- Unified earned media monitoring platform
- CRM database for media contacts
- Government relations and PAC software offerings
- Can be expensive for small organizations
- Intended for agencies and consultancies
- Data frequently out of date
Cision is a well-known branding and earned media software company operating several software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms for public relations, government relations, nonprofit, and PAC organizations. For cases pertaining to the target audiences of Telegraph, we reviewed Cision’s Communications Cloud ecosystem as a viable solution for activists and public relations specialists that specialize in the broad industry of public affairs.
Cision as a public relations solution
Public relations and branding software are all very similar. Like Agility PR Solutions or BuzzStream, Cision is one of the leading software platforms for PR professionals. Among the products offered, the Cision Communications Cloud is a unified solution for monitoring, influencer interaction, and content strategy development.
In theory, the software operates as a management dashboard available on demand via any web browser. During our time with the platform, the Cision software worked best on a Google Chrome browser or Chrome OS computer. The platform slowed on Safari but matched the speeds of the Chrome experience but still had its hiccups. Nonetheless, the performance of all the necessary tools is typical of a standard PR software. For example, Cision has a monitoring capability allowing users to track social media, RSS, and other feed types to capture up to date information. On the social media monitoring standpoint, this functionality is common among other marketing automation software, certain customer relationship management (CRM) tools, or social media management tools (e.g., Hootsuite).
The Cision methodological framework, sadly, is very restrictive when it comes to the integration of software and data sources. Typically, users who want to get the most out of Cision must rely on already obtained data that is uploaded into the system for a fee or on information provided by the company. Though this method isn’t a bad thing for some, the data connectors and the flexibility of analysis is restricted.
Cision for government relations and PACs
One of the high points with the Cision software ecosystem is the company’s government relations and political software offerings. Sold as a nonpartisan SaaS, Cision offers various software suites that focus on grassroots development, lobbying, and political campaign and political action committee (PAC) administration. These solutions are additionally built into the Communications Cloud offering to provide users with a unified platform for managing external relations strategies.
During our review, we found that Cision fails to capture up-to-date contact information for journalists and influencers tracked by the platform’s discovery features. A Capterra reviewer wrote: “We constantly found journalists who hadn’t been at their newspaper for over two years. Contact information is frequently outdated.” There are scores of other reviews that reflect similar complaints across Capterra, G2 Crowd, and TrustRadius.
In comparison, competitor MuckRack does the best job in tracking contact information in our experience. Overall, Cision’s failure in this area negatively impacts the effectiveness rating for this review and total score. We have inquired to the Cision team on where they obtain contact information and have yet to hear back.
Features, support, and ease of use
Cision is built for browser-based functionality. When we break down the technical framework on the grounds of the features in the Communications Cloud suite, it is quite generous and expansive. Mentioned above, we reference social media monitoring capabilities. These capabilities, among others, all funnel data and information into an in-platform analytics visualization dashboard. The features included offer PR managers and specialists with the tools they need to track media influencers and high profile, journalists. These specific tools include a proprietary influencer discovery capability while additionally offering users a break down of centers of influence. There is also a contact database that emulates the functionality of a CRM. We believe that this feature is built explicitly for storing data obtained from press lists inserted into the software.
Though there is a robust package of features to track media mentions, social media monitoring, and centers of influence in the software, there are some additional setbacks. Cision is tough to learn for users who are true beginners to PR software and general marketing SaaS. Based on our user satisfaction research, initial platform launch and data migration could be a trying task. Fortunately, there is a support regime that’s available during business hours. Other user satisfaction research reveals that users have average experiences with the support team with chief complaints placed on how the team responds and how long support tickets take to turnover.
Pricing and the ideal client
Cision is priced on the needs of the client. Due to this structure, the elements of the scale of work, number of users, type of work, and the version of the software they choose to purchase will comprise the overall price point. From what we have seen, plans for the Cision Communications Cloud could be costly. Another Capterra user wrote that the software cost as much as a full-time employee would for their PR firm meaning that prices for the software are several thousands of dollars a month to a year. This was a red flag when it comes to the pricing field of the total score for this review. Competitive software serving as alternatives to Cision have lower costs while offering a transparent pricing matrix on product landing pages. PR.co has similar tools but with plans that begin at $249 per month. The other industry leading software provider, Agility PR Solutions, is also cheaper than Cision with dedicated subscriptions starting at $350 per month.
What we think
Cision would be a great addition to an organization’s earned media program, though customers should keep in mind that Cision isn’t the only software of its type out there. Between the outdated data and the high prices, smaller organizations or groups who are sticklers for updated data should look elsewhere.
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