From time to time, I use this blog to evangelize about new products or services I think are cool. I don't get paid to do this, I just want to share the love and make the world a better place (etc. etc.). If it makes your life easier, mission accomplished.
Today, I'm going to say a few words about the "contacts" section of Gmail and the new Google Forms service and how when used together, these two features have the potential to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. That being said, I have a feeling that what I'm about to illustrate is not actually revolutionary and may in fact be painfully obvious and old school. To be honest, my enjoyment of the features may just be that I've never had a contact database that I actually used.
Here's what I'm talking about:
In my line of work (environmental communication) I do a lot of media relations, pitching stories to journalists on various social and environmental issues. To do this, I have historically used various online media contact databases, spreadsheets, email chains, names and numbers scribbled on napkins etc. Essentially I've pulled together pitch lists from a number of disparate sources. NO MORE.
Today, I have close to 7000 media contacts in my Gmail account, searchable by name, position, location, and also divided into regional lists, cities, subject areas, you name it. When I make a new contact with a journalist, I update my database. Gmail contacts, with its ability to import spreadsheets and to then apply powerful search to those contacts, as well as the ability to divide them into convenient, instantly emailable groups, has made my life a whole lot easier.
Coupled with Google forms, the whole Gmail / Google docs suite of products is incredibly powerful for both collecting and organizing information. For someone who HATES spreadsheets, these services have changed my whole attitude about what's possible when it comes to collecting information.
Here's an example:
A while back, I realized there was a need for a comprehensive list of Canadian environmental bloggers - folks who write on the types of stories I pitch. To create this list (largely as a value add to my clients) I hired two students to comb various online blog databases for people writing about the environment. To record the information, I created a simple Google form (Google automatically hosts the form online with its own URL you can refer people to), and included basic questions (name, email, url, subject area etc.).
The beautiful thing about Google forms is that it automatically creates a back-end spreadsheet to store all of the information entered into your form's fields (great for surveys). Once the students were done searching and entering the information, I had over 400 environmental blogger contacts in a nicely organized spreadsheet...what's more, I simply imported the spreadsheet into Gmail contacts and PRESTO! I now have an easily emailable list of environmental bloggers that I can pitch stories to.
Google Forms & Gmail Contacts - check 'em out.