is a good story. While publication and readership may change what the core of that story contains, one goal remains: create and amplify a powerful narrative.

We sat down with Associated Press’ Michael Liedtke, Fast Company’s Harry McCracken, Reuters’ Stephen Nellis, and The Information’s Sarah Kuranda to hear what intrigues them about the technology industry today, and to get their thoughts on the evolving PR/media relationship.

Trends of Interest:

  • Technology’s Influence on Society and Culture

This seemed to be the hottest topic on the minds of these journalists. Michael Liedtke noted how they are “creepily interested in the surveillance society that we seem to be complacently creating for ourselves whether we know it or not.” As our world advances, journalists will be watching to see how society adapts to its dependence on an imperfect system.

  • AI and the Future of Work

Liedtke also noted his interest in the future of work as it relates to AI. While AI is enhancing life in so many ways, creating efficiencies and increasing productivity, it’s also establishing tensions among workers. For those of us living in a Silicon-Valley bubble, it’s also critical to share illustrative examples with the general public so they can grasp the true impacts of AI from real-life accounts.

  • Beyond the Valley

Reaching beyond Silicon Valley was another point made by Stephen Nellis. He discussed his desire to tap into Reuters’ global network and work with international correspondents to develop a worldwide view for his pieces.

Cultivating Relationships to Separate the Experts from the Phonies

Sources are the glue that holds PR professionals and journalists together. PR professionals serve an important role as gatekeepers to the experts and thought leaders that journalists engage with for compelling stories. It’s essential that we treat that responsibility with care. As Sarah Kuranda emphasized, journalists have to weed through an abundance of “experts,” and therefore establishing relationships with genuine sources is a gift. A great source has first-hand experience, and fun stories to tell. If you have a great source, encourage them to build those relationships with media. Offer journalists a coffee or drink meeting and you’ll stay off the “B.S. list.”

The Under-Appreciated Element

Harry McCracken urged PR professionals to recognize the previous context in our pitches. It may seem like technology companies are entering a brand new world, but if you do your research, you’ll find essential historical context that is invaluable for stories. Silicon Valley is evolving rapidly, but nearly everything that is “new” has been tried before. Showing that your company or client has learned from others is a testament to the company’s product and end goal.

Working Together As Storytellers

The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is a delicate one. Each one represents a different side of the same narrative, but both seek to peak the interest of the audience. While we are always walking that thin line, discussions like these bring us a little bit closer to our ultimate goal – telling the story.

5 Tips to Help You Nail Your Interview

So you’ve landed the big interview. Your team has secured one-on-one time with a journalist, and you have the chance to get your company’s message out to the masses. This is a big opportunity with plenty at stake. A great interview can build authenticity and help to develop strong media relationships. But an interview flop can tarnish your reputation and cause unwanted negative attention. No one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons.

Lucky for you, our agency’s media training experts have been on the other side of the interview. As former broadcast, print and radio journalists, they have a behind-the-scenes view of what it really takes to nail an interview. Here’s a hint: It all hinges on preparation. Here are five tips that can make the difference between a stellar interview and one that leaves you scrambling to do damage control.

Imagine Your Headline…then Say It

When preparing for an interview, start by asking yourself what ideal headlines you’d like to see come out of the interview. They should say something exciting about your company while also answering questions like  “why now?” and “who cares?” Then, during the interview, begin your answers with that headline messaging. From there, support your headlines with facts, evidence and anecdotes. This will help you build out a solid foundation of key messaging for the interview.

Know Thy Interviewer

Not all journalists work the same way. It’s important to analyze the interview style of whomever you’re working with. Some journalists take a “good cop” approach. They establish a rapport with their subject by starting out with open-ended questions or asking tough questions in a friendly way to create an atmosphere of closeness. Other “bad cop” reporters take a hard-hitting approach. They skip the small talk and go straight for the tough questions, often in rapid fire. Do your research to figure out where a journalists falls on the good cop/bad cop spectrum so you know what to expect.

Anticipate the Tough Questions

Always expect the questions that you’d rather not be asked, even if you think you’re dealing with a “good cop” interviewer. Hash out what the controversial topics and hot-button issues are ahead of time. Mock interviews can be helpful here in order to prepare for the worst. If you are asked a tough question during an interview, there are a few strategies you can use to handle it. Answer the question if you can, but avoid repeating a negative statement. If the question itself isn’t negative, you can rephrase it as part of your answer and then answer the question with that angle. When in doubt, create a bridge to a key message with a phrase like “That’s a good point, but what we think is important here is…”

Avoid Trash Talk

One hard and fast rule of a good interview is that no one comes out on top by trash-talking their competitors. When it comes to rival companies, it’s best to stay mute. While it’s important to be aware of your competitors, avoid mentioning their names at all during an interview. All you’re doing is giving them free air time. Instead, name your company, your products and your customers as much as possible.

Never Go Off the Record

At some point during an interview, a journalist may turn to you and say, “Can I ask you a question off the record?” Don’t do it! Regardless of the great relationship you have with them or how much you trust them, the answer should always be no. At the end of the day, if a journalist gets a juicy soundbite or a hot tip from something you said off the record, they have quite a big incentive to go ahead and publish it. Play it safe and never say anything to a journalist that you wouldn’t want published.

AI Won’t Take Over Corporate Communications, But It Can Help

A workplace revolution is underway across most industries, and robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the center of it. Machine learning and automation are becoming deeply integrated across all aspects of the way we live and work. As the promise of AI threatens to replace human drivers, factory workers and cashiers, which industry is next?

There’s been discussion of corporate communications being replaced by automation and robot writers once and for all. I say, no way. Compelling, effective public relations is not possible without emotional intelligence and human trust. Here are four reasons why human communications professionals won’t be replaced by AI anytime soon.

At its core, content is about human relationships.

The best marketing creates and builds relationships between brands, consumers, customers and journalists based on trust and respect. This is increasingly important as journalists and consumers are inundated with information and overloaded with posts and messages on social media. Reporters need sources to deliver truthful, compelling and relevant stories. In a time of skepticism for news, we need to do more to drive trust and empower journalists to work with real, true sources — not AI technologies or robots that can be programmed to manipulate. Emotional intelligence is at the core of strong relationships.

Understanding reporters requires human intelligence.

Reporters and editors are being asked to take on expanded roles and write a greater number of stories in the 24-hour news cycle. They have no time to waste and communications strategies must adapt to meet their needs.

For those on the front lines of companies, the issues we encounter every day are different and require varying approaches. Real relationships with reporters are critical in verifying the truth and getting attention. Companies need to understand what journalists care about, what their readers want and what is new and different.

Indeed, robots could — and technologies exist that do — analyze what a reporter covers to capture key phrases and generate an email. Reporters can see through this and it often creates more noise than value. Developing a unique angle, tying your company news to a bigger industry trend or sharing an unusual statistic requires creativity, context and human intuition. This deeper understanding goes beyond commands and keywords.

Creativity is best done by humans.

Last year, Google financed a new project in Europe called Radar, aimed at automating news writing. There are existing technologies that automate press release writing as well, and that’s a good thing because they are becoming less important. In fact, having a robot create press releases would free more time for humans to develop creative and impactful stories.

The best marketing elicits impact, humor, attention and value. Sweden listed its entire country on Airbnb as a tourism stunt last year. A few years ago, millions of people poured buckets of ice on themselves to raise money for ALS. Robots won’t be pulling off this level of creativity anytime soon and here’s why: In order to make humans care about something, you have to understand the human psyche.

AI can make communications better with humans.

Brands and marketing professionals need not fear automation and AI because these technologies are proving to play important, helpful roles. Numerous tools are available that allow us to connect with audiences. Tools like BuzzSumo, Zignal and TrendKitecreate valuable insights and can measure reach and impact of company messages and direction for future engagements. Hashtag and keyword tracking programs like Keyhole enable monitoring for trends, brands and competitors in real time, so companies can communicate quickly and efficiently. Conversational language companies like Narrative Science use analytics to create data-driven stories about a company or industry. Using AI and automation tools can replace mundane and time-consuming tasks that provide more time to focus on creative and contextualized story angles.

Humans are essential for telling creative stories, developing buzzworthy ideas and communicating effectively. AI and automation play an important role, but those technologies have their limits. At the core, marketing and communications develop important relationships that cannot be replaced or mimicked by technology.

Tech Companies Thrive on the East Coast

While we love our west coast headquarters, we have a special place in our heart for the East Coast and especially for our two offices here in NYC and Boston. Both cities have a lot to offer tech companies — whether they are startups or big, established companies.

New York – Amazing Diversity & Potential

One of the coolest things about the NYC is the diversity of people and industries here. From fashion, to finance, media and commercial real estate and technology, NYC has it all. Tech especially has been growing like gangbusters. According to a Crain’s New York Business report, New York is now the second most active tech ecosystem in the United States on all key metrics.

What do entrepreneurs say they 💜NYC?

Isaac Oates, the CEO of Justworks, the easy-to-use payroll, benefits and HR support solution for businesses and a Manhattan-based company, is a big advocate of NYC, as he explained to The New York Business Journal: “The people that live here are the people that are attracted to New York City. There is an energy and enthusiasm that you get out of New Yorkers that you really can’t find anywhere else in the country. It’s an aspirational place to be and you can feel that when you walk down the street.”

The Big Apple is also becoming an enclave for digital health companies according to Buzzfeed’s senior technology reporter and expert on all things digital health, Stephanie Lee.

The reason? Cities like New York have emerged as a major hub for healthcare technology companies because they can take advantage of the area’s medical centers as investors and testing grounds, according to a report from the Center for an Urban Future.

Boston – The Hub of Fresh Minds

As the largest city in New England, Boston is known as the unofficial capital of New England for its reputation as both an intellectual and medical center with talent from more than 100 colleges and universities in the Greater Boston area.

Boston has also been growing rapidly in a number of different industries including finance, healthcare, education and manufacturing.

According to Deloitte research, “Data from January 2013 through August 2017 shows that Boston is within the top four U.S. regions for each of these four industries when it comes to the number of startups they have produced.”

For industries on the rise, why leave the Greater Boston area? This is probably why one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest regrets as a CEO was leaving the city. He said this back in 2011 at Y Combinator’s Startup School in a candid interview with Y Combinator Partner Jessica Livingston.

Unlike Zuckerberg, Akamai, a leading cloud delivery and security services provider and one of Highwire’s clients, is proud to have started and stayed in this city, especially since it is home to offices of some of the biggest and best tech giants (think Microsoft and Google).

Akamai’s CEO, Tom Leighton, wrote a column for the Boston Globe about how the company commercialized its technology in Leighton’s Boston office at MIT to incubator space in Cambridge’s Kendall Square. He said: “Our small team of mostly young whiz kids didn’t have much experience in business. But we certainly had big dreams. And after two decades of hard work, our business has grown into the world’s largest and most trusted cloud delivery platform, upon which many of the world’s best-known brands and enterprises build their digital experiences.”

Make Giant Waves in Your Respective Fields

Both the West Coast and East Coast offer different cultures and communities to those seeking out new opportunities, and this remains true for their respective tech landscapes. However, more entrepreneurs and CEOs of startups are choosing to settle down on the East Coast for the tech scene, number of resources and the diversity and talent of the people to propel their businesses ahead of their competition.

And now with several East Coast cities including Boston, New York, Newark, NJ, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County Maryland and Washington, DC on Amazon’s shortlist for a second headquarters, there are even more good things to come!

What’s User-Friendly About PitchFriendly?

 

HW Labs Test PR CRM/Media Engagement Platform that Aims to Automate Intern Tasks

Earlier this year, we kicked the tires on PitchFriendly – a PR-focused CRM system for managing media outreach, tracking relationships and reporting on progress. While we haven’t signed up for the platform (…yet), the company is making some huge improvements to the largely non-existent infrastructure PR teams use to manage media outreach and relationships.

Pros: What we love about PitchFriendly

1. Pitch Status Overview

First, the data. The ability for an account manager to see who has got their pitches out and what’s been the outcome. Have the pitches been read, has anyone committed to a briefing or to write, and who has declined? These are all questions frequently asked by clients and account team leadership after a pitch goes out. PitchFriendly puts all this useful status information into a single pane dashboard which makes it easier to report back the current opportunities in play and media feedback. The platform uses pixel tracking (similar to services like Mixmax and Streak) to enable PR pros to see if their email has been read before picking up the phone.

Being able to see the pitches that have been sent by team members also enables senior staff to provide feedback on outreach and help junior staff tweak pitches and improve their success rate.

2. Media CRM

The ability to see who recently engaged a reporter gives PR teams the ability to gain insight from others within the agency, or delegate a pitch to someone who already has an open line of communication with the reporter. The platform gives team members the ability to add notes on a reporter to keep the rest of the team informed about a change in beat or something that might impact communication with the reporter.

 

3. Templates and Mail Merge

The platform enables customizable pitch templates to be created so team members are all aligned on messaging, while having the freedom to personalize outreach for their specific targets. This prep work can be done in advance and then the entire batch of emails can be sent at a scheduled time. Mail merges can be tricky, and the archives of Twitter are littered with angry journalist tweets about PR mail merges gone wrong. However, the PitchFriendly system previews the email so you can see what it will look like for each reporter and provides checks in the process to limit the likelihood of a #PRfail.

 

4. The UI

It’s clean and simple, and easy to navigate. The PitchFriendly team have done a great job creating a modern user interface.

 

5. The Vision – AI and Machine Learning Replacing Intern Work

Founder Joel Andren has a strong vision for how PR engagement and outreach can be improved through technology and it’s exciting to hear him talk about the company’s plans to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning to be able to review a pitch and automatically assign relevant reporters based on the system’s rich pool of data.

 

The Cons: What didn’t work so well?

1. Importing Media Lists

After working with collaboration tools like Google Docs and Atlassian Confluence, which enable real-time updates to messaging and media lists, switching to a system that requires building and finalizing a media list, and then importing it into the system was a challenge and an added step that slowed teams down. There is a learning curve, which might be tough to get by for a fast moving agency.

 

2. Adding Another Communication Interface

PitchFriendly does enable you to follow up with media using Gmail, as you normally would. But the initial pitch has to be sent in the PitchFriendly application. This adds another destination and another communications app in an already cluttered desktop. In follow up conversations, Joel and I discussed taking all the good stuff above – the reporting and the media CRM – and adding these as a Gmail extension (similar to Mixmax) so users can continue working in a familiar interface, and one that is being used for other work outside of pitching, while being able to track success and media conversations from email outreach.

 

Highwire Labs’ Take

PitchFriendly shows a lot of promise and Joel Andren’s vision for smarter media outreach is a compelling prospect. The platform isn’t perfect and there are further refinements needed, but it is the best example of PR-specific CRM system on the market, and the pitch status reporting and team management capabilities are worth checking out.

The company offers a free trial so you can try it out before committing to an on-going spend. We’re continuing to watch this space with interest.