How to Choose the Right Digital PR Software for Your Marketing Campaign: Cision vs. Muckrack

So: you have your content, your outreach strategy, and the verticles you’d like to target… Now it’s time to get started on active outreach. Where to begin? While some public relations pros might prefer to manually find and email journalists, others want to cultivate in-depth press lists of relevant journalists nationwide. That is where PR platforms can help.

Choosing a press platform is difficult work- what are you looking for, and what’s the cost? Do you need to monitor and incorporate reporting too?

First Decide What Your Priorities Are

As we all know, there’s PR……and then there’s PR. These two letters can mean so many things to different people. From press releases for brands to our realm of data-driven digital PR. To really figure out which PR platform best suits your needs, you first need to figure out what your needs ARE. 

Choosing your Digital PR Platform. Cision vs. Muckrack

High Volume Outreach, or Highly Targeted?

While no one is advocating for a “throw spaghetti at the wall” approach to PR outreach, some PR pros want larger lists – whether the news is of national significance, or you’re simply trying to alert every outlet in the state about a new data point, sometimes large lists just make sense.

Other times, careful research and customized outreach to one or two journalists at a time can land those high-DA clips we all love to see. As the industry shifts away from tangential content and towards prioritizing relevant backlinks, thinking about how to roll with this pivot will set you up for success in the long run. 

Large Audience vs. Small Audience

Do you want your content to stay within the niche of your client, or do you want a national or broad audience? Different platforms can deliver different things.

Ease of Outreach

How big of a press database would you like? Are you able to custom import contacts? What about exporting contacts? Are there any press release platforms or reporter query monitoring available?

Email Capability

Do you want to send a somewhat customized pitch through a large email platform that can easily send out thousands of messages nearly simultaneously? Or are you looking to bypass spam filters and ensure your message hits the inbox of relatively few journalists per day? Both have perks and drawbacks- what kind of press coverage do YOU want for you or your client?

Monitoring

Do you want a platform that can also monitor coverage for you? Whether it’s setting press alerts, brand mention monitoring, or creating backlink notifications, many PR platforms offer some type of monitoring. Are you just concerned with backlinks, or are social media KPIs part of your digital PR strategy as well? 

Reporting Capability

It’s time to talk to your client. As a PR pro, you want to deliver the best data possible and show them what THEY need to know. Does this mean reporting is best done outside the PR platform, or would you prefer a one-stop shop to see the results of outreach efforts? 

These are some of the key variables at play when choosing a digital PR platform. Once you have a better sense of exactly what outreach strategy and journalists you’re looking to reach, let’s dive deep into two of the top PR platforms: Cision and Muckrack. 

Cision

What is Cision?

Cision is one of the most well-known PR platforms– and is our in-house platform for a reason. Its database of publications, outlets, and journalists is on a scale that boggles the mind. With a few clicks, you’re able to cultivate targeted lists of editors, reporters, and even producers that work in the beat or area of your choosing.

Cision also has a powerful email-sending capability through a mass emailing platform, saving your inbox from MOST bounces and not fully eating your computer’s working memory while doing so. 

Cision's website

Large Audience vs. Small Audience

Cision’s database is a force to be reckoned with and its list-building design encourages the creation of very large lists. While you can really focus on specifics, a general search can generate hundreds of journalists- thus giving you the opportunity to zoom out and in as needed.

It definitely falls on the side of large audience capability, but if you’re willing to spend the time meticulously filtering lists, it can give you a highly targeted outreach approach. It also has a press release distribution service, PR Wire, that can get your brand’s releases in front of many eyes nationwide.

Ease of Outreach

Cision’s database is huge- but it doesn’t always have the most up-to-date contacts or updated email addresses for some journalists. We’ve seen emails like “lazypitches@xyz.com” in the email contact field, but thankfully Cision lets you customize contacts and make notes about journalist preferences on a person-by-person basis. This is a handy way to track who did and didn’t share your content. 

Cision also has a press release distribution system AND will let you export contacts with a few clicks, though currently, you have to agree to terms and conditions every time you do so. It also has HARO, or “Help a Reporter Out,” which collates journalist queries into a twice-daily digest email that PR pros can skim and respond to as they see fit. 

Image of Cision's "activity center."

Email Capability

Sending emails through Cision is also a breeze- especially if you are sending out many hundreds of messages via multiple campaigns. That said, it does trip recipient filters for being a mass email, and is hard to customize on a journalist-by-journalist basis. While you CAN create templates for a pitch, you can’t necessarily customize an intro for each high-level journalist you pitch without making a press list of one. 

Followup emails are also a bit tricky- working with an original template, you simply add the follow-up email above, which can be time-consuming and occasionally miss details. 

Monitoring

For a separate charge, Cision has a monitoring and analytics app that integrates with its press management platform. It will scrape the web for backlink mentions as well as integrate social media monitoring into its communications cloud and provide a variety of analytics and KPIs to help any PR pro decide what they need to do next. 

Reporting Capability

Again- if you buy into the separate monitoring and analytics app that Cision offers, you’ll be able to utilize a dynamic report on UVPM, web traffic, brand mentions, social engagement, and more. However, there’s no built-in reporting with simply the press platform. 

All in all, Cision is an incredibly powerful outreach tool with one of the largest press databases in the world. However, occasionally, there are some frustrations that come with something offering that level of scale and power. 

Muckrack

What is Muckrack? 

Muckrack is a relative newcomer in the league of PR platforms, but it started with a bang and continues to rise in popularity. With a sleek UX that benefits journalists and PR pros alike, Muckrack boasts a large and disconcertingly thorough journalist database.

When I was a part-time freelance journalist for an extremely local newspaper, Muckrack had already compiled a press profile including all of my articles to date without me doing anything to prompt it. It also recently announced an AI capability called PressPal that generates lists of relevant journalists and announced a new backlink monitoring capability. 

Muckrack's homepage

Large Audience vs. Small Audience

Muckrack’s platform is designed to encourage the creation of small, highly targeted, customized press lists. While a search can generate hundreds of results, you can filter by job role, DMA, language, outlet type, and more. Muckrack only allows you to select 25 journalists at a time when creating press lists.

This encourages the user to keep outreach to small lists, but with a much higher chance of relevancy- results will showcase both recent articles and recent tweets to give the user a much better idea of what the author is ACTUALLY talking and writing about. 

A search for "New York Jets" showing a journalist

Ease of Outreach

It’s incredibly easy to both customize and add contacts as well as export lists in Muckrack; it also makes it easy to slide into any journalist’s DMs as Muckrack will provide Twitter excerpts in each contact. Muckrack will also notify you of role changes for key journalists in your lists and will automatically update contact information for each journalist, eliminating bounceback. 

Muckrack will also scan every pitch and add suggestions grounded in data: where to cut text (or add), whether the subject line is too long, and whether the message feels sufficiently customized. It feels like another set of eyes on the pitch! 

It will also provide journalist pitch examples and, most recently, it takes all mystery out of journalist outreach with its new tool PressPal.ai, which not only will write an email pitch to journalists, it will also cultivate a press list as well. 

Email Capability

Muckrack integrates with your actual email address to send through your email provider, adding the effect that every message is personal and not part of a mass blast. On the other hand, this can take up a fair bit of computing power in the process. 

Muckrack also allows for each email to an individual journalist on a press list to be customized, and also easily integrates follow-up emails into its pitch monitoring platform. You just need to click a button to generate a follow-up email without having to create a separate template. You can select only certain journalists to follow up with or the entire list, and there will still be space to customize. 

Monitoring

You can set alerts for brand mentions very easily in Muckrack, as well as backlink mentions; from here, you can customize whether you’d like to receive an email every time a mention occurs, or create a daily (weekly, monthly) digest of mentions instead. It can monitor press clips as well as brand mentions on social media. 

Search results on Muckrack

Reporting Capability

Muckrack has an analytics section that will show how your PR outreach is performing. It can calculate click and open rates by pitch, showcase social media shares and sentiment, highlight the journalists and outlets that shared information about your brand, and the equivalent ad spend outreach has earned.

Muckrack will also break down outlets by UVPM, journalist reach, and more. This report can also easily be converted into a deck or other medium to showcase the results when presenting to clients. Muckrack allows you to monitor backlinks as well.

Comparing the Two

So, Muckrack, or Cision? The difference between the two lies in priorities and capability. Cision can deliver volume and an extremely comprehensive database of BOTH journalists and outlets, while Muckrack can deliver a better user experience and a highly customized press outreach platform that might not spread quite as widely.

CriteriaCisionMuckrack
AudienceHumongous journalist and outlet database, can make large scale press lists with ease while also being able to filter and tailor down small scale press listsLarge database of journalists and freelancers, less comprehensive on outlets. Can only select 25 journalists at a time, driving user towards making highly targeted lists instead of broad audience lists
Ease of OutreachCan import contacts and export lists with ease, pitches can be made into templates, some contacts are outdatedImport and export similarly easy, email template capability also available.
Email CapabilitySends emails en masse from outside user’s inbox, can handle incredible volume of sends at the same time, has schedule capabilityIntegrates with user’s inbox to appear like a personalized email, each email sent can be customized by journalist. Followups with click of button.
MonitoringFor extra fee, can incorporate monitoring into Cision suite by brand mentionHas backlink, brand mention, and other monitoring capability and integrates with the rest of platform
ReportingFor extra fee, has reporting hub with a variety of different metricsHas reporting hub that can be exported as a deck that includes equivalent ad spend, SEO metrics, brand sentiment, and more
PricingResearch indicates Cision pricings begins with a single seat at $7,200/yearResearch indicates Muckrack Pricing begins with a single seat at $5,000/year

Both platforms are a hefty investment, and both offer monitoring and analytics to better measure efforts and returns. While Cision focuses on the heft of its database, Muckrack focuses on customization and personalization in pitching. Muckrack integrates emails from your outbox while Cision sends emails completely separately from you. 

Ultimately, there are many benefits to both Cision and Muckrack and perhaps the solution is to use both in different ways. You can harness Muckrack’s powerful capabilities to find more niche journalists. Pair that with Cision’s high-powered pitching engine, and you’re getting the best of both worlds.

Each PR pro knows their needs best, and most importantly, the needs of their clients. Still can’t decide? Or want to learn more about our digital PR services? Get in touch with us here.

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