When you’re in the business of public relations, organization can mean the difference between sinking and swimming. Can you do your job without being organized? Sure. Can you do your job well? Perhaps. Would you do a better job if your team were more organized? Absolutely.
Think of everything that has to occur on a daily basis. Aside from the actual work you’re trying to get done – pitching, media relations management, building strategies -- time is lost searching for misplaced files, fishing through old emails for bits of information, and switching between a myriad of different systems and spreadsheets to gather the information you seek. This may not seem like “disorganization” because you’re used to it, but if it leads to missed deadlines and costly mistakes, it’s the very definition of it.
Here are three tips to better organize your PR business right away.
Keep your systems current.
Make sure your team is keeping your systems up to date, whether this means spreadsheets or a PR software tool like IrisPR.
The latter is much easier to maintain than the former, but if you insist on running your PR operations out of spreadsheets, please do yourself the favor of keeping the information in them current. Hold your entire PR team accountable for keeping things updated at least weekly, and preferably in as close to real-time as possible. This is the only way to survive using spreadsheets. Otherwise, imagine the embarrassment when you tell your boss an article hasn't run yet - and he knows it ran two days ago. Or when another client calls asking for feedback and results-to-date on a specific campaign, and all you can tell her is, “I don’t know - I’ll have to get back to you" because her account executive is unavailable.
We hate to state the obvious, but spreadsheets really aren't an effective PR tool for any team. From using media relations software to measuring PR, today's public relations team is expected to use the best PR software out there to ensure the most efficient processes and detailed reports. Use old systems and outdated information and your clients will sense a drop in service.
Ease up on meetings.
A meeting should only be held when you need to meet a specific objective that involves input from the team. Meetings that occur to just tick off a checklist or discuss something that can be managed with a simple email or phone call only interrupt an organized workflow and zap your team’s productivity. They also usually involve a fair amount of administrative work: checking calendars, rescheduling, tracking down whoever missed the meeting and giving them an update and so on.
Instead consider adopting a tool like Slack which can be used to hold quick group discussions, exchange files and answer questions without asking anyone to stop working for an hour. Also consider doing what IrisPR and a lot of other startups do: hold 5-minute huddles where the team shares updates and challenges, then gets back to work. Everyone stays updated on major developments and asks for the help they need, without the chit-chat and tangential discussions that tend to happen in an hour-long meeting. By cutting down on formal meetings, you'll give your colleagues more time to dive deep into strategy and focus on their projects.
Simplify your spreadsheets.
If you insist on using spreadsheets (yes, we at IrisPR feel strongly against this for obvious reasons), then at least don’t inflict “death by spreadsheet” on your teams and clients. 20 tabs and 1000 rows per initiative does not an organized system make - it’s just plain awful. Break up your overloaded spreadsheets into smaller, easier-to-consume spreadsheets. Include links to where information can be found instead of trying to cram it all into one cell. And PLEASE consider eliminating spreadsheets when it comes to managing opportunities that have hard and fast deadlines. Unless a dedicated team member is watching these things like a hawk, you're guaranteed to miss those important dates. Again, nothing makes you look more amateur than missing the deadline for a top industry award application or speaking engagement.
The PR business is sophisticated and complex, with days that can take a turn for the unpredictable. Practice better organization and you'll tame the chaos and be better prepared for any urgent client situations that do arise. As the saying goes, it's the small habits that create big success - and by adopting a few simple steps, your PR team can achieve better productivity with less stress. Happy organizing!