Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd on why TrendKite was an attractive acquisition target

TrendKite chief Erik Huddleston: "Cision was the only one we were interested in selling to."

Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd
Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd

CHICAGO: Cision CEO Kevin Akeroyd waved Austin, Texas-based digital PR platform TrendKite aside last year as a "prettier" version of his product that doesn’t do anything better. On Wednesday, Cision acquired TrendKite for $225 million, 8.8 times greater than TrendKite’s 2018 revenue ($25.4 million).

Akeroyd and Erik Huddleston, who was previously CEO of TrendKite and now serves as president at Cision, were so motivated that they worked through their Christmas vacations to finalize the deal, they said via email.

Akeroyd explained that he believes his past comments about TrendKite were "a bit out of context."

"In all honesty, do we think TrendKite is the ‘prettiest’ – i.e., a powerful-yet-easy-to-use, beautiful and robust data visualization?" Akeroyd said. "We do, and we know that’s important to the PR and comms professional that relies on us to run their business every day."

Broadly speaking, Cision and TrendKite offer similar, but complementary services, Akeroyd added. For example, both companies provide attribution services for PR to demonstrate ROI, but they do it in different ways.

"The market has appetite for both, as the incredible adoption of both TrendKite PRA and Cision Impact has proven," he said. "We think putting the two together is a classic 1+1 = 10, not 2, in the market."

Similarly, Cision and TrendKite both have influencer identification capabilities. TrendKite is "strong on the digital and social influencer" side, while Cision has a legacy in the traditional media influencer, Akeroyd said.

Currently operating as a standalone application, TrendKite will eventually be integrated into Cision’s all-in-one platform, the Cision Communications Cloud.

Huddleston said TrendKite never considered selling to any other large PR tech player, such as Meltwater or the Apollo-backed West Corporation, which acquired Nasdaq’s PR and digital media business.

"We were focused on transforming the communications industry," Huddleston said. "Cision and TrendKite had a shared passion for where the industry was going. Given that, Cision was the only one we were interested in selling to."

Consolidation in PR tech has been underway for years. Most recently, TrendKite made its first two acquisitions by buying InsightPool and Union Metrics. Cision has made 12 acquisitions, including TrendKite, since it was combined with Vocus in 2014.

Privately, many of the smaller players in PR tech view Cision’s growth strategy as an attempt to consolidate the industry. But Huddleston said he doesn’t believe Cision is buying companies for its own sake.

"They were pursuing the same earned media management strategy as we were," Huddleston said. "With Cision behind us, TrendKite will be able to scale and grow much faster than if we had continued as a standalone company so we can get to that vision faster."

Cision has partnered with programmatic marketing provider MediaMath, identity resolution company LiveRamp, and Oracle, and Cision and TrendKite have integrations with Google and Adobe, Akeroyd and Huddleston said.

"We are actively pursuing more partnerships in that area and you can anticipate announcements on this going forward," they said. "We believe that while bringing the first earned media platform and the first earned media attribution solutions to market are mission critical steps, the ultimate goal is to allow the CEO, CMO, and CCO to orchestrate customer experience in an integrated fashion across paid, owned, and earned. Our existing and future integration partners are going to make that reality."

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