Gladwell goes on to draw the parallel with the business world to argue that start-ups entering a market dominated by large, established players actually have an advantage. Yet that is not how Hisham El-Marazki felt when in March 2013 he launched PR Gym, an online media evaluation service. .
“We are trying to make a mark on a sector that is dominated by large established players like Kantar, Gorkana and Precise, who all provide booth media monitoring and the evaluation part that we offer,” says El-Marazki. “They have been building their client bases and reputations for decades. Kantar alone works with over half of the Fortune500. Gorkana has daily alerts going to more than 100,000 journalists every day. We knew we had our work cut out trying to break into this market.”
Yet, he and his team have achieved considerable success in just a few months. Already it has more than half the number of Twitter followers of Precise or Kantar. At the recent PR Show in London the PR Gym stand was surrounded by PR executives eager to find out about and sign up for the new service.
So, how do you achieve this? What does this mean for the UK’s PR industry?
Find the gap in the market
The first and most important step, he believes, is to ensure that there is a genuine need for what you plan to offer. Over his many years working in media evaluation El-Marazki has witnessed two major trends that led him to identify the need for PR Gym.
“There has been major consolidation,” he says. “Smaller independent media evaluation companies have found themselves unable to compete with the automation and economies of scale delivered by Gorkana, Precise and Kantar, and so they have either gone out of business or been swallowed up by those big beasts. Over the past 15 years this has significantly reduced the choice in media evaluation that is available to PR professionals.”
He continues: “At the same time the drive towards automated evaluation has not been all positive – sentiment analysis is now only around 80 per cent accurate, and the world of media evaluation has become dry, impersonal and frankly dull. PR professionals have come to see media evaluation as a tedious, time-consuming task that has to be done. Our mission is to put the fun back into media evaluation.”
Develop a clear offer
El-Marazki believes it is essential for companies such as his to have a clear picture of the benefits they offer their potential customers. “Small new entrants lack the recognition and marketing resources of their established rivals so in the small amount of airtime they do get with potential customers they have to be incisive and relevant.”
PR Gym offers a simple, straightforward online system. Users input their coverage, detailing publication, page position, sentiment, use of key messages and so on. The system then calculates AVE and PR Value, and compiles it all into a professional-looking report which the user can generate as and when they need it.
“The most obvious benefit of using us is the time saving,” says El-Marazki. “PR executives no longer need to spend days collecting all this information on AVEs, circulatoin numbers, CPMs and so on. With PR Gym they can do it in a matter of minutes. For them this reduces hassle. For their employers it saves money. We charge just £1,200 a year for brands with more than 30 pieces of coverage a month, or £600 a year for those with fewer than 30. That is much less than even the lowest paid PR junior would be paid to do this. Finally it is more accurate. Although technology may be able to gather explicit terms, implicit coverage may be missed as automated machines cannot understand a writer’s wit, style, or a double entendre.”
He continues: “Those are the obvious benefits, but what really appeals to users is actually more profound. It is a practical benefit: PR Gym gives them the tools they need to build stronger client relationships and increase fees if agencyside, or increase PR budgets if in-house. But it is also an emotional one: PR Gym transforms the most dull, tedious and time-consuming element of PR into one that is fun. It’s important not to under-estimate the importance of emotions in business decision-making.”
Be brave, get smart
It was that insight that led El-Marazki and his team to a bold decision with the company’s brand. “Take a look at the brands of the large companies in this market,” he says. “Without exception they are clinical, serious and dull. It makes the experience even more dry and unappealing than it already is. We decided that our brand would be a breath of fresh air in the market.”
He explains: “In everything we do, from our Twitter feed where we run cake competitions to our terms and conditions which begin with a statement that you do right by us and we’ll do right by you, we deploy humour and informal language to engage people and make them smile. There’s not been a whole lot of smiling recently in the world of media evaluation and we want to change that.”
Finally, aware of how limited his budgets are compared to those of his competitors, El-Marazki has had to get smart with the techniques he uses to bring his message of quick, affordable and fun media analysis to the PR industry. The company has persuaded a host of high profile industry figures from Mark Etingchap of Marketing Chap to Ben Matthews, Head of Communications at Yougov to guest blog, and has attracted more than 2,000 Twitter followers in just a few months.
Impact on the PR industry
It remains to be seen whether or not all this will indeed revolutionise the world of PR media evaluation, but El-Marazki and his team have certainly made an impact in a short space of time. They have created an innovative service and a striking brand. It has the potential to save PR professionals time and money and to enhance the relationships they have with their clients. A growing number of PR professionals are starting to notice this brave new David, and it may not be long before the Goliaths of media evaluation need to take note too.
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