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.

InsightPool vs Traackr: Who Does Influencer Marketing Better?

Highwire Labs reviews the best in social influencer tools

 

In recent months, Highwire has seen increasing interest in influencer marketing and engagement from clients. While we currently use a platform called BuzzSumo to track influencers, we thought it could be time to kick the tires on other similar platforms.

The Highwire Labs team diligently looked into two of the leading influencer marketing solutions: Traackr and InsightPool. Here’s what we found:

Traackr

Traackr was founded in 2009 to serve as search engine for people in PR/marketing to discover influencers for a particular audience. Whether looking for influencers in “Big Data”, “Internet of Things”, “Future of Work” or “Artificial Intelligence”, theoretically, Traackr should be able to identify them in its platform.

Traackr has a stylish UX and looks a little like Tweetdeck on steroids. Agencies can use it for their system of record to track influencer engagement, determine share of voice and easily identify the number of interactions. The service features reach and relevance scores for influencers, and is platform agnostic so one social media platform isn’t prioritized over others.

The major con with Traackr is its price point. This is an extremely pricy piece of software that costs thousands of dollars annually for a subscription — all without so much as a trial period. Additionally, the baseline option allows for only three campaigns. Hard pass from these PR professionals.

Pros

  • Ability to track engagement and interactions
  • Share of voice metrics
  • Manual influencer profile upload
  • Manipulated search results in order to find the best fit, whether it’s by largest audience or an influencer’s reach

Cons

  • Price point and lack of trial option
  • Not user-friendly or intuitive – requires training
  • Sweet spot is B2B tech although Traackr works with consumer companies

physical web of influencersPhoto credit: Getty Images

 

InsightPool

Claiming to be the world’s largest social influencer database, InsightPool certainly didn’t disappoint in our initial demo. The company analyzes everything from social audiences and email database exports to uncover influencers and brand advocates that are most appropriate for client campaigns. What’s more, the platform allows users to sign up for a free trial before fully committing (Full disclosure: we’ve already signed up for two demos, both of which were able to meet specific goals outlined by our client).

Its user interface is easy to navigate, with cool features including scheduled social interactions, contact uploads and engagement monitoring. Once an influencer engages with you over social, you’ll also receive a notification in which you can schedule strategic responses via Twitter or Instagram. For example, after you receive a follow from a top target, you have the ability to slide into those DMs to personally thank them for being a fan of your content.

InsightPool also provides a unique social ranking system that ensures each and every influencer is right for your campaign. To do so, the platform scores each influencer in its platform using data sciences to determine true influence, including: Reach, Resonance and Relevance.

If we had to give it one critique, it would be its inability to easily compare share of voice among targeted influencers. While its segmentation feature provides analysis on what influencers are talking about, which brands are impacted and how their social network impacts your campaign, it could be presented a lot more clearly.

Pros

  • Influencer segmentation
  • Scheduled social engagements
  • Full-service trial period
  • Simple user interface

Cons

  • No SOV tracking
  • Complex presentation of analysis

Highwire Labs’ Take

If your clients are asking about influencer campaigns, get onboard with InsightPool — The free trial period should be enough to take care of any one-off campaigns. But consider making the investment if influencer marketing is increasingly being requested by clients.

Not only is the platform extremely user-friendly, the smart influence algorithms do a great job segmenting influencers, and its annual cost is significantly lower than that of its competitor. Believe the hype.

WINNER: InsightPool

 

Post co-authored by Haley Rodriguez, Account Associate, San Francisco

Haley Rodriguez is an account associate in Highwire’s San Francisco office primarily supporting consumer technology clients. She graduated from California State University, Chico with a degree in journalism and has experience in social media management, news production and copy editing.

Battle of Email CRM: Streak vs. MixMax

Highwire Labs Reviews Popular Gmail Extensions

We all know the familiar outreach story, you email out a pitch and hear nothing back from a reporter. You follow up in less than 24 hours giving a brief overview but still hear nothing. Now questions start to build internally: Is it the subject line not eye catching? Should the body be edited? Is this the right contact? Did the reporter even see the email?? 

For PR professionals, new email extensions like Streak, Mixmax, Boomerang and PitchFriendly look to answer those questions and alleviate other challenges by adding clarity and relationship management to the outreach process.

Internally, the Highwire PR team was using a variety of platforms, so in an effort to streamline our internal processes, the Highwire Labs team did a deep dive into the leading platforms.

 

Streak:

In full disclosure, a majority of the Highwire Labs team went into our demo loudly touting the merits of Streak based on personal use. In fact, a few members of the team actually referred to the free version of Streak as the “Beyoncé of email extensions.”

Streak promises to allow you to run your entire business from your inbox. And with that promise comes a plethora of tools. Most notably for our uses was its email tracking capability. Streak allows you to track your emails, determine who saw the email, when they saw the email, how many times they viewed the email and even how they viewed the email. Slightly stalkerish at first glance, this tool ultimately allows us to A/B test pitches and subject lines to increase pitch effectiveness, while also honing in on journalists’ interests and content preferences.

The free version of Streak outranked additional email extensions like Mixmax or Boomerang. It limits freemium users to only 250 tracked emails a month, but if you were selective about what emails you tracked, it was not an issue.

 

Pros:

We loved its easy Gmail integration, ease of functionality and variety of tools. Also unlike Mixmax, Streak did not upset email formatting or Gmail functionality. Other pros for Streak include:

  • A pipeline function allowing you to share contacts, emails and files, and assign certain work to members of the team
  • The ability to schedule emails and snooze emails
  • Integrated tasks list based on requests/actions in emails
  • Snippets – previously created pieces of content that can be included in messages at will
  • A Streak CRM review, allowing you to create reports directly from your inbox.
  • A robust mobile app

 

Cons:

As you can see from the above, there are a lot of positives with Streak. However, in the case of our office, that actually created the biggest issue with Streak – an effective onboarding. Nobody wants to have to go through an hour plus training to better understand a tool that’s meant to simplify their lives. Other cons included:

  • Streak is only available on Google Chrome.
  • Complexity – the pipeline feature seemed clunky and hard to understand for effective use.
  • Lack of features that ultimately enhanced the email experience for both the sender and responder.
  • No glitz, no glam, no millennial love (aka where are the gifs???)

 

Mixmax

If you’re glued to your Gmail all day as the average PR professional is, chances are you’ve probably tried Mixmax. But it was likely the free version, which meant you had a prohibitive limit of 100 tracked emails, consistent and nauseating Mixmax branding and an annoying amount of pop-ups encouraging a paid upgrade.

To Mixmax’s defense, their efforts at trying to persuade you to pay for their services are well-intentioned — our team received a demo of the Professional version and were blown away by all the features and integrations. Cue open mouths and fevered Streak users quickly upgrading Mixmax’s hierarchy in Destiny’s Child – sorry Boomerang, you’re Michelle. From unlimited email tracking and basic automation with “send later,” reminders and easy-to-use slash commands to some of the cool-kid factors (undo send, embedded links and polls/surveys), Mixmax provides a variety of tools to make you and your team super productive. Plus, no more “Sent with Mixmax” branding. Score.

 

Pros

The Labs team were hyped by the Google Calendar integration because, as any junior staffer knows, trying to schedule those internal syncs across the calendars of five equally busy people is miserable. The prospect of a “One-Click Meeting” feature had us looking like the Success Kid meme.

Success Baby Meme

Image via Know Your Meme

Also, in an attempt to downplay our creepy excitement over Mixmax’s extensive tracking qualities, the team was happy to learn about live analytics, which ultimately help to provide insights on which subject lines and/or pitches are or aren’t working. The team function also gives account managers the ability to see the team’s outreach and which emails have been read.

Mostly though, Mixmax is just beautiful and easy to use.

In-brief:

  • Very intuitive interface
  • Tracking to the max, e.g. you’d know exactly who opened your email and whether or not they downloaded your PDF
  • Send later feature for easy email scheduling to help with those bi-coastal team communications
  • One-click meetings through Google Calendars
  • The most essential integrations, including ~Giphy~
  • Team Live Feed: shared analytics, messaging templates, and contact lists
  • Polls and surveys for those last-ditch efforts when you need reporter feedback – send a quick “yes, no, maybe so” poll!
  • Emojis.

 

Cons

There weren’t many drawbacks with the paid version of Mixmax, however, in-brief:

  • Mixmax didn’t have as many features as Streak (though, in our humble opinion, this is for the best)
  • Only available on Google Chrome as an extension

 

Highwire Labs’ Take

In case it’s not clear yet, Mixmax Professional was the winner. In a mystical world where time is on the PR pro’s side and we’d have the bandwidth to do a deep dive training on Streak, perhaps it could be a worthwhile decision. But if you want an option that requires minimal onboarding and does what you need it to do, Mixmax is the way to go. It’s an effective email extension that’s easy to install and use, promising better insights into your media outreach and relationships.

 

WINNER: Mixmax Professional

For our next battle of the best tech, Highwire Labs will review influencer marketing tools. In the meantime, let us know if you agree with our analysis on this hotly debated email extension comparison by commenting below or @ing us on social.

 

This post was co-authored by San Francisco account associates Christine Zuniga and Ebolutalese Airewele

Cision vs Muck Rack – Which is the Better Media Database?

Highwire Labs Reviews Next-Generation Media Databases  

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Every good PR person knows that the best path to good media relations is strong personal relationships, but the reality of life and the industry often means we need to look further afield. With this in mind, Highwire Labs began an investigation into the new generation of media databases.

We compared Cision’s new platform C3 against a relative newcomer to the space, Muck Rack. Both have evolved beyond static and faceless lists to include live updates to reporters’ coverage and social feeds, but only one can stand out as the clear choice for the tech-savvy PR pro. Here’s our take.

 

Cision C3

Highwire has been using Cision for years and they have a reputation as the de facto media database for PR professionals; however, it has not been without its frustrations including a poor user interface and slow load time. To be frank, our team did not go into this demo with high expectations. But, we were pleasantly surprised!

Turns out Cision has had quite a facelift. Not only do they offer an improved interface for looking up media contacts, but they have added features like live reporter Twitter feeds, editorial calendar database, automated briefing docs and metrics reporting all within its platform.

Pros

The updated platform has become a “one-stop shop” by allowing you to see recent coverage and Twitter feeds from the reporters within their media profile. Also the integration of the HARO and Editorial Calendars into Cision’s platform makes it easy to check a single location for potential opportunities.

The improved search function allows you to find reporters not just by their stated beat, but by the actual stories they write and conversations they have, making it easier to build a targeted list of the right reporters who will be interested in your topic at hand.

In-brief:

  • Improved user interface to make searching reporters easier and more specific
  • Editorial calendar feature to create edcals within the platform
  • Automated briefing documents for reporters
  • Live reporter twitter feed to see what reporters are covering at a moment’s notice
  • Metric reporting to track client’s share of voice against competitors
  • One platform to handle multiple steps to the PR process

Cons

However, Cision does still have a few drawbacks despite the new improvements. As a legacy platform it has a reputation to overcome amongst journalists. Since much of the contact information and biographical information on the platform is self selected by the journalist, sometimes information is missing or not very detailed. There is also something of a learning curve to figuring how to use all the tools available in this platform to their full potential.

In-brief:

  • Legacy platform with fixed reputation
  • Self-selected information by journalists
  • High learning curve to reach full potential

 

Muck Rack

Muck Rack is a newer tool to the PR database scene. Most PR professionals are familiar with the free version of the tool that provides snippets of a reporter’s coverage, biography and recent articles, but that is just the bare minimum of what the platform can actually do.

Muck Rack prides itself on being a tool for PR pros and journalists alike. PR teams can create media lists, find reporter contact information, build coverage reports and monitor the news, while journalists can build their own portfolio to better represent their coverage area and writing style to PR pros.

Pros

The key benefit of Muck Rack is that it a platform designed to change the way both reporters and PR people look at media databases. By integrating with Twitter and monitoring reporters’ coverage it presents a more complete view of a reporter’s area of interest than traditional databases. And by creating a service that is useful for journalist, it helps change the overall perception and creates an incentive for more maintaining complete and accurate information. It is an innovative approach that is brimming with potential and helped other databases to catch up.

In-brief:

  • Reporter contact information updated in real time
  • Novel approach to collecting reporter information
  • Extensive media list development

Cons

Unfortunately, Muck Rack is mostly potential. The concept of using Twitter and recent coverage to identify relevant reporters for a targeted pitch is enticing but not effective in Muck Rack’s implementation. Also the heavy reliance on Twitter results in inconsistent results for each reporter. Some reporters are more active and descriptive on their social profiles than others meaning that it is possible to miss many relevant reporters who don’t directly Tweet about the topics they cover.

In-brief

  • Less professional user interface
  • Reality of search features does not live up to the full potential
  • Some features are still under development
  • Too heavily reliant on Twitter

 

Highwire Labs’ Take

Our team was impressed with the features and improved functionality with Cision C3—it’s a one stop shop for PR basics. Having a single platform to research reporter contact information in addition to editorial calendars, briefing docs and real time reporter updates streamlines multiple steps of the PR process.

Neither platform has a standardized price publically available, so you’ll have to work with their sales teams to decide what is the better option for your agency from a cost perspective. For, Highwire, Cision turned out to be the more cost effective platform.

WINNER: Cision C3

 

 

Next up, we’re comparing email extensions to better manage our email outreach. Let us know what tech you’d like us to explore next!

 

This post was co-authored by Kelly McDermott, SF-based account associate, and Andrew Erickson, SF-based account associate.

Introducing Highwire Labs: Our Experiments in #PRTech

Highwire Labs PR Technology Reviews

In January 2017, we published a blog on the impact of technology on public relations. In contrast to our friends in marketing, PR has more slowly adopted technology, largely due to the relationship-driven nature of the profession. With that said, advances in machine learning and cloud applications are improving PR technology (#PRTech), and many innovators are entering the market with solutions and platforms designed to simplify the PR pro’s life.

At Highwire PR, we are constantly asking ourselves how we can do our jobs better and improve the effectiveness of PR activity. So we’ve launched a new team – Highwire Labs – with the goal of kicking the tires on these new platforms.

Over the coming months, the new Highwire Labs team will be researching and reviewing the latest PR tech platforms and sharing their findings right here on our blog. The Labs team will compare the top media database platforms, media relationship management and engagement tools, monitoring and measurement solutions, as well as tools such as email tracking technology to provide thoughtful analysis on which platforms are likely to succeed in the fast-paced agency environment.

First up: A media database comparison between Cision and Muckrack.

We’d love to hear from our readers. What technologies are you using to do your job better? What technologies would you like to see reviewed by the Highwire Labs team?