The PR software market has evolved to the point there are more considerations than just the features and functions. That was a key point I tried to impart in a recent presentation (embedded below) at the PR Consultants Group annual meeting (many thanks to Jason Brown).
What I mean by that is most PR software tools on the market will do 80-90% of what you want. In other words, from a features and functions perspective, most of them will get the job done. What things boil down to are how the product works for *you* and the vendor’s corporate characteristics: is the vendor someone you know, like and trust?
Here are some characteristics worth considering:
1. Comprehsensive feature integration
Some of the larger and older vendors have become a patchwork for products sewn together. This is a result of numerous acquisitions over time – that have been stitched together like a digital Frankenstein. You can see this in the web demonstrations, where the presenter has to click around to move through the product.
2. User interface
The user interface makes a big difference: things you can accomplish in 1-2 clicks in one product takes six clicks in another. That doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, but as you use the product more, it adds up to a waste of time.
3. Simplicity of pricing
Many vendors are squirrely with their pricing. When you finally get it, you need a Ph.D. in finance to figure out the costs. Consider simplicity and transparency in pricing are signals of trust.
The sense I’m trying to convey here is whether or not the vendor – and its leadership – are out in the market listening to PR people. You can see and feel this – online, in the news, at events, and in the sales cycle. Some vendors are – by a long shot – more approachable than others.
5. Access to support
Some vendors weave support offerings into their product pricing, so be sure to take a close look at the level of support you will receive. You want to be sure you have access to competent people who can help you with ongoing issues, without a) reading 8,000 irrelevant help files and b) being on hold for 20 minutes.
6. Record of recent innovation
Take a few moments and glance over your favorite vendor’s newsroom. Have they announced any new features you can use over the last year? The best vendors in any market are continuously trying to improve the product first because that drives margins. The flip side is the PR software company focused on margins first, and perhaps invest in product if there’s money left over.
7. Equity ownership drives focus
Equity ownership often drives the company’s personality and focus. I divide equity ownership in PR software into five categories:
- Independently but established vendors
- Publicly traded
- Private equity-owned
- A business unit within a larger company
Each of these categories will face different pressures – because the owners have different goals. In turn, that will affect your experience with the software and the company.
8. Corporate outlook
There’s been a lot of M&A activity in the PR software space of late. Some of these look promising for the market and some of it doesn’t bode well for the market. So, scrutinize all the corporate chest-thumping over the latest deal ask yourself this question: Will me and my team be better off as a result of this transaction?
9. Do they employ a PR person?
I estimate about half of the PR software vendors in our market do not employ a PR person in-house. I don’t know how anyone can design and sell a product to a market they don’t value enough to include on their team. I think that speaks volumes about the company.
Can you imagine one of the following:
- A cybersecurity software company with no one employed in cybersecurity?
- A financial software company with no one employed in finance?
- A marketing automation company without a marketing department?
- A legal technology company without any lawyers on staff?
I think it’s egregious, but I’d like to know how you feel about it. Does this matter to you?
Here’s a copy of the presentation:
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