How small companies are taking on giants like Cision and Meltwater for a piece of the $4.8 billion PR tech business

  • Public relations tech is a $4.8 billion global industry, according to Burton-Taylor International Consulting.
  • The report lays out how small companies are taking on juggernauts like Cision and Meltwater.
  • The established giants still have an edge in market share and access to capital, though.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Public relations software — which includes services like social media monitoring and press release distribution — is a $4.8 billion global industry, according to a 148-page report by Burton-Taylor International Consulting, a research and advisory firm that covers the industry.

The report said small and medium-sized companies like Muck Rack, which is best known for its journalist database, and media monitoring vendor Fullintel, gained ground against industry giants like Cision and Meltwater whose all-in-one approach hasn’t lived up to its promise, according to unnamed users interviewed by Burton-Taylor.

Cision and Meltwater have bought up other companies to add services like social media analysis, enter new regions, and grow their revenue. The Burton-Taylor report also references a potential merger the two companies explored in 2020.

However, these acquisitions took time to integrate, which gave small companies a chance to pitch their business to PR pros, who often prefer using smaller, specialized firms, said Christopher Porter, a consultant to Burton-Taylor. 

This report also comes at a time of increasing investor interest in PR tech; startup Memo recently raised $7 million in seed funding, for example.

Porter added there is no clear set of industry leaders — an equivalent to what Oracle is for marketing and Salesforce is to CRM. 

“It’s certainly been the story of some larger players that what they’re providing is an integrated solution, but it’s my impression that is very much a work in progress,” he said.

The result has been an increasingly crowded field of competitors. For example, Denmark-based InfoMedia and Germany-based UNICEPTA are expanding globally to chase bigger and more lucrative clients, according to the report. Porter also named Roxhill Media, PublicRelay, and Access Intelligence as other winners. 

Here are top four takeaways from the report:

  • Social media is PR tech’s biggest, fastest growing segment and regional and global players are pouring resources into this area. Spending on social media tools increased 18% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 2020, leading Cision and Meltwater to acquire social media specialty firms. Most recently, Meltwater acquired social influencer marketing company Klear for $17.8 million in April and social media intelligence company Linkfluence for about $59.6 million in March. In the biggest deal of late, Cision bought Brandwatch in February for $450 million.
  • Other segments saw modest to negative growth in 2020. Media analysis saw mid-single digit growth as corporations scrambled to understand what was being said about their brands in the media during the volatile news cycle of 2020. Influencer management and media monitoring had mixed results: small players grew thanks to new tools and services while larger players saw declines.
  • Carma, InfoMedia, and Access Intelligence were 2020’s big winners. These firms were noted for their strong growth, robust expansion plans, and new capabilities. Carma, which is owned by a Dubai-based digital insights and engagement company called News Group, grew in the US, UK, and Asia-Pacific despite economic challenges. Denmark-based InfoMedia is becoming the de facto leader in the Nordics after acquiring media intelligence assets from M-Brain. Meanwhile, Access Intelligence is expanding aggressively in the US having acquired Pulsar’s social media tech. Other winners included UNICEPTA, Roxhill Media, PublicRelay, and Muck Rack, which grew despite the pandemic by converting larger clients and expanding to new regions.
  • Legacy players like Cision and Meltwater experienced slight global market share declines while Kantar also saw losses in revenue. Cision’s PR Newswire is typically strong but declined because press release distribution is sensitive to economic downturns, Porter said. Kantar’s media monitoring business has steadily declined over the past five years. However, these large companies still have strong market share and access to capital and scale.


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