PR Toolkit: 3 Better-Looking Alternatives to Excel


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Take a deep breath. It’s time. You can do this. After all, in this instance, it’s definitely not you. It’s just….Excel.

Every PR agency’s old ball and chain, the program we all love to hate, is no longer a necessary part of media list management and campaign tracking. So pop the Champagne and tell that green E “It’s time to Upgrade-U.”

And in case you aren’t sure you can actually go through with it – let’s take a quick jaunt down memory lane and remember all the ways Excel lets you down.

10 Things I Hate About You [The Excel Version]

1. Well let me just say it – it’s not the best looking, user-friendly program out there. You can do better, promise.

2. For media tracking purposes it really only serves to collect some pretty basic data – editor name, email address, and the notes section. Manage and quantifying ambassador relationships is beyond it’s intended purpose.

3. You avoided math like the plague for a reason when you chose PR, so why are you all of a sudden swamped with formulas and numbers?  Whomp.

4. It’s not very good at collaboration and communication. All that sharing and sending of files often results in out-dated versions and unnecessary back and forth among team members.

5. Ever try opening up an Excel sheet at the same time as someone else on the same network? Well, Excel was first released in 1985 – and just not one of the trends we want to remember about that decade.

6. There’s just no chemistry between Excel and the Internet. The two are like water and oil; they just don’t mix.

7. If you are using Excel to create a post-pitch recap report or social media report, you are likely to spend as much time creating the report as you did on the project.

8. There’s an “I Hate Excel” Facebook page – with 496 likes – We’re not promoting bandwagoning, but we cannot help but agree with these folks. For more fun, check out what comes up when you search the same term on Tumblr

9. You spend all day copy/pasting, you can’t gain a better understanding of the success of your efforts. And with so much time wasted, there’s little time left to learn from those results and refine your program.

10. Clearly, this relationship deserves an “it’s complicated . . ”

Excel Alternatives for PR Pros

Now that we’ve gotten our Excel frustrations off our chests, let’s consider the alternatives:

We’re on high on Highrise

From the folks at 37Signals, Inc. this CRM tool will keep every PR girl organized and up to date with little added effort on your part. Highrise will import your contacts directly from Excel so don’t worry about unnecessary data-entry just to get up and going. The easy-to-use interface allows you to save notes and email conversations for up to 30,000 customers and contacts. Dates are associated with your every action and notes get stored under your communication history with each contact. In addition to being a rolodex for contacts, you can track “deals” (money-based projects or secured coverage), “cases” (notes, files, images, and people related to a contact or project), and set tasks and reminders for all of the above.

Pros: It’s clean and simplistic design makes it extremely user-friendly, again something those of us without much of a tech background can appreciate.

Cons: What you gain in simplicity you lose in customization. Users can make a few interface changes, i.e. to the color palette or adding a logo. Highrise lives by the quality not quantity motto when it comes to the functions and capabilities it offers users.

Best for: Small companies, counting pennies or those with relatively minor CRM needs.

The deets: The Plus package is the most popular option, for $40/month gives up to 15 users on your team 15 GB of storage and room for 20,000 contacts.  The other packages range from Basic ($24/month; 6 users; 5 GB storage; 5,000 contacts) to Premium ($99/month; 40 users; 30 GB storage; 30,000 contacts.)

May the [Sales] Force Be With You

You may have a client who uses SalesForce to track leads, but this tool has applications for publicists as well. And won’t leave you speaking yoda-like double speak to your team the way that Excel spreadsheet would. Salesforce offers a variety of services, so it can be overwhelming at first glance. Focus your PR girl jedi-mind on the Sales Cloud, which offers an impressive range of capabilities for contact management including social accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), mobile, chatter, and social analytics.

You can establish campaigns and track leads generated by campaigns, forms, imported files, or other channels. You then convert leads into contacts and active accounts when you’ve qualified them. Leads can be directed to a particular user or into a queue accessible by multiple users. Salesforce gives you full control: from establishing campaigns, tracking resulting leads, to converting leads into contacts and active accounts. It’s interface is extremely user friendly and efficient, while also offering a robust range of capabilities.

Pros: With so many capabilities, the The Sales Cloud gives you full CRM control. The user interface is self-explanatory, so you won’t have trouble navigating the numerous options at your fingertips. We’re also big fans of the Chatter function, which let’s you check in with team members about projects and update your status with each step of your work.

Cons: The word is that Sales Cloud works best for companies that have already adopted SalesForce for their business needs. Pricing can also get expensive, at $65/month for a team or group to $125/month for the enterprise option for companies.

Best for: Our con pretty much sums this one up: A larger, agency with money to spend that’s also already comfortable with how SalesForce works.

The deets: Sales Cloud offers a wide variety of pricing options for users ranging from contact managers to companies looking for unlimited functionality. Check them out here.

Tribe Dynamics

We’re pretty excited about what we’ve created for PR professionals and in-house PR departments. We designed our Tribe Arm (Ambassador Relationship Manager) tool with the Excel headache, and your need to quality aesthetics in mind. In addition to being a one-stop-shop to create and run media and social outreach campaigns, we automatically track each mention your brand receives (whether through social media,  a blog hit, digital press hit, etc.).  The idea is that you come up with the brilliant concept, send out your pitches and announcements and then allow our visually appealing Earned Media Timeline show you who, what, and where buzz about your brand is coming from.

Pros: Tribe Dynamics let’s you compare the earned media that your brand is generating against your top three competitors, so you know at all times exactly where you stand in both your customers everys and amongst the competition.

Cons: We hate this part; it’s pretty difficult to say anything bad about yourself. Take a trial run of our service. If you have suggestions we’d love to hear them!

Best for: We seem to have gotten some of our best feedback from PR agencies and folks within the beauty, fashion, and health industries who like our user-friendly and visually appealing Timeline.

The deets: For more information about how Tribe Dynamics can help PR professionals manage and monitor media outreach, visit this exclusive offer for PR Couture readers.

Do you have an Excel frustration? Or a question about media monitoring? Give us a shout @tribedynamics


Christina Goswiller

Christina Goswiller

LA native Christina Goswiller traded palm trees for the Stanford tree, where she studied political science and graduated with honors in 2012. Since her move to San Francisco, she has fallen in love with the entrepreneurial spirit of the startup world. Christina is particularly interested in the growing importance of technology within the fashion industry, which she follow through her work with Tribe Dynamics.