Welcome to the first PR technology summary (PR tech sum) of 2020. For those new to it, the PR tech sum, it’s a monthly roundup of all the news coming from the vendor community that develops and sells PR technology.
I aim to publish it on the first Tuesday of every month. If you’re are PR representative working for a PR technology solution provider, here’s everything you need to know to get in touch.
First, here’s a note for readers:
Ned Lundquist and I have just rolled out the survey for the 3rd Annual Job of the Week (JOTW) Communications Survey. As such, I’ll be sending you a very rare dedicated email inviting you to participate.
The survey has grown substantially over the last two years because we ask important questions that aren’t being examined elsewhere. The 2019 study was viewed nearly 20,000 times, or about a 2x increase from the 2018 edition. This year, the questions are even better, and I’ve looked at the initial results and, all I can say is, I can’t wait to share the final report with you. There’s a PR tech question in there too!
You can find the many posts I’ve written about the data all neatly categorized under this tag: JOTW. If you haven’t signed up for Ned’s JOTW email newsletter, and you are looking for a new job in communications, or have one to fill, you should. It’s free. Sign up here.
And now, here’s this month’s PR technology summary…
1) Security risk and ransomware visits PR software vendors
TVEyes was hit by a ransomware attack last week that crippled its services. According to Catalin Cimpanu, who pens Zero Day for ZDNet, CEO David Ives confirmed the attack “hit core server and engineering workstations inside TVEyes’ network, primarily in the US, but also some systems located abroad.”
According to ZDNet, the TVEyes monitoring system was down for at least two days and Mr. Ives said the company was working on recovery and had no plans to pay the ransom. Mr. Ives also told Alfred Ng, a reporter for CNET, “that it had just restored its servers using company backups.” To be sure, the company responded to my inquiry about service restoration on Twitter:
“Yes, service is restored. Broadcast monitoring, search & alerting are functioning for all US DMAs. We are back-filling data from the outage over the next week. We’ll provide updates as new information becomes available.”
The CNET report indicated the DNC is among the TVEyes customer base. Clearly, it has a lot of broadcast media to monitor, given the Democratic caucuses in Iowa and campaigning in other early-voting states happening this week.
TVEyes wasn’t the only PR software company to feel the pinch of cybersecurity risks recently. A company called iPRsoftware, “exposed data on 477,000 media contacts, including 35,000 hashed user passwords, to the public internet,” according to Greg Otto, the editor-in-chief for CyberScoop.
Mr. Otto reports the company was informed of the exposed data by a security researcher in October of 2019 but didn’t act until late November. He published his article in December, noting, “iPRSoftware did not respond to questions on whether it had informed its clients of the data exposure.”
It’s worth pointing out despite making software for PR pros, enterprises like this are primarily technology companies and not typically PR experts. Even then, they aren’t always receptive to experienced PR counsel.
2) Will the shuttering of Jumpshot affect PR tech?
The free anti-virus company Avast suddenly shut down Jumpshot, a company that aggregated and sold anonymized web data to marketers. The data is seen by some, like Rand Fishkin, as one of the few alternatives to the data that Google and Facebook collect for their own advertising products.
How did it work? Avast is a free anti-virus tool, which in the process of protecting people, collects a ton of information about web usage. Avast realized this data could be aggregated, anonymized and sold to marketing companies and set up Jumpshot as a subsidiary to do just that.
Avast, reportedly, was quite transparent about this with users and provided a double opt-in mechanism, according to Mr. Fishkin. However, some cybersecurity publications examined Jumpshot, found potential flaws that some experts said could lead to personally identifiable information. In response to the breaking crisis, Avast shut down Jumpshot.
What does this have to do with PR technology? It has the potential to interfere with earned media attribution some solution providers have brought to market. In short, if someone reads your news coverage and visits your website 30 days later, these solutions can attribute that visit to earned media. The way some of these tools do this is by matching up cookies – just like many adtech solutions do – through data brokers like Jumpshot.
I have emailed several PR technology vendors and asked about the impact directly – and they all said there did not rely on Jumpshot data.
3) Onclusive improves sentiment analysis
Onclusive released a new sentiment analysis engine that can more accurately characterize the tone of media coverage as positive, neutral or negative. According to an announcement by the company, the toning can be applied to media coverage in three ways:
- Sentiment of a specific article;
- Sentiment for aggregate coverage in a date range; and
- Sentiment of each person, place or thing contained within the context of an article.
In an email exchange with this blog, President Sean O’Neal noted that while Onclusive has previously provided sentiment analysis, the new engine promises better accuracy in interpreting the one and feeling of written content. The analysis also works across a larger number of languages – a number the announcement put at 104 with more in the works.
Sentiment analysis is enabled by natural language processing (NLP), which is a subcategory of artificial intelligence (AI). NLP has been around for a long time, but traditionally, it’s not been very accurate. This is because the written and spoken language is often filled with things like sarcasm and humor that is hard for machines to understand.
Onclusive isn’t the only company to working to improve NLP. Last fall, this column noted Meltwater had set out to improve its own NLP. The company is applying a sentiment to every sentence in an article individually and using that to calculate overall sentiment.
4) Talkwalker releases data visualization tool
Talkwalker announced a data visualization tool called Conversation Clusters. The tool aims to “visualize the context around a topic” so that marketing and PR pros can see “see how a conversation about a topic spreads across digital media.”
The clustering tool uses a machine learning algorithm to analyze a large volume of text and sort the results semantically. The idea being, if there are millions of people talking about a subject on social media, for example, you can’t read every post, but the tool can group what’s being said into major topics so you can identify major topics.
Liesa Opitz provides several use cases for the tool on the Talkwalker blog, including this one for the auto industry (see screenshot below). Some of the conversation segments, like motorsports, are “predictable”, but others, like the “music industry,” are a surprise.
Drilling down into the data reveals there’s a lot of discussion about cars that appear in music videos. That revelation could drive modifications to a marketing strategy for an automaker. In other words, if music videos drive conversations about cars, then perhaps placing your vehicle brand in a music video would foster purchase consideration.
5) Muck Rack rolls out “Google Trends” tool for PR
Muck Rack announced a tool to analyze and compare articles published about companies or search terms. The new tool, called Muck Rack Trends, enables PR pros to search for “two or more topics” and instantly analyze “millions of articles to bring you insights like the number of articles published over time, top media outlets and journalists, share-of-voice and key message pull-through.”
According to a representative for the company, the tool “allows PR pros to understand their company’s performance against competitors or compare any set of terms in seconds” and it’s also a “research tool to discover trends in what the media are covering.”
CEO Greg Galant told PRWeek the new tool is akin to “Google Trends for PR pros.”
6) Burrelles partners with TVEyes
Burrelles announced it has partnered with TVEyes into its media monitoring platform. TVEyes, which bills itself as a search engine for broadcast, provides media monitoring for broadcast media. More recently, TVEyes has added podcasts to the sources of content it monitors.
According to a press release by Burrelles:
“The partnership will enable Burrelles to create a single fast, intuitive global platform with comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of media content from more than 150 countries and territories. The TVEyes platform couples artificial intelligence with industry-leading video search technology to identify and quantify relevant coverage and brand presence across TV, radio and podcast sources.”
Burrelles has been working to modernize both its brand and technology. This announcement characterizes this motion as an “aggressive repositioning within the marketplace.”
7) Meltwater allows reporters to unsubscribe
Meltwater has created a place for reporters and influencers to create profiles in its media database. The company positions the profile access as a way to help boost the relevancy of pitches a reporter receives. There are additional benefits, according to LeighAnne Manwiller, writing for the company’s blog:
“Through various unsubscribe and subscribe options, a journalist with a profile within the Meltwater platform has the ability to control whose pitches they receive. Besides being able to unsubscribe (or subscribe) to all pitches, a journalist can unsubscribe from a specific company that spams them with irrelevant story pitches.”
This is a step in the right direction – and good for Meltwater – but looking across the industry, it doesn’t seem realistic to ask reporters to update their profiles. Why? First, there’s a whole segment of reporters that have no idea such a thing as a media database even exists. Second, those that do would have to do it a dozen times over for every media database. Perhaps all the tech providers could agree on industry tech standards and provide a way for reporters to do it once, and have it pushed to all the databases.
8) Onclusive and Business Wire analyze 15,000 press releases
When is the best time to publish a press release? It’s Tuesday or Friday of course. That’s long been the conventional wisdom in PR. Tuesday gets you out of the shadow of the weekend, and Friday is the best day to bury bad news that you are obligated to disclose.
A report by Onclusive and Business Wire of 15,000 news releases substantiates these beliefs with data:
“…the best days to put out news releases to generate coverage articles are Tuesdays and Fridays. And, although the indexes appear high on Saturdays and Sundays, there is more statistical variance for earned media articles to be accounted for. It is commonly thought that Tuesday is the better day for general releases and Friday works best for stories that are less about hard news because journalists have more time at the end of the week (or during the weekend) to consider such items. Again, the determining factor is likely to be newsworthiness.”
There is nuance worth considering:
“…the most popular time for PR teams to post their news releases is Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. ET, which has more than 2 times the news release volume of any other hour for the rest of the week. Because that time is so popular, it often leads to a release being lost in the crowd; making slight adjustments to send the release at 7:57 or 8:13 (rather than the top of the hour) can help it stand out in the feed.”
The study has a couple of other nuggets too. For example, the average press release gets 23 shares on Twitter and multimedia improves a release’s chances of earning coverage.
Indeed, I’ve observed that multimedia has long been overlooked in press releases. A study by PRWeb in 2010 showed multimedia improved metrics like time-on-page by nearly 30 seconds, which is a lifetime on the web.
9) OnePitch analyzes 1,000 pitches for trends
OnePitch analyzed 1000 pitches sent through its platform and identified the topics journalists responded to the most. A blog post by COO Jered Martin identified the top five including these:
- Product roundups “had the highest response rate of any other topics on OnePitch at nearly 17%.”
- Interviews and speaking opportunities “had the second-highest response rate of any other topics on OnePitch at nearly 16%.”
- New products and services “received the most responses of any other topic on OnePitch and had a response-to-pitch ratio of 12%.” I’d deduce from the post this was the most pitched topic, and so had a higher total number of responses, but ranked third as a percentage.
10) PE firm completes $2.7 billion acquisition of Cision
An affiliate of Platinum Equity announced on Friday, January 31, 2020, that it has completed an acquisition of Cision. The all-cash transaction valued at approximately $2.7 billion. The deal makes Cision a privately held company and shares of its public stock has ceased trading.
The acquisition was announced in October of 2019, though Reuters reported rumors of a deal as far back as March of the same year. Cision too has made a large number of acquisitions in recent years, and industry watchers have suggested the company has struggled to capitalize on those, given the pressure public companies have for profitable growth.
It’s not the first time Cision has been taken private by a private equity (PE) firm. In 2014, the company was acquired by a subsidiary of a PE firm called GTCR. At the time Cision was publicly traded on the Swedish stock exchange and the transaction made it a private company.
GTCR went on to acquire Cision’s largest rival, Vocus and tied the two firms together. In 2017, GCTR would take the combined company public through a “blank check merger.” Critics of blank check mergers say it’s a backdoor to the public markets that avoids the scrutiny Wall Street gives to traditional IPO candidates.
Disclosure: I owned 25 shares of Cision and earned about $80 in short term capital gains from this transaction. My motive for buying the shares was a personal interest in PR technology and to track the company for these writings.
11) Quick hits
- Notified by Intrado has integrated GlobeNewsire into its platform. See this new briefing for a close look at Notified.
- Critical Mention adds YouTube and podcasts to sources monitored.
- Prezly rolled out a feature to upload coverage, such as PDF documents, and link these to media profiles in your account. We published a briefing on Prezly in late 2019.
- Q4, which makes tools for investor relations, is expanding and plans to hire 140 new employees.
- Kinetiq names John Zelenka as Chief Revenue Officer.
12) Picks from the PR tech vendor blog and trade news
Here are a few picks from the vendor blogs. If you are a vendor, the best way to get a link here is to keep your blog up-to-date and maintain an RSS feed (some of you don’t!). You can also email me if a link if you think you have something truly compelling, but read this first, please.
a) Dashboard 25: The people shaping your tech stack via Sean Czarnecki & PRWeek
In which PRWeek “picks the 25 most influential people in communications technology.”
b) Activating Influencers: Using Outside Voices to Amplify Your PR Strategy via Serena Ehrlich & Business Wire
“The workforce offers a considerable range of networks and audiences that traditional distributions may not access. Encourage coworkers and colleagues to promote their work, company initiatives, and brand stories in a way that feels authentic to them. While organizations shouldn’t aim to control the social media habits of their employees, most brands have adopted internal social media guidelines that can grant the communication teams a bit more peace of mind regarding how their messages are being delivered.”
c) The ultimate list of PR statistics in 2020 via Emma Haddad & Muck Rack
Ultimate is a tall order, but it is a list of 35 well-sourced statistics.
d) Fireside Chat on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Communications: A Peek Inside PayPal’s Playbook via Anna Laurila & Meltwater
“Featured in this post are the highlights of a fireside chat between PayPal’s Amanda Coffee, one of PRWeek’s Women to Watch 2019, and Gideon Fidelzeid, managing editor of PRWeek. Coffee manages PayPal’s global corporate media relations as well as executive visibility projects for the CEO and CFO. She also supports programming for 10 social media channels. She shared a number of insights into AI and machine learning that PayPal currently benefits from.”
e) PRM: A Refreshing New Approach to PR Software via Zach Cutler & Propel
“To unify the PR workflow, unlock insights and unleash the full potential of every communications professional, a new category of PR software is emerging: PRM, which stands for Public Relations Management.”
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Image credit: Pixabay and respective vendors