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PR Tech Briefing: Prezly is CRM for PR that’s Built on an Online Newsroom

PR Tech Briefing Prezly is CRM for PR that’s Built on an Online Newsroom

It’s not the best content or the best contacts that drive success in PR – it’s the connection between the two. So says Jesse Wynants, the founder and CEO of Prezly. The Belgium-based company takes customer relationship management (CRM) approach to PR, and Mr. Wynants says if you don’t have content as part of that CRM, you’re missing a big part of the puzzle.

I had a chance to connect with Mr. Wynants recently and he walked me through his company’s philosophy, product and features. He demonstrated the software and I asked questions – so my observations from this engagement – not a product test – are the source for this PR Tech Briefing.

(click any image for higher resolution)

1) Overview: Manage, Publish and Distribution

Prezly saw that the “press release format was broken” and it got started building online newsrooms. Later that evolved to include email distribution and the analytics that are the basis for CRM.

Grasping this is important to understand the simplicity of Prezly. Many PR pros will cut and paste a document into a CMS to publish a release – and then cut and paste it again (and again) as they pitch it. It’s a repetitive and error-prone process, especially with the formatting issues that materialize across content platforms. With Prezly you eliminate this because you do it all from the same platform.

Today, the company pitches its product in three parts:

  • Managing contacts;
  • Publishing content – what it calls “stories”; and
  • Distribution through email.

There is an analytics layer that runs across all of these that tells you who opened what emails and clicked thru to view what content. The analytics are key to improvement: you begin to better understand what reporters are looking for based on their interaction with your pitches or published content.

2) The Prezly online newsroom.

The newsroom is essentially a separate CMS that integrates with your website. Prezly stores the data on an AWS server but it’s all transparent to site visitors: it looks and feels like your website.

The interface looked to me to be WordPress-esque that’s easy to use (think: WYSIWYG). Some of the important things you can do with the newsroom include:

  • Schedule the time you want a press release to be published;
  • Embed social content or multimedia;
  • Auto-post the announcement on your social channels when it is published;
  • Integrate Google Analytics for measurement.

You can also edit things easily. Maybe you need to fix a typo, but Mr. Wynants floated the idea of adding embedded social content after an announcement is made. He suggested embedding a CEO’s tweet about an announcement, which I thought was a creative idea. However, you could do that with anyone – a customer, analyst influencer, for example.

Agencies can manage the newsrooms for multiple clients with Prezly or corporate communications can opt for their own instance. Prezly says it powers the newsroom for Shopify and Cathay Pacific if you’d like to see real-world examples.

3) Prezly distribution.

Distribution in Prezly is straight-forward. You can use the announcements you’ve already uploaded, and then write a custom note or personalized pitch. You can send these pitches to a list of reporters, or pitch 1:1. Some communicators on Prezly even use this for internal communications.

Prezly provides a range of tags that you can use to segment and filter your contacts, where for example, you can segment a list of reporters interested in financial news vs. product news. As it is with the newsroom, it’s easy to add rich media – embedded social posts, images, or video – to a pitch.

This screenshot is where he added one of my tweets to a hypothetical pitch (first screenshot above).

4) Prezly email integration.

Sometimes PR pros don’t want to use an email system like the one in Prezly to send out pitches, because they want to use their own email. For example, I’m pretty keen on using Microsoft Outlook because I know the program inside and out. I’ve also found in other email systems, both for PR pitches and email marketing, tend to have formatting issues that cause re-work.

To allow customers to do this, but also glean the data needed, Prezly has an (IMAP-based) email integration that works with any email client (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.). It’s not going to read all your emails, as Prezly will only look for the emails that match an address in your Prezly contact list and then log the interaction so you can have a record of this for analysis.

Honestly, this integration made me a little skittish because I’m ultra-paranoid about information security. Mr. Wynants pointed out it’s an optional feature and customers that use it tend to link it up with a dedicated email address that is just used for media relations.

5) Prezly bakes in GDPR compliance.

Prezly does not provide a media database – that is a ready-made list of media contacts. The company is betting that practice will eventually be ruled unlawful in the European Union (and that will be a big hitch for incumbent vendors). This means the contacts you are sending a pitch or press release to in Prezly are the contacts you have made.

Mr. Wynants says you can pitch reporters openly you’ve because there is “legitimate interest” in pitching a story. However, “as a European company, we have GCPR [compliance] baked in.” Prezly includes footers in its email templates for unsubscribing, forms for data requests and linking to a privacy policy. The company also views itself as a “guardian” of compliance so they will reach out to a customer they believe is at risk.

You should, of course, not take any of this as legal advice and check with your own lawyers.

6) Contact management and analytics.

The contact management section, along with the analytics, is the link between content and contacts that drives the company’s thinking. It is, in essence, a CRM style tool for PR to manage media contacts they are building.

On an individual basis, Prezly offers a number of tags you can add to your contacts. As you build your contacts, this will later help you sort them – i.e. legal reporters that cover law firm technology in Chicago, or marketing reporters that cover startups and martech in Boston.

You can add your own notes to a contact record if, for example, you had a phone call with a reporter. If you do earn coverage, you can add a link to the reporter’s profile in your list and also relate that link back to the pitch or press release that initiated the interest. In this way, to start to develop the basis for numbers you might report to a CMO or CCO: x pitches, y contacts and z stories.

Prezly also provides a campaign-style view of the analytics. Here you can see who opened or did not open an email, for example. From here you can easily send a follow-up note to contacts that didn’t open your email and might have missed it. Or perhaps you want to follow up with those that did open the message.

If you have a team, all of this information is visible, so you don’t have two people pitching the same reporter. You can get a sense for who has successfully engaged a reporter previously or obtain an analytical view of your interaction with a reporter.

Prezly automatically calculates an “engagement rating” so you can get a quick take on how engaged reporter has been with your pitches in the past. The engagement rating is a data point to help improve your pitches.

7) Pricing and customers

Prezly offers prospective customers three tiers of pricing: professional, expert and enterprise. Pricing is listed in Euros and at current exchange rates it works out to about $260 per month for the professional edition and $400 for the expert. Both versions provide three users seats, but you need the expert version for all the bells and whistles and white label branding.

Mr. Wynants says Prezly currently has 400 customer accounts, which are comprised of thousands of users. Among its customers are agencies that range from the smaller side with 3-5 employees – all the way up to 120 or more staffers.

For enterprise customers, he says the company’s sweet spot is mid-marketer enterprise and also local offices for global brands. Vertical markets include finance, airlines, gaming, and lifestyle brands, although any vertical market can use the tool.

Competitive products include Prowly and Mynewsdesk.

8) User reviews and community comments.

Prezly currently has 73 reviews on G2 Crowd. The majority of them are 5-star. Here are a few comments stemming from validated reviews given this year:

April 8, 2019:

“It is so much easier to pitch my stories from this program – and therefore I get responses and feedback more quickly What do you dislike?

I had a bit of difficulty understanding how to organize my contacts at first, but I eventually got used to the system.”

February 13, 2019:

“Prezly is a fabulous piece of unit that takes out every one of the agonies of dealing with a conventional PR activity. Managing hello res pictures, joins, recordings, resources and duplicate has never been so natural, both for the PR group and the influencers on the less than desirable end of the discharge. The CRM usefulness likewise implies that monitoring connections is quick and successful.

There’s very little I dislike. Prezly still feels like a startup so might not have all the usefulness of other PR frameworks like Cision or Bullhorn but at the same time it’s 1/tenth of the expense. That, as well as the Prezly group, are open to input and we’ve had incredible reactions to our advancement proposals.”

February 11, 2019:

“I use Prezly to build media kits containing all the assets needed to distribute a press release to media contacts. I also use it in other creative ways: private backgrounding pages, judging guides for awards programs, working pages to share with my team.

The grouping system (segments) and tagging is not intuitive. I’ve had many missteps in trying to get content to particular segments while deselecting individuals.”

9) PR tech assessment.

It’s worthwhile to have a section of your site dedicated to the needs of a reporter. If media relations is getting harder – and it clearly is – then just makes sense to do everything you can to make covering your organization as accessible as possible for a reporter.  And online newsroom is a good way to do it.

While Prezly doesn’t do all of the things some of the larger PR tech vendors do, I think building distribution and CRM for PR on top of the newsroom, the way they have, makes a lot of sense. What Prezly does is bring automation to some of the routine tasks that all you to focus on the relationships.

That focus seems to me, has allowed Prezly to develop a simple but effective approach to building enabling technology for PR.

* * *

You can find more from Prezly by requesting a demonstration here. The company also uses its own software to manage an online newsroom with a category for product updates. The company is on all the major social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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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