“Paid and shared media will continue to increase at the expense of owned and earned media”

Edith Stier-Thompson

Interview with Edith Stier-Thompson, Managing Director of news aktuell, a PR solutions company from Germany.

Hi Edith, what is your background and what is included in your current role at news aktuell?

Since the beginning of my career, I have been working in the media business, in particular for news agencies. I started in the field of media pictures for Associated Press before I switched to the dpa Group in 2002. From 2002 onwards, I was head of the sales department for the dpa-subsidiary Picture Alliance GmbH before I was appointed managing director in 2007.

Since September 2014, I have been working as Managing Director at news aktuell GmbH, a fully owned subsidiary of the dpa-Group. I’m responsible for over 135 people. Together, we provide companies and organizations with effective access to both media and consumers.

What differentiates news aktuell from other PR solutions companies?

With news aktuell, it is extremely easy for customers to place stories on all external channels and to specific target groups that are important to them and the success of their business. Our solutions offer a wide range of customization, allowing our customers to be very precise and target-focused in their media work.

Have you recently, or do you plan to, release any new solutions that will add to or improve the services you offer your clients?

We are currently working on expanding our media database tool called zimpel and adding influencers to the tool. In addition, we are developing our native advertising services.

What part of your current products has a lot of potential but has not yet been adopted fully by your clients?

Visibility and reach are one thing, but in the end, it is also important to analyse the performance of your PR activities. For this, we offer a so-called “ots-Monitoring” – service in cooperation with our partner ARGUS Data Insights. This service has not yet been fully adopted by our clients, not even among those who do not have their own company monitoring.

What are the most common mistakes companies make in their everyday PR communication?

We often see that companies have great stories to tell but try to do so mainly through text. Often, they offer no or little multimedia material or material of poor quality. Therefore, there is a lack of professional images, graphics and/or videos to accompany the story. This is unfortunate, since multimedia material is often extremely important for media to take up the content.

In addition, many companies are not yet optimally positioned in the digital environment. Relying purely on one channel, in particular earned media, no longer works these days. It has become crucial to actively place stories yourself, for example through native ads or in your own newsroom in our “Presseportal”, which strongly supports companies’ efforts to be found prominently in search engines.

What are your greatest challenges ahead at news aktuell, when it comes to serving your customers and developing your offer?

The challenge is to always be mentally ahead of the market, our customers and their needs – only then can we provide services and solutions which help companies to succeed in today’s media landscape.

What changes in the PR industry have surprised you the most over the years?

The biggest surprise has been the triumphant march that corporate communications has made in recent years. A few years ago, many communication professionals still had to fight for their right to exist, which is now completely out of the question.

How do you think the PR industry and distribution will change in the next 5-10 years, and what are the greatest challenges ahead for the industry?

The importance of channels will continue to shift. Paid and shared media will continue to increase at the expense of owned and earned media. There is no way around social media (and especially social ads). In addition, the importance of internal communication and CSR communication will continue to increase significantly. The greatest challenge for companies is to get through to their target groups and stakeholders in the flood of information, and to position themselves authentically and convincingly.

By Peter Appleby

“The need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than ever”

Martin Lyster

Interview with Martin Lyster, CEO of Agility PR Solutions, a media intelligence and solutions company based in Ottawa, Canada

Hi, Martin. What is your background and what are your duties at Agility PR?

My background is originally in finance and accounting. I’m a data junkie at heart. In 2003, I co-founded a media analysis firm in Ottawa, Canada, and built that business into the country’s leading media intelligence company. We sold the company in 2014 to Innodata, which remains Agility PR’s parent company. Following the sale, we made a series of acquisitions that built Agility PR’s capabilities for the full PR lifecycle.

My daily focus is on taking our product to the market. Agility PR punches above its weight in terms of our capabilities for our size. We receive superb feedback from clients on websites like G2 and have a growing reselling business.

Today, Agility PR has an enviable platform and suite of workflows and tools across our product range. We have several thousand clients around the world and now employ hundreds of people globally.

What is the added value that Agility PR provides its clients in the PR and marketing sectors?

On the media targeting side, Agility PR is one of the very few companies in the industry with a global media database that is fully integrated with a Big Data media intelligence platform. Our AI-powered technology gives us the ability to make the connection between journalists and the content they publish in real time, so that we can identify emerging trends to put PR and marketing teams in contact with them. This precise approach is the most effective way to target the media but is only possible via the application of our media monitoring solution together with our media database.

Which services propel the growth of Agility PR?

Agility PR covers the entire suite of the PR lifecycle. This includes media outreach, whereby we identify the key journalists covering a particular industry and set a workflow on how to engage with them, share content, and amplify the client’s content with that media. Content is then published, which requires media monitoring.

We divide the company into two main areas: outreach on one side, monitoring, analysis, and intelligence on the other. These two sides are split evenly in terms of business activity and complement each other well.

In what ways has COVID-19 demanded adaptation from Agility PR?

COVID-19 has had a serious economic impact globally. Yet it has presented Agility PR with a tremendous opportunity and we have seen our metrics grow. On the media intelligence side of the business, some of our largest clients have become very proactive around how their business is reflected in the media. Some of these businesses have been deemed ‘essential services’ during the crisis and therefore have an increased need to understand how their business is seen. In parallel to this is the public’s opinion and concerns.

On the outreach side, we have never been busier. Our clients are sending a significant number of news releases through Agility. Month after month we have seen increasing utilization of our tools. Between March and April, the number of press releases sent out via Agility PR Solutions’ tools grew by over 30 percent, while the outreach via the Agility platform has increased 60 percent since January.

What are the challenges that confront the industry today?

The print media industry is going through a lot of changes but the COVID-19 crisis has sped this change. But the need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than it ever has been. The public is consuming – depending on the metrics you’re looking at – between 60 and 300 percent more media than at any earlier time. We deliver vital insights from that consumption and turn it into intelligence for clients.

Agility PR’s media database is the premier database in the industry and this is because of the workflows we have in place. Our team is working flat out because, with the pandemic, journalists’ contact details have changed. Maintaining that communication bridge is important for everyone.

What are the technology-based services that Agility PR hopes to bring to market, and what is the problem being solved?

One of the main themes in our sector is PR attribution, but as of today, there is no real PR attribution method that provides clients with a clear understanding of how content drives business. This is an area we are looking at, and while there are quick wins to be had, that is not the direction Agility PR will move in. Instead, we will look to generate insights from our client suite intelligence to help clients understand the impact of content in measurable terms. These terms differ: for one client it may be revenue, for another, blood donation. Through our data-rich approach and analysis, we can build the whole picture for our clients.

How can Agility PR increase the quality of the insights its services already offer clients?

We feel we are just scratching the surface in terms of the audience intelligence and targeting intelligence can provide. We have already brought these two ends together, but adding a level of predictive analytics will give our clients the opportunity to target the media more accurately, in scalable and precise ways, compared to the traditional approach. We have our database ready, but by linking it to client-side data, we can truly create a predictive solution. We have an exciting roadmap for these developments.

By Peter Appleby