One of the most embarrassing freshmen mistakes I made as a new publicist - that mind you I never admitted until now - was the time I emailed an editor a pitch about a client, they emailed back a couple days later saying they weren’t interested in the story as it was, I failed to record either communication, and I re-emailed the exact same (important) editor two days later with the exact same pitch (verbatim) only to receive a curt email back letting me know that she “didn’t like it the first time you sent it and I CERTAINLY don’t like it now”. Ouch. Zing. Blush. I immediately apologized and then worked for a few months after that to be sure I stayed on this editor’s good side (because we really needed her to write about a client) and earn back that relationship.
It feels good to get that one off my chest. It feels even better because I’m hoping you learn from my minor mistake so that you don’t make one similar to it, or even bigger. Whether you are a full time publicist or a DIY PR brand or expert, you are more likely than not sending a lot of pitches out daily or weekly, as that is the nature of the PR game. That said, I can bet you that at least 60% of you are not tracking your activity. What do I mean by this? You are not tracking the pitches you send out, to whom you send them out to, what date you sent them and what their response, and you may not even have created some sort of in-house tracking document to do this in.
I’ve heard all the excuses as to why people don’t do this:
- It messes with the flow of my pitching
- I’m going to do it later tonight/this weekend/at the end of the month
- I have an amazingly great memory
- I check my sent mail to see who I emailed
- I don’t have any idea how to track my pitches
- Why should I track my pitches, I’m not a publicist
To which I answer:
- Yeah, your flow of pitching is also messed with when you can’t remember who you pitched when and you start aggravating reporters
- No you won’t
- Your memory space in your brain should not be full of pitches you can track anyways, you’re a small business owner you have plenty of other things to store in there. And no it isn’t that great.
- What if you lose your sent email? Do you really want to save all your emails that long? Is that really a great use of your time? What if someone else on your team needs to know who emailed that editor?
And then to the final two excuses I happily say:
- I can tell you how
- ANYONE who reaches out to the press and wants to have a successful PR campaign should track their pitches.
Let’s first start with they WHY, why should you track your pitches?
If you’re reading this and doing your own public relations outreach, as I assume many of you are, the buck stops with you. You need to know when you sent out a pitch, who it went to, what they said….You need to know what date you sent out the outreach so that you can measure when you should reach out again. You don’t want to have to dig for this contact’s email address or phone number every other day, so you want it stored somewhere safely. You probably also want to be able to visually shoot down a list of names (organized in a spreadsheet) and quickly see who has not been reached out to recently. All of this can be accomplished by tracking your pitches.
Let’s say you send 20 pitches out a week, and then you ask yourself one night while lying in bed “oh man, the holiday season is around the corner and I really have a great holiday health tip, did I send that to Suzy Snowflake at the Today Show yet?”. You should be able to open your tracking sheet and see, not dig in your brain amongst the mental notes to pay your taxes, make your kids lunches, figure out what you will be for Halloween and of course, figure out not only WHEN you sent it to the Today Show but WHAT you sent to them.
Another why? It’s not all about you. What I mean by this is, even if you are a solo operation at this point, chances are you will have at the very least an intern or assistant working with you at some point, or possibly more paid team members joining you. If you already work in a team of more than one, tracking is imperative. You need to be sure everyone knows who/what the status of all your outreach is. If you are on one of those rare things ‘PRENEURS do called “vacations” and someone on your team wants to send something to Suzy Snowflake that ties to late breaking news, they need to know not only how to contact her (email/phone) but who reached out to her last and what they said. If your team members wants to know whether you sent a sample to Robin Raindrop at O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, they need to be able to glance at a chart and see this, not just guess or try to hunt you down (time is always of the essence in PR).
Finally, you just don’t want to be that person who is rifling through notes/emails/phone records trying to figure out when and what you sent to someone, and you certainly don’t want to be that person repeat pitching the press, and putting a good potential relationship in jeopardy.
So HOW do I track it? (you are probably wondering right now)
I’m hoping the above points have you a bit convinced that you need some sort of tracking system. So how do you do it? Here are my recommendations for an easy solution you can implement this weekend!
Be sure you eliminate any paper tracking, unless it’s just personal notes you want to keep on your desk to glance at and then throw away later. All media outreach tracking should be done somewhere it can be stored on a server, and accessed by all those who may need to see them. I personally am a HUGE fan of Google Documents because they are safely saved “in the cloud”, they can be accessed ANYWHERE in the world where you can go online, you can see who is online with you when you’re on, it saves automatically, it works like an Excel spreadsheet, etc etc. etc. Because you and your team access it online you can always be sure you’re all looking at the same updated version. Should you want to take it with you or use it in a meeting you can always download it and print it out or convert it to Excel or another tracking sheet style on your computer.
If you are a Pro-Tin Shingle member with full access to our business tools, we’ve already made you a sample tracking sheet with categories labeled already that you can download and modify as needed. You can find it in your Templates here in your Member Account Center in your PR Tool Kit.
You should always be sure you have a space for categories including but not limited to the outlet, the contact, your outreach activity and contact information.
When tracking, be sure you not only record what you pitched and when, but WHO pitched it. I even did this when I was one of the only people pitching at my company, as when I began taking on team members I didn’t have to modify the chart, it was already ready to invite them into.
- Don’t wait to track. I can’t lie to you and tell you that on a busy day I don’t send out a series of pitches or get into some long pitch phone calls and fail to write down my outreach immediately, but I REALLY try to. It feels good on my brain, it relieves some of the information in there, it takes me about 10 seconds, and it’s really useful. If you can think of some excuse I haven’t heard yet as to why you aren’t tracking immediately after you pitch (the only ones I accept are those that state you were at a dinner/meeting with them and did not have access to your tracking document) let me know. Otherwise track it. Who wants to be at home tracking 100 pitches on a Friday night when they could have tracked them all along?
If you're reading this on the weekend or at night, I can only hope that amidst all the other items on your never ending entrepreneur’s checklist, you make the time to update the tracking sheet you have or create the one you don’t have and then download into it all that information you’ve been storing in your brain, in old emails, on Post-It’s and so forth. Your brain, your campaign and the press will all thank you!