A few months back, Agility PR Solutions announced it updated its media monitoring tool. As I noted then, the company indicated the new software release focused on improving the workflow, search and sharing abilities in the platform.
Since then, the Agility team reached out to me and offered me complimentary access in exchange for product review. All in all, I had access to the platform for about two months and several phone and email exchanges – questions and answers – with both marketing and support representatives.
No money traded hands in the conduct of this review. My reviews are independent. Readers and solution providers can see my the guidelines for reviews along with other opportunities.
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1) Overview and background of Agility PR Solutions
Agility PR Solutions is a subsidiary of Innodata Inc. (NASDAQ: INOD). By all outward appearances, it runs as a distinct business unit. The business was established after Innodata acquired MediaMiser in 2014 for about $5 million. MediaMiser was based in Canada and provided media monitoring tools.
Later, in 2016, the Agility platform was sold to Innodata as part of a ruling by the DoJ, when Cision acquired PR Newswire for $841 million in 2016. Cision kept the press release distribution service, while Innodata, then operating as MediaMiser, got the Agility media database and the media monitoring solution.
Agility was clearly the larger brand, had broader market penetration in the US and Europe and so the company kept the Agility name. Today it offers an integrated suite of SaaS-style products including a media contact database, a media monitoring tool, media monitoring services, and press release distribution through a partnership with Accesswire.
Importantly, this review strictly looks at just the monitoring tool.
2) Setting up media monitoring searches
I set up searches for CrowdStrike, Tenable, and Cybereason for a few reasons. First, all three companies tend to make a lot of news in the cybersecurity space (see an example of creative PR by Cybereason here) and would give me a lot of results to work with. Second, these companies – especially CrowdStrike and Cybereason – have unique brand names, which makes searches easier. Third, I do quite a bit of PR and marketing work in cybersecurity and so I’m familiar with the key issues and trends.
Tenable is a great brand name for a security company, but it also came with a challenge in setting up searches I hadn’t anticipated. The very word – tenable – can trigger search results and false-positive alerts for any news story that contains it. However, this gave me a chance to work with the filters. For example, I applied a filter to change the search results to only those where the “T” in tenable is capitalized. This helped eliminate much of the noise.
I also set up searches on three of my own clients. This was for comparison purposes – to see if the results would be helpful to me as an agency and PR practitioner working hard for clients every day. The Agility platform did show me a couple of pieces of client coverage that other monitoring tools I use had missed.
The set up for searches was straight forward. Agility has taken some of the basic Boolean search operators – AND, OR, NOT – and placed them into a form. This simplifies the keyword set up for novice users. Next, I selected data sources and chose what filters to apply. For example, you can filter the media types, choose sources to include or exclude and select the region and language.
I’m doing branded searches in this review, however, if you were to search for topics, the button that says “find related concepts” will do just what it says. Agility says this feature is powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
Below is a look at the set-up screen:
Once you run the searches, they show results immediately, just like a search engine would. By default, the system pulls results from the last 30 days, but you can adjust this to back as far as 180 days. This process allows you to fine-tune the filters before saving it to run on an ongoing basis.
Any changes or filters you make to your searches are reflected immediately. For example, I ran searches and forgot to remove “press releases” – which generates a lot of noise – and so I went back and edited the search and unchecked the appropriate box.
You also have the ability to apply the analytics to the results in a sidebar. In the screenshot below, you can see charts for:
- coverage over time
- sentiment analysis
- media type breakdown
Here’s a look at the analytics sidebar:
Agility provides a couple of different views here too. Below is a look at a sidebar analysis showing media type, sentiment, estimated reach (as provided by integration with Similar Web), and other metrics:
3) Social media monitoring in Agility
Setting up social media searches works almost the same way but there is an extra step. You must set up a separate “subscription” to social media platforms you want to monitor for with keywords – and then monitor those subscriptions. You can monitor Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Currently, the platform is not capable of monitoring LinkedIn.
I asked Agility about this extra step and Agility says it does it this way to save your account from excess. Social searches can easily overwhelm your storage space and cause the Agility platform to literally monitor for everything, including results you don’t want or need. That’ll add noise to your search results and consumes computing resources for the platform.
When I set up social searches for the companies named above, I started getting automated daily emails almost immediately warning me the account was running out of space. Some of these companies generate a deluge of social media chatter. For example, CrowdStrike has provided non-partisan forensic analysis on a certain email server that’s been wrapped up in controversial US politics. That has resulted in an astronomical number of social media mentions for the company.
4) Folders to organize and store coverage
Folders are one of the new features Agility introduced in this new product release. Agility calls searches “topics” and “folders” are a place to organize and save results that show up in topics. Recall that searches can only go back 180 days. This also applies moving forward. So, if you do not move results in topics to a folder, you will start to lose search results that are older than 180 days unless you move them to a folder.
The company pitches this as a way to organize your monitoring results. In addition, “you can think of this somewhat like custom reporting because you are choosing the mentions that go into your folder, and then that folder is being reflected in the report,” according to a company representative.
5) Analytics and reporting
You can apply reporting and analytics to either topics (searches) or folders. You can set reports up to look at just one company or topic and also to compare results by company or topic.
There are a lot of different charts you can use, which can be overwhelming for some users, so Agility offers a “Quick Report.” The Quick Report slices up the topic results using pre-defined charts. It’s really that easy – you click a button and a report like this is created.
The next few images will show you some of the different charts you can use to analyze the coverage. Below is what a Quick Report the system made for me on CrowdStrike looked like:
You can also do a number of comparisons views. Below is a look that compares the volume of media coverage by company:
Below is a comparison by coverage type. Keep in mind this just shows the breakout of coverage for each company which is normalized by using a percentage. This means while you don’t see differences in volume in this view – 100% of 10 mentions looks the same as 100% of 1,000 mentions in this chart – you do see the difference in where they are getting covered.
Below is a comparison by share of voice:
6) Email notifications of media coverage
You can set up email notifications of new coverage if you wish. This prevents you from having to go into the system and check every time you want to review coverage. There are two basic options here – you can get an alert every time a new mention is found – or created a “daily briefing” that sends a round-up at a scheduled time.
Getting an alert at every mention is fatiguing, so I set up an automated daily briefing. You can customize the look and feel and add other executives to the distribution list. If you wanted to curate this briefing, you can, but it means sending this out manually every day.
It’s worth noting here that Agility offers, “fully managed monitoring and measurement services to clients. This includes custom media monitoring/measurement solutions, a dedicated media analyst who sets up and fine-tunes searches, adds context and sentiment to monitoring results, and curates/sends daily briefings,” according to a representative.
Below is a look at one of the daily email briefings I received on Tenable during this product review:
7) Pricing and customers
Agility offers several different plans with pricing points depending on what you want to monitor. What you monitor and how can be a sizable variable in the total cost for any system. The version to which I had access for this review, was the “Agility Plus” plan, which will run you about $7,800 annually.
The company has 4 out of 5 stars, based on 214 reviews on G2 at the time of this writing. I perused several of these and noted some accolades for customer service and also some squabbles over sales agreements. The company has received favorable reports from G2 and has leveraged these on their website under “How do we compare?”
8) My analysis and suggestions for prospective buyers
My overall impression is that Agility PR is a solid tool if you are looking to cover the basics – especially at the price point the company shared with me. The platform will find coverage you missed in Google, and help you eliminate a lot of the noise that Google sometimes indexes. The automation ought to save you time, but keep in mind, every monitoring system will take fine-tuning to get more of the stuff you want and fewer of the things you don’t.
In my opinion, based on this review, it’s not fancy – you won’t see earned media attribution or retargeting features – but then again, it has all the things 90% of PR pros need in a media monitoring solution. If you’re in the market for a media monitoring solution or considering alternatives when your current contract comes up for renewal, then you should put Agility on your list of products to consider.
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