In case you missed it, the merger between Cision — the current leader in the PR software market — and competitor Gorkana has been delayed again due to concerns from UK regulators that the resulting company might have too much influence in the space.
As the number of PR pros and the need for such services increases, what does the future hold for such software and service providers? And how can PRs make the most of these tools without simply using them to spam journalists and inspire another round of grumbling on Twitter?
We spoke to David Straus and Kaveh Rostampor — VP of product and exec director of the Americas, respectively, for Meltwater — to get their takes on trends in the space.
1. What do you take from the Cision/Gorkana merger delay?
Kaveh: We’re not surprised: in Sweden and Norway as in the UK, regulators have been looking into these mergers. But I believe it will go through and I am not worried about a risk of monopoly due to the rise of smaller, more tech-driven companies.
We see more consolidation to come.
2. What will the PR software space look like in 5-10 years?
David: I think the PR services lineup will look very different, but not just because of consolidation. Future products will be multi-channel while today they are not, because corporate comms have expanded so dramatically.
There will be a more significant focus on data science; you can’t bring value to the consumer without helping them sift through the noise.
We also see the integration of solutions not historically linked to PR, primarily social media. Not only are journalists active on social, but there’s a whole new group of influencers. We see today’s CMOs as very interested in two topics: reach and reputation/sentiment.
PR software will become more of a place where people LIVE — it will be the “desktop” as CRM is to customer service.
3. Why should a small-to-mid-sized firm purchase your services?
Kaveh: Why should they invest? Obviously my answer is biased, but clients are increasingly demanding that even small firms be on top of things happening in both traditional and social media.
The main point is that we have tools not only to engage with customers but to analyze and benchmark across channels. We are also a global company with global support, clients in many markets, and consultants to help those clients.
David: You can’t effectively scale without a service like ours because there’s so much noise. And you have to not only monitor your own brand but the whole SPACE in which your brand lives. It’s hard to address this without a software solution; you’re basically in the dark.
4. How do you feel about people using your service to spam reporters?
If you come in and ask a stranger for a favor, they will most likely not respond favorably; usually the customers we see acting in that way are less experienced.
In our new-generation product, we’ve built more guidance in, so if we see somebody behaving that way, we will offer them a message to reconsider and point them toward best practices. At the same time, we don’t feel we have the right to tell someone ‘you CAN’T do the following.’
The key lies in identifying the influencers and spending time finding value both for them and for yourself. When you encounter a PR firm described as ‘high-end,’ its because of the relationships they have already built.
5. What’s the best tip you have for PR pros trying to use services like yours effectively?
David: We think very much in terms of influencers. The definition of the term has changed dramatically: some can be bought, but no one finds great credibility in them as spokespeople. Then there are those who have a real voice; they didn’t necessarily plan to become influential, but they are passionate about a given topic, and people who care about that topic are paying attention to them.
PR needs to figure out who they are and build relationships rather than sending sending them press releases. A small group of people who really matter is far better than a group of hundreds who don’t.
The best practice? KNOW your audience. There’s so much discussion going on that you can’t just read Twitter and find everything you need. That’s a needle-in-a-haystack scenario.
Kevah: Get trained on the system you’re using and capitalize on what the technology can do for you.
Break out of the worst habit: ‘researching’ based on reporters’ beats and then spraying everyone with releases.