Peter Granat has the top job at PR and social software behemoth Cision – a company that looks little like the organization of the same name did one year ago.
Today’s Cision is the result of a months-long initiative by private equity firm GTCR to form a global PR cloud business. Since the start of the year, Cision has combined with software company Vocus and acquired social media analytics platform Visible Technologies. In late October, it added media intelligence and data insight specialist Gorkana Group.
Granat didn’t always see himself as a natural fit for the top spot at a company such as Cision. When he joined pre-merger Cision 11 years ago as an SVP for sales and marketing, he viewed himself as more of a "startup guy" than someone who would one day run the entire operation from the corner office.
In fact, he didn’t actively join Cision. Granat was actually working as an SVP at tech startup MediaMap, which was acquired by Cision in 2003.
"I thought I would stick around for a couple of years and then move on and do something in the startup space," he said. "But every time I tried to leave, I got another opportunity to do something cool, so I stuck around and kept doing it."
‘So calm, it’s spooky’
Since starting at Cision, Granat has served in seven different roles, but it was the end of 2008 when he embarked on his first C-suite position as president and CEO of Cision Europe – right at the beginning of the economic crisis. The job required a move to London.
At the time, Granat was in his mid-30s, had a baby on the way, and was also working on an executive MBA.
Despite the bevy of responsibilities, Granat took an "old school, manual intensive" company through difficult integration challenges during a recession to turn it into a software provider, explained Arvind Stokes, Cision’s VP of digital content, strategy, and operations, who has worked with Granat for the past 10 years.
Stokes, who is leaving Cision next month to work for startup Zerocater as VP of operations, commented that even with so much on his plate, Granat’s calm demeanor is apparent to his colleagues.
"He is such a cool character, just exceptionally calm under pressure, it is spooky," he said. "Nothing fazes him, which is what you want in a leader."
Getting a changing organization on the same page
Cision has more than 120,000 customers — mostly corporate clients and a couple thousand PR agencies — and offices outside the US in Canada, England, France, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, and China.
In terms of staff, the company has more than 2,000 globally, and it plans to further expand geographically.
This means Granat needs to keep everyone on the same page. But first, he has to focus on combining the cultures of the recently merged companies, he explained.
He plans to put a combined set of values in place by the end of this quarter, so the company has conducted surveys and interviewed stakeholders across departments and geographic locations.
Granat also wants employees across the board to understand Cision’s strategy, how it works with clients, and how the company wants to position itself in the marketplace.
"It takes a lot of work to communicate that across our entire employee base," he added.
To do this, Granat is taking part in a series of town halls, and when he is traveling, he creates short videos on his phone for Cision’s intranet to share what is happening with the company across markets and comment on upcoming internal changes.
He also encourages staffers to ask questions through Cision’s intranet, which Granat answers directly.
To keep employee morale up, he said the executive team at Cision is straightforward about the company’s strategy, the changing landscape in the marketplace, opportunities, and challenges.
"We are honest and direct with employees when changes are coming and what the impact could be on them personally and professionally," said Granat.
Hunter Marth, Cision’s former senior events manager, told PRWeek that it is evident in Granat’s management style that he thinks internal and external communications are important.
"[Granat] is very hands-on with employees of all levels," said Marth, who left the company earlier this month to join Benefitfocus as senior corporate event planner. "He has a vision for Cision and the business but is also open to hearing what employees have to say."
Finding a work-life balance
Because the company operates across numerous time zones, Granat’s day typically starts at 5 am, communicating with staffers worldwide through email. Cision’s global presence also means he travels a lot.
Granat noted that some weeks he might focus on planning the integration of the businesses and what the roadmap for products will look like, along with the strategy for 2015, while other weeks might find him scheduled at customer and client events and meetings.
But even with the 24/7 demands of his job, which he acknowledged can be challenging, Granat says he has found a work-life balance now that Cision is based near his home in Chicago.
"I am able to make it home every night for dinner to be with my two sons (ages three and six) and wife," he said. "And when I am not traveling, I can even be home for breakfast."
Changing along with the PR industry
Since Granat joined Cision, changes in traditional media relations, social media, content marketing, and the emergence of new tools PR pros are using have created both opportunities and challenges for the company, he explained.
To try to stay a step ahead, Cision makes investments based on where its executives think the industry is headed next.
"Now there is an intersection of things like sponsored content, branded journalism, paid media, social media, content marketing, and more focus on analysis and measuring the effectiveness of campaigns, and it’s all becoming part of the PR toolkit," Granat said. "So we are continuing to make investments in those areas to make sure we are relevant for tomorrow."
In the past decade-plus since he joined Cision, Granat noted that one thing that has stayed consistent at the company is its core mission of focusing on the intersection of media and PR. He doesn’t expect that to change.
Resume: Peter Granat
October 2014 – Present
CEO, Cision Group
June 2014 – October 2014
February 2013 – June 2014
President and CEO, Cision Group
March 2012 – February 2013
President and CEO, Cision North America
January 2011 – February 2012
President and COO, Cision North America
January 2009 – December 2010
President and CEO, Cision Europe
December 2007 – December 2008
2003 – 2007
SVP, sales and marketing, Cision
1992 – 2003