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.