Lee Odden

Interview with PRWeb CEO David McInnis

David McInnis
PRWeb is best known for being in the news distribution business. With the acquisition by public relations software firm Vocus last week, PRWeb has bumped up it’s own presence in the news. During the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose last week, I had the opportunity to talk to PRWeb CEO, David McInnis about the Vocus acquisition and what lies ahead for PRWeb.
What prompted the acquisition?

Lee, I will probably blog about this more in depth this week on the PRWeb blog. We have been talking with Vocus for well over a year now. The timing was not right until recently for a few reasons. First, I felt that I had a lot left to accomplish (read try) with PRWeb before I handed the reigns over to someone else. I wanted to do these things on my own to see if I could execute a few new enhancements on my own dime and vision. In the last year alone we have really changed the practice of PR.

Thinking about everything we accomplished makes my head spin. We started the year with PRWeb Photowire, a flickrized photo newswire service. On the heels of that announcement we announced PRWeb Podcast and have completed nearly 1,000 podcast episodes with our clients. We introduced trackbacks into press releases, a concept that we have patented because of its unique value proposition for the PR space. These are just a few services that we announced in the beginning of the year.

So why did I finally agree to the acquisition? First I need to say that from the start my team and I always saw a strategic fit with the Vocus team and brand. We distribute PR and the Vocus platform manages it. Can you get a better fit than that? Secondly, I felt that it was important to take our message and vision for new PR mainstream. The Vocus acquisition allows us to do just that. They have the marketing and sales team in place to make sure that we can maintain our thought leadership in this important space. In addition, the purchase price of the acquisition validates, in a major way, our approach for news distribution. It says to our detractors, and we have had a few, that what we have been doing for the past decade is revolutionary and really is important.

Think about what we have done for a minute. In less than a decade we have democratized the media on behalf of small business and large corporations everywhere. This is a big deal.

What do you think are the most important synergies that will come out of this partnership?

I really think there is a lot to be gained from the transaction that will benefit both the combined PRWeb / Vocus user base and the PR/IR and corporate communications space. First, we now have access to a sales and marketing team. WOW. I am really excited about this. As you know, PRWeb has never had a marketing department much less a marketing plan. We have been built on 100% word of mouth. (Okay, maybe we amplified that WOM a little by supporting industry trade shows. But really we have never spent any other money on marketing.)

Vocus has a platform. Within that platform are modules that I would like to borrow and bring into the PRWeb system. I don’t know what form that will take at the moment. But can you imagine an online newsroom attached to your account? Or a fully integrated clipping and news monitoring service? I am excited about the possibilities and will keep you posted as we meet with the Vocus team over the next few weeks to determine what we are going to be able to do.

We will also be working with Vocus to integrate the PRWeb offering into the Vocus platform. This is important because, as I said earlier, Vocus manages PR. A single location for managing and distributing your PR is a logical integration.

How will PRWeb customers be impacted? Will there be any considerations for PRWeb clients that want to become Vocus clients?

How will PRWeb customers be impacted? I think we stated it best in our announcement.

You will receive the same great PRWeb service. You’ll continue to use PRWeb exactly as you do now. Without interruption of any kind, you’ll enjoy the same great features and customer support you’ve come to expect. You’ll continue to work with the same PRWeb editors and customer support staff.

Will there be any considerations for PRWeb users wishing to get on the Vocus platform? I hope so. We will be working with the Vocus team in the next weeks to determine how to do this. There have been discussions around creating a PRWeb version of the platform to address the needs of the SME and SOHO market. No promises, but I will lobby for something.

What will your role be on a go forward?

Janitor if I am lucky. No, seriously, I will remain on board for a long time to come as CEO for this business unit. Vocus has allowed me to keep my team in tact so that we can continue to grow this business unit as we have done in the past. Granted, there will be more business structure around what we do but this should not be perceptible to our customers.

My mind doesn’t stop when it comes to this space. I really like it. And CastleMonkey (that‚Äôs the CTO) and his team are cranking code as fast as we can collectively envision new ideas. So I see a long-tail on this thing.

What kind of PRWeb/Vocus integration enhancements will there be?

Plenty. I’m pretty certain we can do a really slick integration so that corporations get killer PR management AND delivery, and PRWeb clients get to experience better management of their PR campaigns, as well as increased metrics.

Thank you David!

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. Lee – thank you for the coverage of PRWeb’s acquisition!

    David – congratulations for the deal! PRWeb is by far the most advanced newswire in adopting social media features, and I hope you will continue to add new ones. Also, I hope you’ll consider joining us on the New Media Release working group [1].

    You said -here and in the interview you made with Fard Johnmar [2]- that some of PRWeb’s innovations, like the use of trackbacks in press releases, but not only, are patented (or patent pending). I was wondering if you could offer more information about that, and on how this might affect the adoption of social media features by other companies (including newswires).

    [1] http://groups.google.com/group/newmediarelease
    [2] http://tinyurl.com/nob9x

  2. Constantin,

    Thank you for the invite to join the discussion. We have been working independently at PRWeb in this direction for a long time now, mostly because we saw that something need to get done and groups tend to slow things down a bit. I will keep my eyes on the group and jump in whenever I have something that I feel will enhance the discussion or as time permits.

    With regard to the patent pending features we felt that it was essential in order to maintain out leadership in this space to protect our IP. As background we started the whole search engine optimized press release movement in the late 90’s and saw how companies tried to play “capture the flag” with our messaging and vision. Because we did not protect our IP in the SEO space we began to see a lot of spammy type services begin to emmerge trying to make SEO plays. Without IP protection we had no way to police this activity on behalf of the industry. I do not yet know how we are going to license some of these features but I imagine it will be agreeable to the community when we do. I am writing this under the burden of a huge headache. I hope this makes sense.

    David

  3. Thanks for stopping by David. The clarification on the patent question is usefule. Hope the headache passes asap!

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