How Cision’s $841 Million Acquisition of PR Newswire Signals a Change for the PR Industry

01.08.2016 | Richard L. Tso

Most of my past writing has been focused on the changing role technology plays in the worlds of social media, marketing and advertising – but one industry that is ripe for innovation is the field of public relations. While PR teams are viewed by some as more focused on tactical execution, the value they provide is not in selling a client’s products or services, but in selling a story to press who are constantly bombarded with solicitations and emails throughout the day.

As PR professionals, we love the journalism profession and respect those in it. To maintain our edge and relevance, we are constantly reading, contemplating, analyzing and predicting how stories will unfold and shift over time, and how to position our clients to find a voice within the news cycles and story arcs.

The tools for PR have changed (remember MediaMap, anyone?) and there is a consolidation taking place within the fields of marketing, PR, advertising and social. This is evident when one examines the Lumascape for adtech. But within the category of PR tools, Cision truly dominates. In December, Cision announced it acquired PR Newswire (owned by UBM) for a whopping $841 million. Earlier in 2015, there was speculation in the market that UBM was courting potential suiters.

So what does this mean for the field of PR? Well, every PR person knows Cision and uses it on a daily basis. But what this acquisition signals could be a bit more complex than many might realize at first blush. Cision has been on a binge of acquiring companies over the last few years, including Gorkana and also Vocus back in 2015 for $446.5 million. Then the combined entities acquired Visible Technologies in September of 2014 to flesh out Cision’s social listening and analytics features.

And the PR tech stack is condensing even further. If you recall, the social listening company Sysomos was acquired by Marketwired back in 2010 but then became an independent company in March of 2015.

Now that Cision has acquired PR Newswire, they are apparently piecing together an end-to-end solution that combines media contact databases, social monitoring/analytics and now press release/newswire distribution. From my perspective, the only tool left to acquire is one that can monitor previous media coverage based on keywords and marry that with media contact information (ahem, IT database, or something similar beyond just the tech media).

So what does this mean for PR professionals around the globe that rely on accurate and intuitive tools to do their jobs better and more efficiently? Well, not much on the surface, but changes will be coming since Cision’s pricing model isn’t conducive for smaller firms. One tangible change is that PR Newswire’s “Web Only” release distribution will no longer be available after this acquisition.

So for a big picture take at the news, the PR tech industry is ripe for innovation and has been compressing for some time. The big fish right now are Cision and Meltwater along with other social tools like Sysomos. Indeed, the market is ripe for new players to enter the fray to innovate an industry that has otherwise been ignored by investors and the press.


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Filed under: COMMUNIQUÉ PR, Monitor and Measure, News, PR trends

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