PR Software Comparison: Cision and 4 Cision Alternatives

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I never intended to write this blog post.

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Like many software buyers, I stumbled into my search for a new software tool almost by accident.

As a PR professional in a client-side position, I received cold calls from PR software companies all the time. And while I did some demos out of sheer curiosity, I always gave the same answer: Call back when our current contract is up.

Eventually, and despite my many attempts to ignore it, the day when our contract was up arrived.

And thus began my quest into the uncharted waters of PR software: hoping to find the PR software equivalent of a trade route to India, but willing to settle for a new continent filled with spices and gold.

Basically, I had no idea what was out there, but I hoped there was a best fit solution for what we needed.

During my search I evaluated five very different PR software options, and a comparison of all five is below (listed alphabetically).

This article looks at Cision and the other top four software tools for PR operations. See the full list of Cision alternatives here.

BuzzStream

BuzzStream Screenshot

BuzzStream is a CRM specifically for PR which specializes in managing relationships with media contacts. BuzzStream was founded in 2008 out of a need to grow content promotion efforts while maintaining a level of personalization in the pitch. The software has since developed into two similar but separate tools: public relations and link building.

Where BuzzStream Shines:

BuzzStream is an excellent tool for organizations that already have built media lists and are now looking to manage them. BuzzStream allows you to upload your lists, sort them by influence, add social profiles and websites, and tag them with different beats and campaigns. It records all interactions with your contacts (via email and social media), allowing you to see what items they have and have not responded to, as well as which of your team members owns the relationship so that you don’t duplicate your efforts. One of the biggest assets of BuzzStream’s platform is its Google Chrome plugin, BuzzMarker, which allows you to scrape contact information from any blog you’re visiting and add it to a media list. This functionality makes it very easy to immediately add new contacts to an existing list in the moment, instead of having to remind yourself later or scramble to build up a media list before a new pitch.

Things to Keep an Eye On:

BuzzStream does not have a built-in media database, making it less ideally-suited than other tools on this list for quickly building media lists from scratch or searching for specific contact information.

Cision

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Now I may be dating myself a bit here, but if you were a PR professional way back in 2014, you remember the days when the two biggest competitors on the market were Cision and Vocus. After a recent merger, the two solutions are now one tool—with the largest share of the PR software market—under the Cision brand.

Where Cision Shines:

With over 450,000 traditional media contacts in its database (50,000 of whom are bloggers), Cision is unparalleled in its ability to build a media list from scratch. The sheer depth of its database also makes it one of the best tools for finding the contact information for a person at a specific media outlet.  It also boasts a partnership with PRWeb, allowing you to distribute any news releases over one of the largest wire services. Additionally, it offers monitoring services and an email tracking feature.

Things to Keep an Eye On:

Cision is already taking a few steps forward from its new, post-merger position, such as rollng out an influencer search. However, even though Cision boasts the largest contact database on the market, its search function for contacts and outlets uses Cision-assigned “beats” instead of content keywords. Therefore search results can contain a large number of contacts who don’t fit the topic—especially if you are looking for contacts in somewhat niche industries—and you’ll be best served using Boolean operators. While list building from scratch is very easy to do, filtering out contacts to ensure that everyone on the list belongs there can become a very manual process.

GroupHigh

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GroupHigh, though a relatively newer product to the market, is already one of the most forward-thinking. Rather than traditional media, GroupHigh focuses on contacts in the blogger space.

Where GroupHigh Shines:

GroupHigh is a very advanced blogger database, boasting over 15 million contacts—a number which, compared with the number of traditional media contacts available in other databases, is astronomical. Therefore, if you are looking for a large number of contacts who write on a topic, or a good number of contacts who write on very niche industries, GroupHigh is a good fit. Its advanced keyword search and the ability to add contacts to media lists from entire blogrolls also allow you to build a list of bloggers very quickly from scratch. GroupHigh’s added CRM functionality and its surprisingly advanced analytics create a very well-rounded tool where you can not only track interactions with various contacts, but see how your earned media and guest posts are performing. The CRM and outreach tool also provides some brand management capabilities, allowing you to create professional-looking branded templates to use to pitch contacts.

Things to Keep an Eye On:

While GroupHigh’s tools for finding influencers—searching bloggers by the specific topic they write about—are some of the most advanced in the industry, its search functionality for finding a specific contact or a blogger at a specific publication is not as easy to navigate.

Meltwater

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Meltwater first hit the market in Norway back in 2001, primarily as a listening tool (a tool which monitors and scans the media and internet and aggregates mentions of a topic or brand). Since then, the company has expanded its offering to include other PR services, including analytics, a media database, and engagement tools.

Where Meltwater Shines:

Given its origin as a media monitoring platform, Meltwater’s listening tools are far more advanced than many of the other major players in the PR market. And while its media contact database contains about 25% fewer listings than Cision, it still boasts a healthy 350,000 listings, including 50,000 bloggers. In addition, due to Meltwater’s top-of-class monitoring tools, you can search the contact database with a very advanced, nimble keyword search that scans actual content your potential media contact publishes, rather than pre-assigned beats. That way, you’ll be able to find contacts who regularly write on specific topics.

Things to Keep an Eye On:

If you are looking for any CRM activity or outreach tracking, it’s important to note that you’ll have to send emails through Meltwater itself, rather than through your company’s own email system. Otherwise you’ll have to add touch point notes to contacts manually. However, Meltwater also has a partnership with Nasdaq Globe, allowing you to distribute any Press Releases through their wire services. And an influencer search feature, one that allows you to search for contacts who regularly participate in conversations on a given topic across a variety of social platforms, is also in the works, potentially to be launched later this year.

Muck Rack

MuckRack Screenshot

Muck Rack is a tool that connects PR professionals with journalists. Similar to list building tools and media databases, Muck Rack differentiates itself by offering specialized email alerts so you are able to better engage journalists before and after you pitch them.

Where Muck Rack Shines:

Muck Rack enables you to expand your efforts with journalists beyond a single pitch and engage them in conversation. For example, when searching journalists, Muck Rack allows you to go beyond beats to see the full spectrum of what journalists are tweeting and writing about, giving you better insight into whether or not your topic will be of interest to them when pitching. The big differentiator for Muck Rack, though, is its media alerts. Muck Rack’s media alerts send you automatic email notifications every time a journalist publishes a story, posts on social media, or is interested in a source. These alerts could be set up for your company, any of your competitors, or any topic you like, allowing you to keep up to date with media contacts who are talking about your vertical. With this, you can begin your conversation with a contact long before you pitch them, create extremely targeted pitches, and even quickly handle a PR crisis.

Things to Keep an Eye On:

Muck Rack also offers functionality for journalists, allowing them—among other things—to stop and reject pitches they deem “spammy.” While this should ensure your pitches are concise and better overall, one bad pitch could mark you as a spammer to other journalists.  Muck Rack’s outreach tool also requires you to send your pitch through their system, instead of using the email tool you already have.

Concluding thoughts

A very diverse PR software market may seem daunting at first. The good news, however, is that because of this diversity there is a tool out there to fit your needs.

As the functionality of each solution varies so greatly, I highly recommend you do a self-evaluation and prioritize your needs before searching for a tool and diving into your demos. (Full disclosure, though: the needs we prioritized shifted as our search went on and we realized what tools could and couldn’t offer, ultimately sending us in a direction we didn’t expect.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your PR search or any other PR software you think is worth including in the comments.

And if you are in the market for PR software, I encourage you to check out Capterra’s Public Relations software database, where you can read reviews, compare options, and sort software by the features you need.

Happy exploring, my fellow PR Magellans.

Looking for Public Relations software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Public Relations software solutions.

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About the Author

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Dylan Echter

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Dylan works on Public Relations, Social Media, and Brand Marketing at Capterra. He's a NJ native, DC resident, and graduate of the College of William and Mary. He enjoys live music and compelling stories, and has a casual interest in ekistics.

Comments

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Some great tools Dylan. Some traditional databases mixed with the new! Hopefully my new tool http://www.woopitch.com can make the list some time in the future.

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