Tech Talk with Propel CEO Zach Cutler

“I had a PR agency and we tried multiple CRMs. But they are typically made for sales and marketing, not for public relations.”

Propel's Zach Cutler
Propel's Zach Cutler

What is Propel?
Propel is an end-to-end PR software that helps PR professionals discover the right targets to contact, pitch them, track their campaigns, analyze what’s working, measure return on investment and monitor coverage and results.

I had a PR agency and we tried multiple [customer relationship management systems]. But they are typically made for sales and marketing, not for public relations.

[Propel product] PRM is a CRM specifically built for the PR workflow, by a PR professional who brought to the software 10 years of pain points, experience with media relations and pitching and doing the PR workflow manually. Propel was created, starting with the PR workflow, then building the database and monitoring to complement that.

Who are some of your clients? 
We just reached 100 customers. Our clients include Google, Real Chemistry (formerly W2O), The Daily Mail, Antenna and Blast Media.

How did you move from PR representation to PR software?
In 2009, I started Cutler PR and in 2018 sold it to another New York firm, Kite Hill PR. That year, I cofounded Propel with our CTO, David Cohen.

I started our company because I was really frustrated that we didn’t have a software that could streamline our workflow and make our agency more data-driven. I realized that to do this, I had to build the software. I’m a numbers guy but I’m also a creative guy; that’s why I went into PR.

When you’re able to marry the creative side of PR with numbers and data, that’s where the magic begins. You’re able to understand which campaigns are working, which journalists are engaging, which team members are productive and can coach the less productive people.

How does Propel make PR professionals’ lives easier?
We have full plug-ins into Gmail and Outlook, and an easy to use ROI dashboards.

We launched in 2019 our media database, in 2020 our media monitoring and in 2021 our social listening. We have online and broadcast monitoring and a full suite to monitor Twitter, Facebook and Instagram of journalists, competitors or any profiles. This year, we also launched Pitching Preferences, which uses machine learning to analyze more than a million pitches that have been sent through the platform in an anonymized, aggregated way.

It allows clients to pick the best day of the week, time and the topics, considering open and response rates, for pitches that journalists will most likely respond to. They can build smarter media lists.

In pitching 10 to 30 reporters, 90% of the pitch will be the same. With Generate Drafts, after writing their draft, [clients] can create 20 to 30 drafts in a click of a button, then add a sentence to customize each one before sending them out. Our clients have told us what used to take them an hour and a half, now takes them 10 minutes.

What new technology is on Propel’s horizon?
Using AI and machine learning, Recommendations uses advanced tech and factors like public articles and social media to determine the specific, relevant journalists for pitches.

It automatically scans through millions of journalists and influencers and based on a pitch that a client has written, Recommendations will pull together a list and say “Here is your suggested list of journalists.” This feature will launch in the next six months. 

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