PR Review: Vocus News-On-Demand – SaaS PR Service for Professionals

2010-07-09 by Archie Obrien


When Vocus describes its product as the world’s most comprehensive, easy-to-use, affordable and Web-based corporate communications management software, they are not just using sales lingo. But you have to go inside to see what they mean. Even so, we were interested only in the News-On-Demand and Analytics modules, two integrated features of the system, and this is what we will review.

To begin, I would like to thank Frank Strong and Chris Eckstein for their support and availability during the time I tested these features, and for their kindness in keeping the trial on for as long as I needed it.

Tested Brands: KIDO’Z vs. Kidzui

We used two brands to test and compare: KIDO’Z and Kidzui, both competing in the same market. We helped KIDO’Z launch three years ago (we no longer work with them), when we used SM2 by Techrigy (now Alterian SM2) for social media monitoring and analysis. This is still the only service of its kind that has a freemium edition. It’s ideal to manage small-scale campaigns, but it cannot do the job (as freemium) for viral, popular campaigns. We will review Alterian SM2 next month.

Introduction to Vocus News-On-Demand

Vocus on Demand is part of the Vocus SaaS PR management system. It is a news monitoring service, designed as an integrated feature of this platform, and priced to meet the unique needs of a given public relations company. This means that, depending on the size of your organization, number of users and so on, you will get an individual quote, an individual advisor to help you through the learning process (Vocus, although easy to use, has a number of features that are better demonstrated by someone who knows and understands the system), and the same advisor to be your dedicated support contact for the whole duration of your contract.

If you just want a tour of the platform, Vocus will provide it during a no obligation personal presentation, that usually takes one hour. If you like what you see, and require a quote, you’ll get it in your mailbox in less than 24 hours. From here, if you decide to use the system, you’ll need to go through a training tutorial – again personal. If you are tech savvy and you like to discover things on your own, you’ll find the process time consuming. However, you’ll soon understand that the system has features you cannot just guess. Someone has to show them to you, and Vocus insists on taking this approach to ensure that every customer takes full advantage of the tools and features of each module offered. Personally, I find this better than watching an impersonal video tutorial: I could ask all the questions I needed answered, and in the end, having a real person to talk to makes all the difference.

Inside Vocus News-On-Demand

The fact that the software is branded with your logo is a no-brainer (in fact, a standard practice in the industry). There are more important aspects to note. As you’ll see in the screenshot below, the Vocus News-On-Demand user interface appears to be discoverable, simple and very clear. In fact, it is a bit more than that: it’s customizable. You can add or eliminate buttons from your horizontal navigation bar, to make the dashboard show only what you want /need to see.

Vocus News-On-Demand dashboard.

Click on the image for a larger view.

You can even customize the appearance of the dashboard by adding or removing modules/ panels. In the end, your dashboard will give you all the information you need at a glance, and one click access to all your activity, including the most recent contacts you looked at, your media contacts lists, latest news about the brands you are monitoring, and everything else you set the system up to show you.

The Analytics Module

The whole Vocus system is as flexible. For example, when monitoring brands you can select the media outlets you want to grab news from, insert multiple RSS feeds, select social media channels (like Twitter, YouTube, Delicious, and so on). You can monitor the brands themselves and all keywords related to those brands that you consider appropriate (products, executives, spokespeople, company name, atc). Last, but not least, you can set up the system to compare brands to their competitors, and generate intelligent graphs and charts that will show you (and your customers) how effective their online PR campaigns (and presence as a whole) are. This is a clear example that PR can be measured:

KIDO'Z vs Kidzui analytics

KIDO’Z vs Kidzui analytics. Click on the image for a larger view.

To analyze metrics for the brands you monitor, you can select any time frame, and customize your analytics to show only the data relevant for your project. The view is flexible too: you can see your graphs and charts panels on one, two or three columns; you can decide what type of charts to display (columns, pie, line charts, etc) depending on their purpose, and so on. Each module can be individually analyzed as well, with one click of a button.

In the end, you can easily generate a report for your customer, have it exported as PDF or RTF, that will comprise all the information needed to understand campaign success and impact. By setting up the right panels, you’ll see the dates when your social media presence was at its peak; how prominent a certain brand is in the news versus others you monitor against; which media covers your stories (online, newspaper, magazine, television, radio and others); company mention momentum lists; online reputation; positive versus negative mindshare and much more.

Going for the Details

As I already mentioned, each panel can be analyzed individually, and so can each news item pulled by Vocus from the outlets you selected to monitor. Within the system, you can read the full text of any type of news coverage, from Tweets to heavy text articles:

Reading an article about KidZui in Vocus News-On-Demand

Reading an article about KidZui in Vocus News-On-Demand

The system gets even prettier: you get to analyze the tone, prominence, media impact of the article, and make notes. The systems gives you also other important details, like location of the publication, how much an ad on that specific page might be worth, circulation and audience, and news source.

Other Refinements

Vocus News-On-Demand lets you select which of the news outlets have the most prominence, and which of these are the most important for your purpose, then delivers the metrics based on these choices. The system allows you to share news items with colleagues and customers, collaborate on projects, and export data and reports.

In addition, the software gives you access to a database with more than 1.4 million journalists, bloggers and media outlets. You can find contacts by name, publication, or simply through a refined keyword research. You can customize contacts list, and export these as well, for later use.

Searching for media outlets that cover children safety issues.

Searching for media outlets that cover children safety issues.

Instead of Conclusion

Note that Vocus has many other PR software solutions, ranging from enterprise to small business. The only way to know what is best for you is to contact them personally. However, in my opinion, News On-Demand is a must for companies of every size, as it incorporates all the aspect of online monitoring. Vocus also has a separate Social Media Monitoring Software you might be interested in.

Archie Obrien - Everything Public Relation News