Why they didn’t name it Vision…the Cision Vocus deal

Why they didn’t name it Vision…the Cision Vocus deal

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When I heard about the Vocus and Cision merger at the PRSA conference this week, all I could think was….oh shit. Both companies seem to be long on salespeople (my dinky little company has had 9 different Cision reps in the last 3 years) and short on customer support. And, I admit, I’m as guilty as the next person of having my intern sit in on webinars to earn a Starbucks coffee card from Vocus.  Oh, and together they bought Visible, which apparently is a great company.

“…Coupling the company’s social intelligence SaaS platform and insights experts with Vocus and Cision’s powerful PR tools creates a comprehensive solution for tracking and analyzing earned, owned and paid media that elevates brands and drives business results.” Or, as another release said “Cision is now better placed to provide quality solutions that will serve the PR and communications professional’s complete workflow.”

Boy this takes me back. Those of us in IT services remember the 90’s when flush with cash, we decided to go out and “merge with partners”.  (By the way, someone always buys someone. Mergers are just a way of making the smaller guy feel better about it.) The idea was that if you could sell the entire “lifecycle” you could own the customer. We can do it soup to nuts!  And after quite a bit of partying and initial hoopla, the reality sets in. Wow, this doesn’t work.

Here’s why it doesn’t work:

  • First, it’s the usually the biggest company with the worst brand that has the most money. And gets to keep the name. Therefore the better brands get sullied.  The brilliant Katie Paine just wrote about this yesterday :

“Instead, they chose Cision, a brand that Vocus and everyone else has been bad mouthing with good reason for years. In a move that was both baffling and incredibly fitting, they promoted themselves by bringing a large dinosaur to the trade show area of this week’s PRSA International Conference. ….My feelings about Cision are no secret. I’ve told anyone who has asked that using the CisionPoint  system is like having a root canal — incredibly painful, takes a long time, and when its over you’re left with a feeling that something’s missing.  Personally, I’d prefer root canal.”

  • The greatest people almost always leave. Companies like Visible are known for their thought leaders. These people try very, very hard at the beginning to make a situation like this work. But after a while, having to get approval after approval to introduce something new, they leave and start something else.
  • Mergers, acquisitions, whatever you want to call it, are a nightmare from an organization standpoint. Something of this size will take at least a year if not more to figure out. In the meantime the companies will experience dramatic turnover and loss of process. (Because frankly, whose process do we use?) Or worse, they’ll leave everything alone for a year and lull everyone into thinking that things are great. When the bottom line doesn’t deliver as promised (and it rarely does) the VC’s will get busy and then the real merger (translate: cost savings) begins. Then everyone gets really pissed off.
  • In the middle of all of this, while these big behemoths are trying to figure out how to steer their new ginormous ship, competitors are focused on selling to their customers. And they often get pretty far along.

Cision is a company that needs to bring itself into the new media world quickly. However, their lack of attention to operations and to testing in particular is well known.

In the end, the new company has the Cision CEO as its head and mostly Cision folks in the boardroom. They just bought capability; they haven’t created a “powerful new service”. I can go out and buy a Ferrari too, but I still won’t know how to drive it.