Brandwatch is acquired by Cision for $450M, creating a PR, marketing and social listening giant

Online consumer intelligence and social media listening platform Brandwatch has been acquired by Cision, best known for its media monitoring and media contact database services, for $450 million, in a combined cash and shares deal. TechCrunch understands Brandwatch’s key executive team will be staying on. The move combines two large players to offer a broad range of services from PR to marketing and online customer engagement. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Cision has a media contact database of approximately 1 million journalists and media outlets and claims to have over 75,000 customers. Brandwatch applies AI and machine learning the practice known as ‘social listening’.

Along the way, Brandwatch raised a total of around $65 million. It was Series A-funded by Nauta Capital, followed by Highland Europe and then Partech.

IN a statement, Giles Palmer, founder, and CEO of Brandwatch said: “We have always built Brandwatch with ambition… Now is the time to take the next step – joining a company of significant scale to create a business and a suite of products that can have an important global impact.”

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Brandwatch has been on an almost case-study of a journey from fundraising to acquisition to a merger, but less characteristically for a well-funded tech company, it did much of it from its home-town of Brighton, on the southern coast of England.

The financing journey began for Giles Palmer, with Angel funding in 2006. In 2010 Brandwatch raised $1.5m from Durrants, a marketing and PR firm, and Nauta Capital. In 2014 it raised $22 million in funding in a Series B round led by Highland Capital. That was followed by a $33M Series C financing led by Partech Ventures in 2015.

With the war chest, it went on to acquire BuzzSumo in 2017, a content marketing and influencer identification platform, for an undisclosed sum. And in 2019 Brandwatch merged with a similar business, Crimson Hexagon, creating a business with around $100 million in ARR. It also acquired the London-based SaaS research platform Qriously.

Brandwatch was recently named a leader in Forrester’s guide for buyers of social listening solutions.

#artificial-intelligence, #brandwatch, #business, #buzzsumo, #ceo, #cision, #communication, #content-marketing, #crimson-hexagon, #europe, #executive, #highland-capital, #highland-europe, #leader, #london, #machine-learning, #marketing, #media-monitoring, #nauta-capital, #partech-ventures, #saas, #social-media, #tc

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6 reasons why reporters aren’t interested in your content marketing

Digital PR is an excellent strategy to pair with content marketing, especially if your goals include increasing your brand awareness and improving your backlink portfolio.

When you create excellent content and pitch it to writers, you not only get great media coverage, but you get the link back to your project and the authority that comes with being mentioned in a trusted publication.

This earned media tactic is very effective — but it isn’t easy.

If you get any part of it wrong, your chances of success decrease dramatically. If you’ve run into roadblocks, make sure you’re not making any of these mistakes with your content or your pitching.

1. It’s not newsworthy

Sure, it’s easy to say the news only wants to cover material that is, well, news worthy.

But what does that actually mean?

For content marketers, it usually refers to three criteria: timeliness, relevance and significance.

But there’s a catch: Most content marketing programs don’t have journalists devoted to breaking news like actual media outlets do. So how can you create content that is truly newsworthy without the resources of a newsroom?

By creating and analyzing your own data.

If your brand provides a fresh data set or a new analysis of existing data, then you’re the sole owner of information, and you can offer it exclusively to publications. This makes your pitch much more interesting.

This tactic is a combination of original content marketing and digital PR.

But the content can’t just be timely. It also has to be relevant to the writer you’re pitching and that writer’s audience. I’ll explain more on that in #4.

Finally, significance, which refers to the impact it has on the audience. When you think of local news, this is why they report on things like traffic jams and school closures: It directly affects the daily lives of the people watching and listening.

Alternatively, your data can be significant to writers covering specific beats. For example, for our client ZenBusiness, we surveyed Americans and asked what they thought about the government’s relief packages for COVID-19.

While ZenBusiness operates in the office/work niches, this new insight into American perspective was appealing to the political publication The Hill.

Significance is tough criteria from a brand perspective, but if you’re able to offer brand-new insights, it’s certainly not impossible.

2. The significance isn’t clear

Imagine a stranger handing you a book with a blank cover and saying, “Here, you’ll find this interesting.” Would you read the whole book?

#column, #content-marketing, #entrepreneurship, #growth-marketing, #media, #pr, #startups, #verified-experts

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Leverage public data to improve content marketing outcomes

Recently I’ve seen people mention the difficulty of generating content that can garner massive attention and links. They suggest that maybe it’s better to focus on content without such potential that can earn just a few links but do it more consistently and at higher volumes.

In some cases, this can be good advice. But I’d like to argue that it is very possible to create content that can consistently generate high volumes of high-authority links. I’ve found in practice there is one truly scalable way to build high-authority links, and it’s predicated on two tactics coming together:

  1. Creating newsworthy content that’s of interest to major online publishers (newspapers, major blogs or large niche publishers).
  2. Pitching publishers in a way that breaks through the noise of their inbox so that they see your content.

How can you use new techniques to generate consistent and predictable content marketing wins?

The key is data.

Techniques for generating press with data-focused stories

It’s my strong opinion that there’s no shortcut to earning press mentions and that only truly new, newsworthy and interesting content can be successful. Hands down, the simplest way to predictably achieve this is through a data journalism approach.

One of the best ways you can create press-earning, data-focused content is by using existing data sets to tell a story.

There are tens of thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of existing public datasets that anyone can leverage for telling new and impactful data-focused stories that can easily garner massive press and high levels of authoritative links.

The last five years or so have seen huge transparency initiatives from the government, NGOs and public companies making their data more available and accessible.

Additionally, FOIA requests are very commonplace, freeing even more data and making it publicly available for journalistic investigation and storytelling.

Because this data usually comes from the government or another authoritative source, pitching these stories to publishers is often easier because you don’t face the same hurdles regarding proving accuracy and authoritativeness.

Potential roadblocks

The accessibility of data provided by the government especially can vary. There are little to no data standards in place, and each federal and local government office has varying amounts of resources in making the data they do have easy to consume for outside parties.

The result is that each dataset often has its own issues and complexities. Some are very straightforward and available in clean and well-documented CSVs or other standard formats.

Unfortunately, others are often difficult to decode, clean, validate or even download, sometimes being trapped inside of difficult to parse PDFs, fragmented reports or within antiquated querying search tools that spit out awkward tables.

Deeper knowledge of web scraping and programmatic data cleaning and reformatting are often required to be able to accurately acquire and utilize many datasets.

Tools to use

#column, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #pr, #public-relations, #seo, #tc, #verified-experts

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There’s a way to pick the absolute best images for your content: Apply AI

Most marketers believe there’s a lot of value in having relevant, engaging images featured in content.

But selecting the “right” images for blog posts, social media posts or video thumbnails has historically been a subjective process. Social media and SEO gurus have a slew of advice on picking the right images, but this advice typically lacks real empirical data.

This got me thinking: Is there a data-driven — or even better, an AI-driven — process for gaining deeper insight into which images are more likely to perform well (aka more likely to garner human attention and sharing behavior)?

The technique for finding optimal photos

In July of 2019, a fascinating new machine learning paper called “Intrinsic Image Popularity Assessment” was published. This new model has found a reliable way to predict an image’s likely “popularity” (estimation of likelihood the image will get a like on Instagram).

It also showed an ability to outperform humans, with a 76.65% accuracy on predicting how many likes an Instagram photo would garner versus a human accuracy of 72.40%.

I used the model and source code from this paper to come up with how marketers can improve their chances of selecting images that will have the best impact on their content.

Finding the best screen caps to use for a video

One of the most important aspects of video optimization is the choice of the video’s thumbnail.

According to Google, 90% of the top performing videos on the platform use a custom selected image. Click-through rates, and ultimately view counts, can be greatly influenced by how eye-catching a video title and thumbnail are to a searcher,

In recent years, Google has applied AI to automate video thumbnail extraction, attempting to help users find thumbnails from their videos that are more likely to attract attention and click-throughs.

Unfortunately, with only three provided options to choose from, it’s unlikely the thumbnails Google currently recommends are the best thumbnails for any given video.

That’s where AI comes in.

With some simple code, it’s possible to run the “intrinsic popularity score” (as derived by a model similar to the one discussed in this article) against all of the individual frames of a video, providing a much wider range of options.

The code to do this is available here. This script downloads a YouTube video, splits it into frames as .jpg images, and runs the model on each image, providing a predicted popularity score for each frame image.
Caveat: It is important to remember that this model was trained and tested on Instagram images. Given the similarity in behavior for clicking on an Instagram photo or a YouTube thumbnail, we feel it’s likely (though never tested) that if a thumbnail is predicted to do well as an Instagram photo, it will similarly do well as a YouTube video thumbnail.

Let’s look at an example of how this works.

 

thumbnail from youtube video with housebuilding couple

Current thumbnail. Image Credits: YouTube (opens in a new window)

 

We had the intrinsic popularity model look at three frames per second of this 23-minute video. It took about 20 minutes. The following were my favorites from the 20 images that had the highest overall scores.

#advertising-tech, #artificial-intelligence, #column, #computer-vision, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #machine-learning, #photography, #tc

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2 strategies for creating top-of-funnel marketing content

Even when you’re excellent at making the sale, you still need people to know you exist in the first place.

Content is excellent at making the case for your product or service, but it also excels at providing value to potential customers in a more tangential way, introducing them to your brand and building awareness and authority.

Here’s how utilizing content marketing and digital PR can make huge strides in getting your brand name out there.

Ranking on-site content for awareness keywords

When on-site content you created ranks well in the search engine results pages (SERPs), that doesn’t just mean you get more traffic (although that’s certainly a major benefit).

You’re also getting your brand name in front of searchers because you’re appearing in the results. You’re building authority because Google appears to believe you have the best answer for their query. You’re giving the searcher and answer to their question and beginning to build trust.

So how do you know which keywords/topics to target and what kind of content to create? You perform keyword research, which basically means examining what keywords people are searching for, how many people search for them per month and how hard it’ll be to rank for them.

Google Ads Keyword Planner provides this information, but you can also use Chrome plugins like Keywords Everywhere and Keyword Surfer or free tools like Ubersuggest.

When your goal is to build awareness, it’s important that the keywords and topics you target have high volume. In other words, they’re searched a lot. Awareness objectives mean reaching as many people as possible so more people know that your brand exists and begin to understand what it’s about.

#column, #content-marketing, #digital-marketing, #growth-marketing, #online-advertising, #pr, #search-engine-optimization, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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Earn the best backlinks with high-quality content and digital PR

A lot is debated in the SEO world, but nearly everyone can agree that links are and will continue to be vitally important to the health and rankability of a website.

Luckily, link building and brand awareness goals can be built into your content marketing strategy, which can be vastly elevated by combining your efforts with digital PR.

I’ll walk through how creating high-quality content and pitching it correctly to top publishers can earn you the valuable backlinks you’ve always wanted (and if you employ this strategy on an ongoing basis, the increase in organic traffic you’ve always wanted, too).

Choosing the right content idea

I have to start by saying that the most important thing about being cited in news sources is that you have to be newsworthy. Now that might go without saying, but what we as marketers might consider newsworthy about our brands isn’t necessarily newsworthy to a writer or to the greater public.

Content ideation tip #1: The best way to ensure your newsworthiness is to gather and analyze data. Even if the data set already exists, if it hasn’t been analyzed and presented in a straightforward, applicable, easy-to-understand way, your illustration of the data could be considered new and valuable.

I’ll touch on this again in a moment. But first, let’s dive into the content example I’ll be using throughout this piece.

#column, #content-marketing, #growth-marketing, #pr, #public-relations, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts

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When you need content to build links, use social proof of concept

Before tackling a new content idea, it’s comforting to have evidence that it’ll go off without a hitch.

Of course, that’s not possible.

You can never know 100% that a piece of content will meet your objectives. But you can get a better sense of whether it’s likely to succeed.

We call it “social proof of concept.” This strategy is often used by marketers as a way to gauge the promotional viability of what they’re going to create.

Let’s examine what it is and how to use it to create compelling content.

What is “social proof of concept”?

“Social proof of concept” is one of the many ways you can come up with content ideas.

It essentially means a similar piece of content has performed well in the past, meaning it’s likely that something in the same vein that’s better will perform even more impressively now.

By exploring content examples that got a ton of social engagement, you can ask yourself:

  • Are people talking about the topic?
  • What was it about this content that might have made it so successful?
  • Is there something missing that we can add/improve upon?
  • Is there something about the methodology/design we can learn from?
  • What conversation is happening around the topic that you can contribute to now?
  • Is there an idea that complements this content and contributes to the discussion?

When you can identify what’s been successfully engaging in the past, you can start with a much higher chance of creating something that really resonates with people.

Where do I find social proof of concept for my ideas?

My favorite places to look for social proof of concept is on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and others. I’ll walk through my process for vetting potential topics and methods of finding inspiration for new, related ideas.

#buzzfeed, #collective-intelligence, #column, #content-marketing, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #hashtag, #pinterest, #reddit, #search-engine-optimization, #seo, #social, #social-media, #social-media-marketing, #startups, #tc, #twitter, #verified-experts, #viral-marketing

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We throw away 80% of our content ideas, and you should too

We’ve talked a bit publicly about our ideation process, but to be honest, it’s constantly evolving. With every piece of content we create and promote, we gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

But part of that process has always been allowing for the creative freedom to come up with ideas and then — and most importantly — kill your darlings if they don’t meet the criteria for a good idea.

It’s not always easy; creativity is personal. But culling the list of ideas is necessary for a successful content plan.

So how do you know which ones to cut?

Ask yourself these questions.

Is the idea packed with emotion?

Make a list of all the emotions associated with your idea. If you can’t think of any, it means the idea may need some tweaking, or you need to explore it in more depth.

Even helpful how-to content is tied to emotion. Take, for example, “Give Your Kids the Gift of Automotive Repair Skills While You’re Home Together,” a genius piece of content by Car and Driver.

There’s the emotional component of it being in the context of COVID-19, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s about spending quality time with your children and teaching them crucial skills. Related emotions include love, pride, empowerment, accountability, parental responsibility and more.

And the content creators were smart enough to call out the emotional component, like they did here:

The post garnered nearly 5,000 engagements on Facebook, which to me indicates it hit the sweet spot of being helpful while also tapping into our emotions.

Fractl did a study back in 2013 that explored which type of emotions were the most prevalent in viral images, and, as it turns out, positive emotions had more representation than negative ones. Most prevalent of all? Surprise. People enjoy being astonished, delighted and unexpectedly joyful. Do any of your content ideas fit this bill?

#column, #content-marketing, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #extra-crunch, #growth-and-monetization, #growth-marketing, #startups, #verified-experts

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