Home > PR > Farewell, Burrelles [PR Tech Sum 56]

Farewell, Burrelles [PR Tech Sum 56]

Burrelles bigs farewell to print media monitoring; PRophet adds Google AI models; Meltwater announces new AI features 

A few days ago, Burrelles ended its print monitoring services. While the company is still technically operating – it’ll monitor bid opportunities – it’s a shell of its former self.

Burrelles was founded in 1888. That’s 136 years ago and about 18 years before Ivy Lee would send the first-ever press release. It’s pretty wild to realize that print monitoring was a thing before press releases. In some sense, this means PR has been measuring, or at least monitoring, its work longer than it has been using one of its preeminent tools.

My first exposure to Burrelles was as a fairly new account executive. I was working for a small DC-based tech agency that had ridden the dot-com trend. We checked websites for media coverage – digital media monitoring like we have today simply didn’t exist.

At the time, not all news that went to print made it online. That meant sometimes we’d get coverage for a client and never know about it. We didn’t know…what we didn’t know.

Then we got acquired by Hill & Knowlton (H&K). Our cultures couldn’t have been more different. From our perspective, we were lean and agile, H&K was stodgy, button-down and slow. However, our new employer did have this pretty cool media monitoring service called Burrelles. The company had a small army of people in Maine that would get up early and read every major newspaper in the U.S. looking for mentions of brands, cutting them out, tagging them and mailing them to clients like our office.

Somehow our tech clients were added to this service, and I started getting these envelopes in the mail. When I opened one up there was a news clip from a newspaper in California that had run a news brief about my client. I couldn’t believe it.

Now, you never sent the original clip to the client. We kept the originals. But there was an art to photocopying those clips.

You wanted clips to be centered on 8”x11” paper and perfectly black and white. That’s so they would fit in the report we’d mail to the client – and a three-ring binder backup we’d keep on a storage shelf. Newspapers are printed on paper of varying shades of gray, so you had to play with the contrast settings on the photocopy machine to get the copies to come out just right.

In an interview when news of this first broke a couple of weeks ago, Burrelles President Cathy Del Colle the company had experienced declining sales in print monitoring for the last 15 years – and in tandem with the newspaper business. In response, I saw a few comments to the effect if there’s any surprise about this end, it’s that it took so long.

Perhaps that’s true. The other announcements in this month’s summary about generative AI draw a clear contrast. Yet it’s still a bit of a shock to us that have been around the PR world for a while, especially since it’s the second significant brand in PR to come to an end so far in 2024. And so as Richard Carufel, the longtime editor of Bulldog Reporter said to me, “Burrelles deserves a royal sendoff.”

Indeed, they do. This is the end of an era. Farewell, Burrelles.

Burrelles reflections

I’ll add links to any reflections on Burrelles I see published here:

And now onward with this month’s PR Tech Sum – a summary of useful news from the vendor community from the last month or so. Here’s the list of companies I’m watching and here’s how to get on my radar if you are a vendor.

(click image for higher resolution)

>>> Need an extra pair of hands? Sword and the Script Media can help with B2B marketing, PR and social media.

1. PRophet adds Google AI models

Stagwell (NASDAQ: STGW), the parent company of the PR technology startup PRophet, has added large language model (LLM) capabilities from Google to a range of products, including PRophet. According to a press release PRophet is among the products in the Stagwell portfolio “now using Vertex AI and Gemini models to provide improved content generation, track trending topics, analyze sentiment, and more.”

Aaron Kwittken, who founded PRophet and was later named CEO of the Stagwell division responsible for the marketing tech portfolio emphasized that this is in addition to the generative AI work it’s done with OpenAI technology – not a replacement.

In a brief email exchange, he also clarified how the Google technology is being used:

“Vertex AI is mainly used for the predictive AI portion, we are still using Open AI for generation. This is our SMC [strategic marketing cloud – the division he leads] value proposition – we are not married to any LLM, we use multiple to achieve the best results for our clients.”

This is the first PR technology company I’m aware of to partner with Google for generative AI.  Almost every other company in the space has built their products on top of technology by OpenAI, which is the company that makes ChatGPT. The sole exception is Agility PR Solutions, which has an LLM it developed on its own.

Agility is a subsidiary of Innodata (NASDAQ: INOD), which, is also leveraging its technology across other subsidiaries. From my perspective, like PRophet and Stagwell, this gives the company economies of scale to enter LLM deals like this that standalone providers will struggle to match.

I also think it’s a significant deal for Google, which has received a lot of criticism for being slow to market with generative AI tools. Many market watchers believe OpenAI and it’s biggest investor Microsoft, caught Google flat-footed when it launched ChatGPT in late 2022.

Generative AI seems to be heating up recently too. For example, Apple is reportedly exploring AI deals with both Facebook owner Meta, and Open AI. It’s worth noting that Apple and Meta have a bitter history over privacy concerns.

All these new industry moves could be good for the PR community in the long run. It’ll prompt both innovation and competition which is generally good for a market.

For those interested, I took a detailed look at the PRophet product about a year ago and wrote it up here: This AI is ‘Taylor’ Made for Media Relations; PRophet Adds Generative AI to PR Software [PR Tech Briefing].

2. Meltwater announces new AI features

Meltwater announced, “Meltwater Copilot App for Teams and extension for Copilot for Microsoft 365.” The extension will let customers query Meltwater data with “conversational language” from within Microsoft Teams.  The announcement says customers will be able to ask about “brand mentions, sentiment analysis, key issues, and competitive benchmarking.”

For example:

“The tool allows users to make a query in natural language directly within Teams and ask questions like – ‘What are the top 5 stories impacting this industry?’ and ‘Tell me the sentiment of those stories.’”

The company says Meltwater Copilot is “available to a limited group of joint Meltwater and Microsoft customers.” Like lawyers, much of the PR community is standardized on Microsoft office productivity tools that are bundled in Microsoft 365.

Meltwater also announced several generative AI-related features, including a “search assistant” that helps customers set up detailed searches without needing to understand Boolean search parameters.

Another “unified assistant” will make recommendations and handle “tasks ranging from writing press releases to creating reports.” I imagine this will be similar to what Meta is doing with Meta AI on Facebook and Instagram – or what Apple is attempting to do with Siri.

A third will summarize the aggregation of mentions the system has collected. If for example, you have an automated newsletter going out to executives, this can summarize findings. I strongly recommend communicators review such messages before they go out to a team, or you may get some unpleasant surprises.

A fourth promises to automatically identify potential influencers.

3. Mentions

  • More than complaints. Brandwatch, owned by Cision, announced a “case management” feature for its social media suite. The press release suggests the company is aiming to expand from social promotion to also include customer support.
  • Say what? Broadcast media monitoring tool TVEyes says it has improved the accuracy of its transcription capability in an unspecified number of major languages. The company claim to transcribe “more than 2 million hours of TV, radio, podcast and online video content monthly.”

4. Worth a read

>>> Need an extra pair of hands? Sword and the Script Media can help with B2B marketing, PR and social media.

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Image credit: Unsplash and respective companies

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