Why I choose Muck Rack over Cision and Meltwater

TL;DR version here

Why you should read this post

By a factor of 10, the most common question I get asked is, “What do you think of [insert PR software platform here]?”

Your job as a PR pro is already super-challenging, so it’s natural you want to be sure you have the best tool to help you do it, at the best value.

But for 15 years I stayed agnostic on this question for two reasons:

  • It takes a lot of research to be informed enough to make a credible recommendation.
  • The PR software providers control most of the marketing exposure in PR, and as a vendor myself I didn’t want to risk alienating brands that could send leads my way by picking only one.

But starting a few years ago, I reversed course and began recommending Muck Rack without reservation. This post is an attempt to answer the second-most common question I am now asked: “Why do you choose Muck Rack?”

Full disclosure: Because I grew so impressed with the Muck Rack product and the rave reviews my followers and clients give it (more on that below), I reached out to the team at Muck Rack and started asking a bunch of questions. The more I learned, the more I liked Muck Rack. So, I approached Muck Rack (not the other way around), and that led to us working together on the only free media relations certification out there (10,000 graduates and counting), as well as frequent webinars and white papers. However, I was not compensated for this posting and I do not receive compensation when anyone signs up with Muck Rack.

My goal is that when you finish reading this post, you’ll know whether you should include a demo of Muck Rack as part of your research into which PR platform to use.

Here are the reasons I choose Muck Rack:

1. Both anecdotally and statistically, my followers and mentoring clients strongly prefer Muck Rack.

I have 10,000 subscribers to my weekly PR newsletter and hundreds of members in the paid mentoring group that I run. In the past, these people would universally complain about their PR software (especially databases), and I just assumed that it’s a tough industry and no software can really do what we want it to. So I couldn’t help but notice when people started praising this upstart Muck Rack, and then a couple years ago the frequency of those unsolicited testimonials really took off. That’s what spurred me to investigate (which revealed the conclusions I’ll share below).

More recently, I did a formal survey of my members and asked them, “If you have ever subscribed to [PR software vendor], how likely are you to recommend it to your colleagues?”

The following were the percentages who rated each vendor a seven or higher on a 10-point scale:
Muck Rack – 78%
Cision – 51%
Meltwater – 26%

2. The product is built from the ground up with a journalist-friendly philosophy.

The scourge of PR databases is that they make it easy to blast the same generic pitch to hundreds of journalists. Of course, users should know better than that, but some don’t, and many do it anyway.

Muck Rack is the exception – the workflow gently guides you to sending carefully targeted, customized pitches, which is going to be way more effective for you. It allows you to build your lists based on what journalists are publishing and tweeting about, instead of relying on an ambiguous title or beat that a researcher tagged them with (possibly years ago). And the software makes it easy to quickly personalize your base pitch (not talking automated mail merge here) for as many individual journalists as possible. You can then follow up with them individually and delicately, all from within the platform.

3. The database is hands-down, consistently the most accurate out there.

Journalists love Muck Rack, which is weird when you think about it. Speaking generally, they hate databases that enable PR people to spam them. But they know Muck Rack isn’t one of those.

In fact, journalism trade groups have actually signed deals to partner with Muck Rack. For example, the executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists said, “Muck Rack provides a great tool for journalists to be discovered, and we are excited to partner with them to showcase this . . .” Seriously. If you’ve ever talked to a journalist about media databases, you are as astounded as I was when I first read that quote in this announcement.

Why the love from journalists? The same clever innovation that allowed Muck Rack to burst onto the scene years ago and start winning the PR software battle against entrenched competitors.

The founding team designed Muck Rack to be the easiest way for journalists to manage their online portfolios. When you google a journalist, you’ll likely see the following at the top of their search results:
– Their author page at their employer
– Their Twitter and/or LinkedIn bio
– Their Muck Rack profile

Journalists know that their peers (and potential future employers) see their work via their Muck Rack profile, so the journalists themselves often update it with their latest work, employment and contact info. Muck Rack also uses advanced technology to surface new contacts and potential changes, and employs experienced editorial staff to vet and manage the database.

The result? The database is more accurate than anything I’ve ever seen before, even in this day of intense journalism turnover. I recently pulled a media list on a rival platform, and half of the results were out of date or inappropriate for the pitch I was consulting on. My audience consistently hails the accuracy of Muck Rack’s media database.

4. Muck Rack is one piece of software built from the ground up, not multiple solutions mashed together after mergers and acquisitions.

When you use Muck Rack for any length of time, you notice how everything works smoothly together. You see this when you’re moving from the database to the dashboard, monitoring and reporting tools, which my followers also praise. Everything fits naturally together. A couple examples:

  • Let’s say you do a search in Muck Rack to find all the coverage about a given topic within certain parameters. Right from those search results, you can create an email alert for that same search, create a media list with all the authors of that coverage, or create an automated coverage report.
  • After you set up a media alert and it arrives in your email inbox, right from the alert you can see who shared a given article, or add it to a coverage report, or add the author directly to an existing media list.

Why is that even a big deal?

Take Cision, for example. Their platform has been built by acquiring various other providers over the years (Vocus, Gorkana, PR Newswire, TrendKite, Brandwatch) and stitching them together. It’s only natural that such an infrastructure won’t work as smoothly as one that was purpose-built by the same team from the ground up.

Another benefit of Muck Rack’s integrated approach to development is that the user interface is smoother and more intuitive. That’s a subjective take, but one I hear consistently from my followers. You’ll be able to decide for yourself after demoing it.

5. Muck Rack’s corporate vision is laser-focused on PR pros’ needs, and therefore they deliver on those needs faster than competitors.

My observation about Muck Rack's competitors is that they are trying to grow by acquiring other software companies to expand the offering to more people (a bigger “addressable market,” as the software folks say). There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. I just prefer to use a tool that’s focused on my particular need, not one that is also trying to appeal to social media managers and marketing directors and others. Muck Rack, in contrast, has always been focused strictly on serving media relations professionals.

Here’s where you can see these differences in philosophy show up in the actual product: Muck Rack was the first full-featured platform that includes podcasts and newsletters in its database. And the only one to include CRM-like functionality that allows teams to collaborate on outreach right from within the platform. Now I’m not saying you should let individual features like that drive which piece of software you buy. This is a multi-year decision (unless you like learning a new piece of software every year), so you shouldn’t base your choice on one feature difference. Because when a feature is a hit, then competitors will just copy it.

What I AM saying is that when one provider is consistently first with features that you want, that’s a good indicator that they are focused on you, and they will continue to be first with innovations that you and I don’t even know will matter someday.

6. Muck Rack is competitive on price and delivers a better sales and contracting experience.

As far as price goes, Muck Rack is not the choice if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest option. They’ve added a ton of functionality to the tool over the years and the price reflects the value. Also, an important distinction to keep in mind: Muck Rack operates under the philosophy that every user deserves full access to all aspects of the integrated platform. In other words, sharing seats isn’t an option.

That said, the rate is going to be competitive with the players that offer similar features. And the sales rep who walks you through it is going to be knowledgeable, not aggressive, and will make renewing or canceling a smooth experience. What follows is purely subjective, but I’ve heard dozens of bad experiences about the sales and contracting experience with PR software vendors – to date, not one of those has been about Muck Rack.

Next steps

So that’s why I choose Muck Rack. Here’s how I recommend you proceed with your search to finalize the PR software decision that’s the best fit for you:

  1. Set up demos with your final candidates as close together as possible.
  2. During each demo, you drive the conversation, not the rep.
  3. Ask them to pull a media list for a specific topic that you already know. Compare the results to reality. Then compare the results to the lists pulled during your other demos.
  4. Ask them to put together a coverage report for a campaign that you already have really accurate results for (maybe you double-checked it manually). Watch how many mouse clicks and form fills it requires to pull that report. Compare that workflow and the resulting report to those pulled in other demos.
  5. Ask them to show you how to do specific tasks/functions that you know you’ll do frequently. Pay attention to how many clicks it takes and how intuitive the workflow is.
  6. Consider both the product as it is now, and where you think it will be in two years based on what you know about the company behind the product.
  7. Make your decision :).

You can request a demo of Muck Rack here.

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best in your search.

This article was originally published on August 15, 2023

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