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:
But starting a couple 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 (5,000 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 readers (or anybody) 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:
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%
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.
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.
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:
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.
You don’t usually read about corporate financial structures in software reviews, but you should. Muck Rack is self-funded, which means the founders didn’t take any outside investment and are growing their company based on revenues coming in. That means they don’t have outside investors who are clamoring for quick growth and a subsequent exit – enabling the team to take a long-term approach to building a product that solves customers’ biggest challenges, instead of prioritizing financial considerations.
In contrast, Cision was bought by a private equity firm in 2020 and Meltwater is traded on the Norwegian stock exchange. Those owners/investors want to see revenues grow so they can sell their stakes for a profit. The primary way these companies are growing is 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.
Here’s where you can see these differences in philosophy show up in the actual product: Muck Rack is the only full-featured platform that includes podcasts and newsletters in its database. And it’s 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.
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.
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:
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 July 29, 2021
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