Cision takes aim at integrated PR workflow to unlock earned media investment

Cision takes aim at integrated PR workflow to unlock earned media investment

Earned media is undervalued by organisations because of poor planning, measurement and departmental silos. Tool vendor Cision reckons that it’s got the solution.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Cision’s vision and drive. The self-proclaimed earned media tech firm is building cloud based tools and workflow for the public relations industry.

It filled a venue in South East London yesterday with more than 900 delegates. The inaugural UK Cision CommsCon conference felt more like an Adobe, Microsoft or Salesforce event than a public relations gig.

Billion dollar PR vendor

Cision has made more than $1bn of acquisitions in the past five years in a bid to develop cloud based workflow for the communications and public relations industry. It’s a bullish organisation by any measure.

In the past two years Cision has recruited a management team from the software industry, including Oracle veteran Kevin Akeroyd as CEO.

Communications is the last remaining department within the enterprise that is ripe for disruption according to Akeroyd.

“Every other operational area in the enterprise has been through this transition. Marketing, sales and finance have all been modernised by technology and software as a service. We’ve got communications in our sights,” he said.

Workflow will take five years to modernise

I’ve learned from the #AIinPR and #PRstack crowdsourced projects that workflow in the public relations business is typically built on point products strung together with Excel and Word documents.

“It will take time for communications to modernise but not as long as sales or marketing. Organisations have already been through the cycle of disruption,” said Akeroyd.

“What previously took 15 to 20 years is going to take five years this time round,” he said.

Akeroyd claims that earned media has never been so important and yet never less underserved by investment by organisations.

Unlocking tool investment and PR budgets

Less than half a percent of media investment is spent on earned media by enterprises according to analyst Burton Taylor. Unlocking new budget is key to investment in tools such as Cision’s services.

“A shift of even two percent of that media investment would be transformational for the public relations business,” said Akeroyd.

Cision intends to maximise its M&A investment by being at the forefront and driving this transformation.

Akeroyd cites three issues for the lack of investment in earned media: influencer identification and management; measurement; and silos within organisations that prevent data sharing.

Building integrated cloud-based PR workflow

The promise of cloud-based integrated public relations workflow is compelling.

The Cision Cloud platform, launched in Europe in January, includes listening, influencer identification, content planning, channel distribution and measurement. It has notched up 1,300 customers.

Cision’s funnel attribution provides a means of quantative digital measurement but requires a cookie to be dropped on an earned media website.

“We’re not getting any pushback from publishers or influencers. We’re currently tracking 95% of earned media outlets. Ad tech has been working in this way for more than a decade,” said Akeroyd.

“PR Newswire serves news from 75,000 organisations to 13,000 outlets. The content reaches 300 million consumers,” he said.

Attribution focuses on the bottom of the sales funnel and yet much public relations investment is focused at the top of the funnel, on building reputation. It also fails to track radio or television.

“Don’t be mistaken, attribution is additive to other forms of measurement. It’s not an end within itself,” said Akeroyd.

Educating the market, driving behaviour change

Is Cision too big to fail? The organisation employs 1,200 people and has more than 12,000 customers worldwide.

“Changing the behaviour of public relations practitioners is our biggest challenge,” said Akeroyd.

“Educating the market is critical. It’s why events such as CommsCon are important to us,” he said.

My thanks to Sarah Hall, Kerry Sheehan, Andrew Smith, Darryl Sparey, Emma Thwaites, Jean Valin, and Daryl Willcox, for additional comment and insight.

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