A short while back I wrote about the new retargeting capability Cision is delivering to PR based on who is reading your coverage. The retargeting builds on the company’s efforts to deliver attribution.
Attribution is the ability to understand who read coverage of your organization by a third party and then took the action you were trying to elicit. In other words, if someone signs up for a newsletter, downloads a white paper, or requests a demo, Cision can attribute the activity to earned media if, in fact, the coverage was the catalyst.
I had a chance to catch up with the product management team working on the Cision Impact product. They provided me with a presentation outlining the product, a web demonstration of the product in action, and answered my questions about it.
That’s the basis for this PR Tech Briefing which provides you with a snapshot of the product.
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1) What is Cision Impact?
How can you tell if your media relations efforts are having an impact? PR measurement has long been the Achilles heel of the industry (PR isn’t alone here as the old saying goes — half of the advertising budget is wasted).
Many PR professionals rely on circulation numbers (impressions) or web traffic estimates to provide some sense of reach. Measuring behavior is harder. Sometimes you can use UTM tags to measure an incremental online action attributable to PR, but truly measuring behavior change (sales, votes, donations) is very difficult. Even surveys don’t really cut it.
This is where Cision Impact can make a difference. The company works with adtech networks to do for media coverage what adtech is doing for advertising. Adtech networks already have tracking mechanisms on major media sites to deliver performance information for advertising hosted there, and Cision works with these companies to do the same thing for coverage.
This provides PR with a few useful measures:
a) A more precise measure of how many people read that coverage;
b) Demographics and firmographics of those readers (the company calls this data Cision Audiences); and
c) Measure online and offline behavior for those readers after they saw your coverage.
Below is a look at an Impact dashboard — detailing those three bullets — using the carmaker Tesla as a demonstration.
The line graph is showing you how many people read your third party coverage, you can see demographic data on the left-hand side, and at the bottom, this is showing you conversions – people that read the article and then took some action – what Cision calls an event – on your website. Cision recommends customers start by tracking five events and can track up to 30 events out of the box. They have one customer with custom work tracking 65.
Below a look at some of the firmographics Cision can provide about readers that saw your coverage. Firmographics are like demographics about businesses.
2) Cision Activation – how the retargeting works.
Cision is working with demand side platforms (DSPs) like MediaMath to allow PR, or more likely their digital marketing peers, to launch retargeting campaigns based on earned media. In other words, all of the information Cision learned about who read that coverage can be used to define a target audience for a paid campaign. The company calls this Cision Activation.
If you’ve ever clicked on an online advertisement for a product that interested you, and then saw more ads for that product everywhere you went online, then you’ve experienced retargeting. The advertiser “retargets” everyone that showed initial interest. That’s what Cision is doing with earned media, except the first “target” is the article and the “retarget” is the paid campaign.
Advertisers believe retargeting is more effective, which makes sense because there was some initial interest. Cision says retargeting advertisements based on earned media audiences in this way is more effective too. During the company’s 2019 Q2 earnings call, CEO Kevin Akeroyd told analysts the product was providing customers with “double-digit performance improvement in that advertising.”
3) You can target the competition’s readers too.
Cision says you can target people who have read coverage of your competitors too. For example, Tesla could launch a retargeting campaign aimed at people who have read coverage about a Toyota Prius for example.
This is an example of what is colloquially referred to as “intent data” in the industry. It’s similar to the sort of thing online review sites are selling. A prospective buyer is showing interest or intent in a rival product and you have the ability to introduce a viable alternative in the exact moment they are in the consideration phase.
4) Why should PR care about advertising?
For the PR professionals that report to the CMO, this move by Cision will probably make a lot of sense. That’s only about one-third of all PR pros (see this survey and this one for data). For this segment, alignment with marketing is critical and Cision acknowledges this is the “sweet spot” for their sales efforts. It’s also the backstory to how Cision got the idea for the retargeting feature.
According to the product management team, one of its corporate PR customers was showing some of the firmographic and demographic data around their earned media coverage to a broader internal team. After seeing it, the digital marketing team asked them if the PR team could furnish an audience for targeted advertising based on who was reading the company’s coverage. The PR team asked Cision if they could help, and that turned into the feature being briefed here today.
PR pros that report to the CEO might be less interested, but I’d challenge that segment of our community to give it some thought. This is because media relations is getting harder (68% of PR pros say so), and both owned media and paid media play a critical role in breaking through the clutter.
To that end, you can use retargeting to pitch earned media as opposed to an advertisement. You could also use it to profile audiences likely to donate, apply for a job (think best places to work articles and awards) or petition or vote.
On our call, Cision suggested a potential use case in crisis communications – target readers of negative coverage with a statement. High risk? Perhaps. But it’s also new and creative thinking in a time when the same old tactics are less and less effective.
5) Cision Impact pricing and customers
Cision hasn’t disclosed how many customers have purchased Cision Impact. On the aforementioned earnings call the CEO said “adoption” was going “very well,” which is a sentiment the product team reflected on this call. At the time of this writing, there are no reviews of Cision Impact on the review site G2.
Pricing for Cision Impact starts at $5,000 per annual subscription, but pricing depends on searches and volume. Most corporate customers can probably get a fairly sophisticated Cision Impact module for around $20-30,000 per year. Truly global brands, with large enterprise deployments, will run upwards of $100,000.
Keep in mind Cision Impact is an add on, so you need to purchase a base subscription in the product first. In addition, since retargeting has a natural marketing application, you might be able to tap your marketing peers (and their much larger budget) for help with your subscription. If the advertising performance, based on earned media, is indeed a double-digit improvement then the business case is straight forward.
6) PR tech assessment
Based on what I’ve seen, this is an opportunity for PR to illustrate the true value they deliver to the business. The attribution to earned media aspects alone has utility – but the ability to capitalize on what you learned about those audiences strikes me as genuinely remarkable.
The challenge for Cision is going to be in educating the PR market. As noted above, there’s probably only about one-third of the PR market – those reporting to the CMO – are going to be receptive for this type of tool (if you are a corporate PR person reporting to a CEO and disagree with that assessment, I’d like to hear from you).
However, the other two-thirds of the PR market should be put on notice. If turn your nose up at this stuff because advertising isn’t your job, then be ready for your digital team, Cision, or both to do an end-run around to the CMO.
Advertising is a valid channel of communication. Using paid media to drive earned media coverage isn’t new. A good print ad in the analog world could drive coverage too. The difference today is you can do it with much better targeting and at scale.
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The Making of Cision: A Brief History of 15 M&A Transactions that Consolidated a Sizable Chunk of the PR Tech Market into One Company
Image credits: All screenshots courtesy of Cision.