Muck Rack is a PR technology platform that helps PR find relevant media contacts, facilitates PR pitching and provides media monitoring
The big players in PR technology have largely achieved their growth through mergers and acquisitions (example). M&A is a way to accelerate growth but integrating two or more technologies after a deal is done, is a challenging task. The final result doesn’t always work as smoothly as intended.
That gets to the heart of the Muck Rack value proposition: every product the company has brought to market has been of their own making and is a natural extension of the existing platform. In other words, it’s an organic all-in-one tool; the HubSpot of PR, or so to speak.
That’s a message I heard over and over again on a call earlier this month with CEO Gregory Galant and Vanessa Hannay who leads customer success for the company. The pair provided an overview of the company and a web demonstration of the product which is the basis for this PR tech briefing.
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1. Muck Rack background and overview
Muck Rack got started largely as an experiment in 2009. Social media was still relatively new back then, and Muck Rack began as a place for reporters to find each other.
It aggregated comments from journalists into a single feed – made possible by a technology the company would license – and became like a “Who’s Who” guide for media movers and shakers. The screenshot nearby is of the Muck Rack site in 2009 (via Wayback Machine) and shows Kara Swisher tweeting a WSJ story about the new MySpace CEO.
This origin story is important to the company’s evolution. Nobody watches the media like the media, and Muck Rack grew up facilitating media watching. It endeared the brand name to a generation of reporters, who like the rest of us at the time, were trying to figure out social media.
The news media wasn’t the only audience to notice Muck Rack. The company kept hearing from PR people that they were using the site to identify and pitch media. In 2011, the company set out to make PR the business model, though it still provides tools and resources to journalists.
The company is entirely bootstrapped and has never taken a round of funding. Today it has “hundreds” of employees, “thousands” of customers, and Mr. Galant told me he’s focused on “sustainable” growth. He seems to have little appetite for fundraising or deal-making and said he’s declined suitors – activities that would detract from his focus on customer service.
2. A product overview of Muck Rack
The Muck Rack product provides three fundamental functions:
- Helps you find relevant reporters
- Offers a way to pitch in-platform; and
- It provides media monitoring and coverage reporting.
3. Finding media contacts in Muck Rack
In the demo for this briefing, the company played the role of a PR director for Taco Bell getting ready to launch a new vegetarian taco. They began by searching for contacts that had written about vegetarian and related foods. As the search progressed, the searcher added terms and applied an array of filters to refine the results.
This is an important point that sets the stage for how the product and workflow is designed: Instead of searching through a list of 500 reporters that cover “food” and blasting out an email – Muck Rack starts with a focused search of coverage that produces a list of reporters.
From here, you can create an alert for reporters that write about your refined search results. Or add them to a media list and start pitching.
If you save an alert, the system will continue to monitor news about that topic over time and even produce some metrics, like share-of-voice. A limited version of this is available as Muck Rack Trends. You can experiment with it for free – and without signing up for anything.
Muck Rack just launched a “job update” feature that will alert you when a reporter on your list changes beats or publications. Having up-to-date media information is a key benefit. The company says it uses a variety of technology tools to detect media changes, but that every change is hand-reviewed before it takes effect in the system.
It’s worth mentioning here, you can add custom information and contacts. If you have a reporter’s cell phone number, for example, you can enter it here and keep it private. Alternatively, you might work in a niche where a small newsletter isn’t in the system, but the editor is important to you – and you can add those contacts to a custom contact list.
If you have multiple users in your Muck Rack account, that media list is shared across your account. Any outreach activity related to a contact on your list is compiled into an activity stream, so the team has an awareness of who is reaching out to who. In a sense, it’s like a knowledge management tool.
A related feature is the “relationship owner” designation. If you work for a big agency or even a large corporate communications shop, you can designate one person as a relationship owner so that pitches are filtered through that person. This keeps your organization from piling on a reporter’s inbox.
4. Media outreach in Muck Rack
When you’re ready to start your pitch, the platform provides a WYSIWYG editor that works like any conventional CMS or email marketing tool. You can add links, images and attachments as you deem fit for your pitch – or preview your message or send the all-important test email to yourself.
It also gives you an easy way to personalize pitches for key contacts before they go out. This is a handy way to change the intro to explain why your pitch is relevant for any given contact.
When you are ready to hit send, you can have your pitch go out immediately, or schedule it to go out at a specific time. Muck Rack will track opens and clicks, so you can see which pitches are actually reaching the intended recipient.
It will also show you warnings – such as when the system thinks your pitches are too long or too short – or if you haven’t personalized your messages. It makes these suggestions based on what journalists tell Muck Rack in the company’s annual survey of reporters.
It’s an interesting way to tie a survey, back into the product, in an effort to drive responsible PR pitching. The company also offers a “certification” through a free online course on media relations fundamentals.
5. Media monitoring in Muck Rack
After you send your pitch, and as an ongoing matter, you’ll want to monitor for coverage. The company has its own crawler and indexes 60,000 searchable media outlets. The system will flag mentions for the search terms you have set up and display them in an interactive dashboard.
The coverage reports and monitoring provide the basics most media monitoring tools offer like coverage over time, sentiment, and share-of-voice. It pulls in site visitor estimates from SimilarWeb, which gives you a sense for a publication’s popularity – and it also pulls in domain authority from Moz.
It also pulls in engagement with an article, like social shares, and uniquely, social shares from journalists. For example, if a reporter shared an article about your company that they didn’t write, you’d probably want to know that. In a click or two, you can drill down into the reporter’s profile and the context in which they shared an article. Check out their free tool: Who Shared My Link?
As mentioned, the charts are interactive so you can drill down to a list view and sort the data as you’d like. You can also export the results into a variety of formats easily.
Finally, you can pull coverage together using the “newsletter” feature so you can share coverage results with clients or an executive team. It allows you to build a template that you can reuse and provides some drag-and-drop functionality should you want to reorder the items included before you send it out. The newsletter function works just like the WYSIWYG editor for pitching.
6. Muck Rack pricing and customers
Muck Rack doesn’t disclose pricing. You have to talk to a salesperson to get it. The company declined to answer my question about pricing in an email. However, nothing is truly a secret in the digital age and so I’ve made an effort to fill in the gaps to the best of my knowledge.
A competitive product called Prowly has a comparison PPC ad running (presently) that suggests Muck Rack starts at $5,000 per year (see screenshot). Muck Rack confirmed in an email it requires a lump sum annual payment and is disinclined to offer a monthly subscription-style payment option.
I’ve had a few conversations with people knowledgeable about Muck Rack pricing too. From what I can gather, $5k gets you one license with access to media contacts, outreach features and media monitoring.
If you have multiple users, the cost obviously goes up on a per license basis. With many software companies, there is room for negotiation if you are buying multiple user seats; that’s likely true here. One customer indicated that Muck Rack came back at a lower price point in exchange for a multi-year agreement paid in a lump sum each year.
In terms of customers, Mr. Galant said the company has “thousands” of customers but would not specify whether that meant 1,001 or 3,000 when pressed; a luxury of being privately held he noted. He did say the majority of Muck Rack customers are on the in-house side, however, the company has signed “every major agency” too. He noted one customer has 1,000 users on the account – the company’s biggest software deployment.
Customers do seem to be happy with the product. I looked at Muck Rack reviews on Capterra and G2. One customer called it “pricey” but otherwise gave a good review. And there are many good reviews of the product, and that sentiment was also reflected in the conversations I had with customers. Muck Rack has earned 4.3 out of 5 stars on G2, which is, at the time of this writing, empirically better than competing products.
Although Muck Rack doesn’t make money from journalists, Mr. Galant says the company strives to treat them like customers as well. That’s an area where Mr. Galant thinks some of the other platforms have taken a “wrong turn.” I do see many reporters claim their profiles on Muck Rack and use the link as a portfolio of sorts, which is reminiscent of how it originally got started.
7. PR tech assessment
It was clear to me the strength Muck Rack brings is in its contacts. It focused on helping you identify the right contacts and gives you the context and history to tailor your pitches.
The knowledge management aspects also stood out for me. The activity stream struck me as having a social media-esque feel to it that facilitates the flow of information. I can envision account holders one day being able to comment on activity – i.e. “hey, how well do know that reporter?”
The product integration – all-in-one – is also a strength. All of the features are all part of the same product, rather than a product that was “stitched” together. I could see this in the way the product demo flowed from searching for contacts to pitching to monitoring.
Some of this is a tribute to the skill of the presenter. However, a lot of times when I take these demos, the solution provider will cover one area, and then close it out to cover the next. It’s almost like even the solution providers think of their features as separate products, where Muck Rack does not.
The media monitoring covers the basic – the company has no plans to add earned media attribution – but the basics are probably enough for most PR professionals. Some of the larger platforms certainly have bigger crawlers, or more content partnerships, but this comes with a cost too – both in money and noise in the system. It offers broadcast monitoirng too, through a partnership with TVEyes and at an additional cost.
If you’re coming up on renewal, or in the market for a PR tech tool, Muck Rack deserves a spot on your shortlist.
More PR tech briefings and reviews
Be sure to check out these other briefings and product reviews as you consider your options:
- Notified by Intrado is a Promising PR Software Tool that Supports 5 Central Duties in Public Relations [PR Tech Briefing]
- The Updated Media Monitoring Module by Agility PR Solutions is a Solid Tool for the Price Point [Product Review]
- How Cision Impact is Bringing Earned Media Attribution and Retargeting to Public Relations [PR Tech Briefing]
- Onclusive Provides PR with Attribution Capabilities and Promises Novel Approach to Distribution [PR Tech Briefing]
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