Interview with Martin Lyster, CEO of Agility PR Solutions, a media intelligence and solutions company based in Ottawa, Canada
Hi, Martin. What is your background and what are your duties at Agility PR?
My background is originally in finance and accounting. I’m a data junkie at heart. In 2003, I co-founded a media analysis firm in Ottawa, Canada, and built that business into the country’s leading media intelligence company. We sold the company in 2014 to Innodata, which remains Agility PR’s parent company. Following the sale, we made a series of acquisitions that built Agility PR’s capabilities for the full PR lifecycle.
My daily focus is on taking our product to the market. Agility PR punches above its weight in terms of our capabilities for our size. We receive superb feedback from clients on websites like G2 and have a growing reselling business.
Today, Agility PR has an enviable platform and suite of workflows and tools across our product range. We have several thousand clients around the world and now employ hundreds of people globally.
What is the added value that Agility PR provides its clients in the PR and marketing sectors?
On the media targeting side, Agility PR is one of the very few companies in the industry with a global media database that is fully integrated with a Big Data media intelligence platform. Our AI-powered technology gives us the ability to make the connection between journalists and the content they publish in real time, so that we can identify emerging trends to put PR and marketing teams in contact with them. This precise approach is the most effective way to target the media but is only possible via the application of our media monitoring solution together with our media database.
Which services propel the growth of Agility PR?
Agility PR covers the entire suite of the PR lifecycle. This includes media outreach, whereby we identify the key journalists covering a particular industry and set a workflow on how to engage with them, share content, and amplify the client’s content with that media. Content is then published, which requires media monitoring.
We divide the company into two main areas: outreach on one side, monitoring, analysis, and intelligence on the other. These two sides are split evenly in terms of business activity and complement each other well.
In what ways has COVID-19 demanded adaptation from Agility PR?
COVID-19 has had a serious economic impact globally. Yet it has presented Agility PR with a tremendous opportunity and we have seen our metrics grow. On the media intelligence side of the business, some of our largest clients have become very proactive around how their business is reflected in the media. Some of these businesses have been deemed ‘essential services’ during the crisis and therefore have an increased need to understand how their business is seen. In parallel to this is the public’s opinion and concerns.
On the outreach side, we have never been busier. Our clients are sending a significant number of news releases through Agility. Month after month we have seen increasing utilization of our tools. Between March and April, the number of press releases sent out via Agility PR Solutions’ tools grew by over 30 percent, while the outreach via the Agility platform has increased 60 percent since January.
What are the challenges that confront the industry today?
The print media industry is going through a lot of changes but the COVID-19 crisis has sped this change. But the need for reliable, editorially-controlled, and verified information is more important than it ever has been. The public is consuming – depending on the metrics you’re looking at - between 60 and 300 percent more media than at any earlier time. We deliver vital insights from that consumption and turn it into intelligence for clients.
Agility PR’s media database is the premier database in the industry and this is because of the workflows we have in place. Our team is working flat out because, with the pandemic, journalists’ contact details have changed. Maintaining that communication bridge is important for everyone.
What are the technology-based services that Agility PR hopes to bring to market, and what is the problem being solved?
One of the main themes in our sector is PR attribution, but as of today, there is no real PR attribution method that provides clients with a clear understanding of how content drives business. This is an area we are looking at, and while there are quick wins to be had, that is not the direction Agility PR will move in. Instead, we will look to generate insights from our client suite intelligence to help clients understand the impact of content in measurable terms. These terms differ: for one client it may be revenue, for another, blood donation. Through our data-rich approach and analysis, we can build the whole picture for our clients.
How can Agility PR increase the quality of the insights its services already offer clients?
We feel we are just scratching the surface in terms of the audience intelligence and targeting intelligence can provide. We have already brought these two ends together, but adding a level of predictive analytics will give our clients the opportunity to target the media more accurately, in scalable and precise ways, compared to the traditional approach. We have our database ready, but by linking it to client-side data, we can truly create a predictive solution. We have an exciting roadmap for these developments.
By Peter Appleby