Earlier this year I started tracking some of the PR tech vendors and summarizing news from the community here once a month. As I wrapped up the writing on this post, I figured I had done three of these so far but surprised myself when I realized this is the fifth one.
Where does the time go?
All of these posts are neatly organized under a tag called PR Tech Sum. This post lists the 30 or so vendors I’m tracking, and how and why I got started on this project. In addition, this section lays all the opportunities for vendors who aren’t on the list but would like to be added. To that end, I’ve enjoyed doing this, and I’ve had a lot of great calls with some really smart people behind these companies since.
A quick note before we get started on the summary this month: I have one free complimentary pass to the Earned Media Mastery online summit that Agility PR Solutions hosted. I’d like to give it away to a young PR professional, or a student.
All the sessions were recorded, including the panel I participated on for media relations. There are many sessions and I’m going to watch as many of these as I can too!
And now, here’s this month’s PR technology summary…
1) Israeli vendor builds CRM tool for PR
PR Week published a story about a new vendor out of Tel Aviv that’s has launched what it pitches as a CRM for PR. Lots of vendors have media databases, but most of these are really just glorified spreadsheets, this company, called Propel, seems to be applying some genuine analytics:
“Propel allows users to map out reporters the agency has pitched, who in the agency has received the most responses from a reporter and which 15 reporters an agency is pitching most frequently.
The tool also breaks down the pitching activity of each team member, including metrics for open, response and coverage rates.”
That sounded useful so I took a look at the company’s product description on their website and several things stood out:
- Integration with your email client – Outlook or Gmail – which sounds fantastic. Most PR vendors try to serve as an email marketing tool, and they do a clunky job. This seems to give you access to your media list right from an email.
- Testing features – A/B testing – to assist in seeing which pitches are performing. If you lead a team, you can see who is performing well.
- Analytics – open rates and response rates – which is useful to know if a reporter even saw your pitch.
Propel says it’s using machine learning to develop better insights. That’s interesting because too many PR vendors focus their tools on sending lots of emails when really it just takes one email to the right person. To that end, I’d like to see a tool that analyzes coverage and helps introduce me to reporters I hadn’t considered.
PR Week reports the company was founded in 2017, has raised a little over a million in funding and has 22 customers. The PR Week story is the only information about the product launch that seemed to be available – there was no announcement that I saw.
2) Burton-Taylor offers a mixed assessment on PR tech M&A
Consulting firm Burton-Taylor announced a new report on 100 M&A transactions in the PR tech space over the last decade. The key findings? Sometimes these acquisitions work out and sometimes they don’t:
“Our research shows that total acquisition spend during the current round of industry consolidation adds up to several billion dollars, but the level of M&A investment varies dramatically by company. Outcomes also vary hugely, with some acquisitions leading to dramatic growth, while others we’ve looked at have resulted in significant revenue declines or even the closing down of businesses.”
That quote comes from a press release about the report which pitches a sample. I signed up for the sample, but it didn’t have much in it and full report costs $2,800. However, Sean Czarnecki published an informative write up on the report. Some of the findings he wrote about center on Cision and Meltwater, both of which have made numerous acquisitions.
Here’s what he tells us about the Cision deals:
“Cision and its majority owner, private equity firm GTCR, have poured more than $2.25 billion into M&A activity. That sum includes $2 billion paid up front in cash, $241.5 million paid in stock and $15.9 million of deferred and contingent consideration payable mainly in cash…”
And here’s the Meltwater deals:
“Meltwater’s total costs around acquisitions since 2016 could total $69.8 million, which consists of $47.3 million in cash, $13.5 million in stock and $9.7 million of deferred or contingent consideration.”
He also dug out details on a Meltwater recapitalization, which is often a transaction where a PE firm acquires a company’s assets and adds a little bit of capital for growth:
“The Burton-Taylor report also dove into Meltwater’s $175 million recapitalization deal with Visa Credit Partners, the credit-lending arm of Vista Equity Partners. That recapitalization consisted of a $175 million note payable, due in February 2024, with interest rate alternatives of Prime Rate plus 8.5% per year and LIBOR plus 9.5%, the report said.”
Previously, I took a close look at the 15 M&A deals that made Cision what it is today – and laid this out in an easy to read timeline. More recently, I had an interesting call with Meltwater and may do the same for all their transactions in the near future.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Burton Taylor published a study earlier this year that estimated the market for PR software at about $4 billion.
3) What the Cision and Edelman partnership means
Cision announced an arrangement with Edelman, which gives the large independent firm exclusive access to Cision data for understanding the effects of media coverage – earned media attribution.
From the press release:
“This new partnership gives Edelman exclusive agency access to Cision ID’s over 5,000 demographic and firmographic attributes, above and beyond Cision’s existing Impact and Audiences data that is generally available in the market, allowing for rich insights into the performance and profile of earned-media audiences. Edelman will be able to look across the full set of anonymized Cision ID data to benchmark industry-level insights and analyses for clients. Edelman will be the first agency to cross-reference earned audiences with Cision’s 925+ million influencer profiles for targeted ongoing engagement. Edelman will also extract performance data for use in media mix modeling, multi-channel attribution or data visualization.”
“Marketers can now have access to an entirely new audience – individuals who saw earned media coverage on a given topic. These audiences can be integrated into the marketing funnel and activated via retargeting, etc…Marketers can map these earned audiences to attribution or mix models to track the value, loyalty, engagement, etc. of individuals exposed to earned media. This means they can measure earned the same way they do paid or owned, and make more fully informed investment mix decisions.”
In other words, when someone visits your website from paid media, the marketing folks had a pretty good idea who they are and can track them through the funnel. But traditionally when someone read a piece of coverage, PR had no idea if they later visited your website or took some sort of action. The section on Cision from my last PR Tech Sum will give you a better idea about how the company is able to provide that attribution.
It’s curious to me that Cision would enter an arrangement like this with Edelman, because ostensibly, it excludes potential customers in other large agencies. That said, in-house PR teams probably spend more money on software than agencies do, so teaming up with Edelman is a way to educate the market about attribution.
4) Revenue inches up, profit slides: Cision Q2 2019 earnings
Cision announced its earnings for the second quarter of 2019 in early August. Financial data published on the press release include:
- Revenue increased 1.6% to $190.5 million;
- Operating income decreased 20.8% to $17.6 million; and
- Net loss was $7.8 million versus a prior year net loss of $6.6 million.
And a few of the figures that will be of interest to paying customers:
- Average pro forma subscription customers increased 2.5% to approximately 46,340; and
- Average annualized pro forma revenue per subscription customer, excluding the impact of currency, increased 2.1% to approximately $11,510.
Cision had a better first quarter in 2019 growing both revenue and profit. However, as noted above, the company has swallowed about a dozen companies in M&A transactions in recent years, which it will have to execute on.
5) Onclusive gets a plug from Geoffrey Moore
Have you read the book Crossing the Chasm? It’s a classic must-read among technology types because it’s a road map for bridging the gap between early adopters – and the mainstream market in the early majority.
“What you would like to have is a medium whereby you could combine the credibility and impact of that portion of your earned media that has already demonstrated its ability to cut through the noise with the reach, frequency, and manageability of a digital advertising campaign.
I mention all this because a recent merger in the Mohr Davidow Ventures portfolio has created just such a capability. AirPR, which specializes in assessing the impact of earned media, has joined forces with Ozmotik, which specializes in deploying high-value content following a digital advertising model, to create a new company, Onclusive, which is designed to combine impact, credibility, reach, and frequency, into one integrated campaign management capability.”
That’s a pretty cool mention and if you’d like to learn more about Onclusive, I published a briefing about the product a short while ago.
6) Picks from the PR tech vendor blogs
Every month I peruse the PR tech vendor blogs and picked out a few posts that stand out for me and reference them here. The best way for a vendor to get picked is to have an RSS feed – like this one – and of course, publish content with utility.
Alternatively, if you work for a vendor and have a post that is truly exceptional, feel free to email it to me. I’ve got a soft spot for surveys, studies and data analysis.
“…reporters are 90 percent more likely to open a PR pitch sent between 12-1 PM rather than 9-10 AM. The second most effective hour to pitch is 6-7 PM, when pitches are 40 percent more likely to be opened than those sent between 9-10 AM. The findings shatter a common misconception that pitching reporters first thing in the morning is a best practice.”
ByteDance is valued at $75 billion and is among the most valuable startups, according to this piece. By comparison, WeWork is valued at $44 billion. Yet ByteDance seems to get surprisingly little coverage:
“Out of over one million articles, ByteDance was mentioned in less than 10% of them, while Airbnb and SpaceX each have more than one-third of the articles talking about them.”
“This means framing your data collection efforts as transparent efforts meant to better understand your customers, rather than calculated efforts designed to earn targeted ad dollars.
To achieve this charge, use social listening tools to gain customer intelligence, but avoid alluding to specifics of your customer data or collection efforts.”
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Do you work for a PR tech vendor and have something to share? In case you missed it, there’s a page that spells it out the opportunities for you.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
3 Studies Demonstrate How Earned Media Drives Behavior and Credibility; Executives that Understand PR Tend to Value it More [UML]
Image credit: UnSplash, Propel, Crossing the Chasm (1991), page 17.