Customer-obsessed marketing

Cision IPO – Great Guns For Brand Situational Awareness

Ryan Skinner
Senior Analyst
June 30, 2017

Today Cision will officially IPO on the NYSE, assuming the ticker CISN and emerging as a tradable entity from the shadow of its private equity owners. The underlying intent: To raise capital to continue a growth trajectory that’s involved a string of acquisitions in the PR and comms space, such as Gorkana, Viralheat, and PRNewsWire.

Cision’s CEO – and a number of new Cision team members – came directly from Oracle, where he championed the latter’s positioning as Oracle Marketing Cloud. He’s bringing the same playbook to Cision, which is dubbing itself the Cision Communications Cloud.

Key to his success will be extending out of the PR and corporate communications circles and into the bigger marketing communications circles. The company’s targeting that bigger picture, as it calls out the size of the adtech and martech markets – saying, implicitly: ‘we’re going to be a piece of that’.

Years ago I advised another, similar company to expand from just managing relationships with mainstream media to all things earned media, reputation, and third-party communications relationships (such as digital influencers, category experts, third-party communities, and even customer advocacy). That same advice holds for Cision Communications Cloud, though they’re better positioned to execute.

Make no mistake that the market needs what Cision could be offering. Recent isolated examples like Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad-facepalm and Uber’s self-destruction reflect a broader sickness that can be lethal in the age of the customer: a lack of brand situational awareness. Put simply, business leaders lose a basic grasp of how they’re perceived in the market, and insider groupthink spirals out of control.

Some remarkable ways that Cision Communications Cloud could and should consider this situational awareness play:

  1. Invite editorial panels to discuss brand positioning. Cision hosts extensive editorial relationships all over the world with publishing titles that are – almost without exception – struggling with profitability. What a powerful offering would it be to offer a focus group of editorial leaders to discuss your brand and category, and advise business leaders. The team at iCrossing – a content agency owned by the Hearst publishing group – has already told me how much their clients get out of frank talks with Hearst’s editors.
  2. Specialize in user-generated content for insight. A recent study we ran found that 60% of marketers had used UGC (user-generated content) in 2016 for their marketing. But there’s an equally powerful use case for UGC: real third-party feedback to the brand or its products. It’s the kind of stuff that can hurt, but it’s hugely valuable and powerful. Crest (the toothpaste people) hired a company to pay consumers to send them selfies of themselves brushing. This turned out to be inordinately useful. Situational awareness.
  3. Data science for brand reputation. Large brands have a surfeit of media mentions, but struggle to make sense of all of it. Many analytical methodologies don’t help a lot; a bunch of terms in different-sized bubbles can mean so many things (and at the same time, so little). Advances in AI and content analytics enable remarkable analysis of brand’s narratives. Right now, another analyst and I are working with Forrester’s data science team to apply these methodologies to brand narratives. These kinds of analyses are begging to be commercialized.

Whether Cision manages to inject greater situational awareness into brands’ narratives via those brands’ content teams is an open challenge. As we all know, those brands are sure to crack on with creating content and publishing anyway – but how informed will it all be?

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