Recently, I’ve begun looking more closely at PR technology, companies. This is an effort to illustrate some of the interesting innovations occurring within the PR vendor community – and provide an agnostic source of information on tools and technologies I believe PR professionals should have on their radar.
As such, I had a chance to connect with Sean O’Neal, who is the president at Burlingame, Calif.-based Onclusive, formerly known as AirPR. He took me through a deck explaining the company’s philosophy and approach to PR monitoring and analytics, along with a product demonstration.
It’s important to underscore that this briefing is the primary source of my observations and that I didn’t actually touch the software. That said, I found the company’s product and views to be pretty interesting and here’s what stood out for me:
1) The largest newscrawler of any monitoring service.
The Onclusive newscrawler is at the center of its product. The company claims it has the most expansive newscrawler in its class. To place this in context, the company’s newscrawler has indexed some 5.5 billion articles to date which comes in at about 100 terabytes of storage.
Mr. O’Neal says that works out to about twice as much content swept up by LexisNexis and the Onclusive index is larger than Google News. This is because Onclusive takes broader crawl of the web, which matters to PR because the media landscape has fragmented.
The breadth of the Onclusive newscrawler is what enabled the company to report that the number of tier 3 publications have both grown, and have been publishing more articles on average, even as the volume has dropped in the top two tiers. This is the basis of the company’s 2018 Global Media Report which I summarized here.
Could Google build an index like this? Yes, of course, but Mr. O’Neal says among near-peers, the Onclusive newscrawler is probably 6-8 years ahead of the competition. The video embedded nearby is a snapshot in time that gives you a sense for the rate of indexing by the Onclusive newscrawler.
2) Classic monitoring with social engagement metrics.
The newscrawler is what is able to find your news and render the searches and mentions you’ve established in a dashboard. Onclusive covers all of the basics you’d expect – mention counts, share of voice and sentiment analysis provided by natural language processing (NLP).
One of the things I like about the dashboard is the social engagement metrics tile. If you or your brand earn coverage, this tile is calculating the social shares around that particular piece. I’ve seen (and use) other tools that will calculate this for you on a per-link basis, so the aggregate presented by Onclusive saves some leg work.
I’ve highlighted this tile in red on the dashboard screenshot below.
(click any image for higher resolution)
3) Measuring the influence of coverage.
This is where the product demonstration got more interesting, in my opinion. Share of voice has become something of a pseudo industry standard – it’s the ability to compare volume and sentiment to that of your competitors.
One of the big problems with share of voice is that it doesn’t account for factors like quality of the publication and prominence of the coverage. How do you compare a brief mention in a top tier business publication to a product review in a blog?
Onclusive is trying to tackle this problem with what it calls the “Power of Voice” – a concept the company has trademarked (you can run a basic search on the USPTO website to find it). The idea is to add a weighted average of those missing to the share of voice benchmark. For example, the company uses domain authority (DA) through an integration from Moz, which serves as a reasonable proxy for the quality of the publication.
DA is just one factor in the equation. The weighted average takes into account the following:
- Relevance of the article to the brand (feature vs. mention);
- Reputation of the publication (domain authority);
- Social engagement and amplification; and
- Sentiment analysis.
You can view this measure in a couple of different ways – and the charts allow for you to drill down and take a look at the underlying coverage.
The pie chart provides an aggregate view:
The bar chart provides a monthly comparison which I think helps you get focused on the events that tip the share of voice balance in your favor:
4) Giving PR the capacity for marketing attribution.
If the novel approach Onclusive takes to share of voice was interesting, the section on attribution sealed it in my mind. This is the really good stuff.
Research shows that referral traffic from earned media outperforms other sources of traffic by quality factors. Yet that only works if coverage includes a link to your website and even when it does, there may not be a direct correlation.
For example, if someone reads a product review about your product in a third-party blog, closes the article and then visits your company website the next day, how would you know? The simple answer is that you wouldn’t…except Onclusive is able to tell you that with the help of some partnerships and artificial intelligence.
I’m not aware of a term for that effect – people that visit your site after reading an article about you but don’t travel directly from that article – so let’s call it “invisible referrals.” Onclusive makes these invisible referrals – visible. They call it “PR attribution” a phrase which the company has also trademarked.
At one point in the demonstration of live data from Onclusive, Mr. O’Neal showed me a chart where these invisible visitors accounted for two-thirds of the total referrals. This is traffic for which PR has never gotten credit. It’s the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ were the vast majority of the ice mass exists below the waterline and out of site.
More importantly, you can see follow on actions all the way through to a web site goal or event such as registration, downloads and demo requests, for example. A good marketing or sales operations team would be able to, over time, attribute sales to PR or at least give partial credit under a multi-touch attribution model.
In theory, this concept could definitively end the debate over PR measurement, at least from a marketing perspective.
How does Onclusive make this connection? Well, that’s understandably a company secret. However, I asked Mr. O’Neal if they were marrying and correlating two sets of analytics – those from the publication with those on your website – and making that determination.
“That’s essentially what it is,” he said.
Below is a screenshot of what that attribution to PR looks like at an overview. Note the weekly website engagement that correlated to media coverage.
Here’s what that looks like in the detailed view. Note on the bottom right, you can see what follow on actions visitors took including other page views – like case studies – and signups (registrations).
5) Turning Ozmotik into PR distribution.
Onclusive recently acquired a company called Ozmotik and promises to provide new distribution capabilities. Don’t think of it as press release distribution – that’s not what this is – instead think about distribution earned media. Onclusive can already show you what earned media is delivering the best results for the business – the Ozmotik technology is a chance to amplify that across a network.
From my perspective this works something like Outbrain or Taboola – except those are advertising distribution networks – and this focuses on third-party coverage. I’ve long found that putting a little paid social spend behind earned media after it’s run its organic shelf life is a smart way for PR to punch above its weight class. What Onclusive is trying to do here, is taking that to the next level.
There’s an ethical consideration here because any PR pro knows, this will drive traffic to that media coverage, which will be noticeable to a reporter’s publisher. Is that relationship building? Smart PR? Or does this dip into slimy-PR-territory? For now, I find it hard to blame a PR pro for wanting more people to read a good piece of coverage. To that end, who is to blame for crooked nails – the hammer or the person wielding it?
6) Onclusive pricing – what does it cost?
Onclusive declined to provide pricing, other than to say it’s a software-as-a-service (SaaS) style subscription with terms that last from one to five years. The model is based on a range of the content indexed, so if you get to that stage in negotiation, you should strive to explicitly nail down the bracket.
Agreeing to a bracket gives enterprise customers some predictability in pricing, where otherwise, an airline, for example, can really see a price spike for having a plane stuck on the tarmac and seeing coverage explode (true story).
According to the Onclusive terms and conditions posted online:
“Company shall pay AirPR the amounts and in accordance with the payment terms specified on the Order Form. Fees for AirPR Monitoring functionality is determined by the volume of monitoring data and attribution data which is made available to Company. Unless otherwise specified in an Order Form, AirPR monitoring data will cover two (2) months of historical coverage. If Company’s use of the Services exceeds the usage or service capacity limits set forth in the Order Form or otherwise requires the payment of additional fees (per the terms of this Agreement), Company shall be billed for such usage and Company agrees to pay the additional fees in the manner provided herein.”
Of course, no vendor can keep pricing a total secret in the digital age, so I dug around on the web and here’s what I found:
- Onclusive ranks in the 88th percentile for the “PR Analytics” category on G2 Crowd;
- An anonymous reviewer on Software Advice called it “ultra-premium pricing” and the company asks for “for really high fees (many thousands/month)” in April 2018; and
- In 2013, the company provided DM News a pricing range of $1,000 to $100,000.
I’ll update this section as I learn more.
It’s important for prospects and customers to know the company is venture-backed. As a startup, it has raised $21.4 million in venture capital, in four rounds of funding since 2012, according to Crunchbase.
7) User reviews and community comments.
In sifting through some of the online commentaries about the product, here are a few from validated users on G2 Crowd that might be useful for those considering the product:
“AirPR has many strengths, but the one thing it can do that beats the competition is to discern what is a real news article vs. what is a random mention on the Internet / not true press coverage…AirPR’s reporting UX could be improved – it’s not very flexible and the drop-down filters aren’t very intuitive when you’re trying to arrive at the right graph.”
“Quite interesting Power of Voice metric to complement Share of voice. Competitor tracking (made easy)! UI getting better. Platform availability high. Customer success team is responsive and very nice…The broadcast monitoring is done in partnership with another company and could really be improved.”
“The service from the team is outstanding…Over the past few months based on feedback, AIR PR made some changes to how the report module presents data. As both an owner of a comms agency and the senior comms lead to a hot startup what I saw was a sacrifice that leads to “make it easier to show how good of a job was being done” vs. what was executive level understanding of what was being accomplished in a quick snapshot. The data is still there, it’s just harder to present.”
At the time of this writing, there are 47 comments on G2 crowd, which was far more than any other review site. Most of the comments were overwhelmingly positive. The company also has several customer testimonials posted to it’s YouTube channel and case studies on its website.
8) PR tech brief assessment.
Onclusive looks to be an interesting product that merits consideration from large brands and in-house teams with high volumes of coverage. The tool shows promise for making a difference in your tracking and reporting — which also feeds back into your strategy. That said, you have be at a certain threshold before it makes sense: the cost will be too prohibitive and the data too thin for smaller teams and even many mid-market companies.
The notion of “Power of Voice” is interesting and would appeal to executive leaders. Benchmarking yourself against the competition is a good way to vie for budget with the CFO as well. This view of share of voice enables you to go to the CFO and say, “Here’s where the competition is, and here’s where we are. If we want to close the delta, we need to do x, y, and z and it will cost w dollars.”
The attribution piece is something I’m very optimistic about. There are other vendors vying to do this sort of thing and some competition in the space will drive improvements for the PR community as a whole. For those PR pros that report to marketing – which is about one-third of in-house communicators (see this and this) – attribution is gold. I’m pretty sure it will resonate with the CEO too.
Finally, I think what Onclusive is attempting to do with Ozmotik is unique among vendors. It’s fresh thinking the PR community needs. It puts another tool in the PR tool kit, at the lines between marketing and PR continue to blur.
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Note: If you are a PR contact for any vendor in the PR space, I’d encourage you to reach out to me and make an introduction. Also, please read the Pitches! Read Me! section of the site – it spells out the opportunities for vendors.
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The Top 10 PR Tech Vendors by Familiarity and Favorability
Image credits: Onclusive