PR Monitoring and Management Tools: Which is Best? Vocus vs. Cision

November 8, 2011

Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. Among their features:

  • • An extensive database of professional journalists and social media influencers, with biographical information.
  • • Ability to monitor media coverage and brand mentions across a very wide range of sources.
  • • Capability to set up monitoring profiles for multiple keywords, topics, companies and products.
  • • Competitive and share-of-voice analysis and reporting.
  • • Optional social media monitoring and management.
  • • Online news release distribution.

Vocus vs. Cision for PR Monitoring and ManagementSo which is best? Well, “best” is obviously a subjective term, a matter of opinion. And people can reasonably hold different opinions. The fact is, both tools can do the job pretty well (hence their popularity). But there are clear differences between them. If your company or agency is weighing a decision on selecting a PR and social media monitoring and management tool (or perhaps making a change), here are five areas of comparison you may find helpful.

Media Database

Cision: A
Vocus: B+

Both tools offer extensive databases of publications, media professionals and bloggers. In the judgment of the PR professionals I work with, Cision’s database is just a bit more comprehensive.

Vocus vs. Cision User InterfaceUser Interface

Cision: C-
Vocus: D

User experience, unfortunately, isn’t a strength of either system. Both tools have complex, cumbersome user interfaces and are unnecessarily difficult to use. Both could benefit from a major UX/UI upgrade. The Cision interface is slightly better, but it’s like saying the Windows 95 interface is better than Windows 3.1. True, but neither meet modern standards for clarity and usability.

Customer Service

Vocus: B+
Cision: D

Overall, the Vocus team was outstanding to work with during our trial. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and training was customized to our needs and around our schedules. The company doesn’t quite merit an “A” only because there were some inconsistencies between individuals. But overall, Vocus customer service was excellent. Cision’s service on the other hand was dreadful. Training was regimented, and waiting 48 hours for a non-helpful response to an email is unimpressive. The company could clearly use some improvement in this area.

Online News Release Distribution

Vocus: A-
Cision: D

Vocus owns and utilizes PRWeb for its online distribution; Cision uses GlobeNewswire. According to an analysis from Comscore and Experian, as well as evaluations from other sources, PRWeb ranks among the best services for both media reach and SEO. GlobeNewswire takes up the rear.

Social Media Monitoring

Cision: B+
Vocus: B+

This is a tough criteria to grade because while both tools offer this option and perform social media monitoring and management quite well, the two vendors take completely different approaches. Vocus built its own tool, which is fully integrated into its PR monitoring system; Cision white-labels the Radian6 social media monitoring tool.

The advantages to the Vocus approach are that integration means one database, one system, and unified results and reporting. Also, since they own the tool, Vocus has the flexibility to negotiate on price with prospective buyers, who may thus get a better deal. Integration means there is only one user interface to learn. The downside: it’s the Vocus interface.

The benefit of Cision’s best-of-breed approach, on the other hand, is that the system combines the extensive Cision media database with the power of the highly-regard Radian6 tool for social media monitoring. The disadvantages are in pricing and the need to learn two separate systems. Also, the freshness and elegance of the Radian6 UI makes the clunkiness of the Cision interface even more obvious. It’s like parking a Ferrari next to an old Buick station wagon.

Other areas on which the decision is pretty much a wash include the amount of historical data available (both are limited to a few months, and could use improvement in this area) and search speed: Google can return a search on its index of the entire web in milliseconds, while it takes both of these tools several seconds to provide results from a much smaller database. Cision may be just slightly faster, but it’s not a big difference.

In the end, it’s a tough decision. Either tool will provide robust PR and social media monitoring management capabilities; it’s a matter of which strengths you need and which disadvantages you can live with.

So, you may ask, what decision did the b2b technology marketing and PR agency I work with make? A mix. We went with Cision for PR monitoring and management (a consensus decision, though not a unanimous one), but use PRWeb for online news release distribution. We use a mix of tools for social media monitoring, not having settled on one tool that can “do it all” tool yet.

Got an opinion on which tool is best? Leave a comment.

FTC Disclosure: I have no financial interest in either product—no dog in this fight. Both vendors provided free trials of their software systems for evaluation purposes. Other than those trials, there was no compensation offered or provided for this review.

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39 Responses

  1. Rick Tristin 

    You are grading two systems which are both horrific. I’ve used both of these companies and they have horrible customer service and their platforms are slow and close to being unusable.

  2. Tom 

    Wow, harsh words Rick. Is there a PR monitoring system out there that you like?

  3. Tom 

    Update: to Cision’s credit, Amanda Rueda, Vice President Client and Sales Support, reached out to me within 24 hours after this post went live to further discuss Cision support issues. Some of the process issues can be fixed short-term, and the company understands that their client onboarding process isn’t up to the standards of organizations like Vocus or HubSpot — but they are working on it. This was a good move.

  4. Jules 

    I’ve tried to call Cision several times this week to get pricing information and I continue to get sent to voicemail. We’re trying to switch from Vocus and I’m on a deadline to figure out who to work with. If this is an indication of their customer service, I have no choice but to pass.

  5. Tom 

    Ouch! That doesn’t sound good.

  6. Jules – Steve here, SVP at Cision. Sorry you’ve had trouble getting a hold of someone here. I’m happy to help, please call me directly at 312.873.6422.

  7. Tom: Great blog comparing the emerging tools for media monitoring. Vocus and Cision, as you point out, both have strong products. One thing most clients need to consider is what tools do they truly need. We find that when clients first try to compare one vendor against they other, they can lose sight of what tools they actually need from a vendor.

    Our philosophy of #samerules, #newtools works to first address the true needs of a prospective client through top notch customer service. After that, finding what tracking and evaluation tools they need is the easy part. There are many options, with many of us having the same #newtools. At Universal we suggest you make sure your vendor is selling you what you need, and don’t get stuck paying for ancillary tools that don’t reinforce your objectives.

  8. Tom 

    Great points Todd. Not every company needs a tool of this cost/capability level. But any company actively engaged in PR activities can benefit from the information these tools provide. Small companies, even those active in PR, may not be able to cost-justify the tools. An option for those companies is to work with an agency that uses monitoring tools on their behalf and spreads the cost across several clients.

  9. jon 

    Seriously i cant find a date for this article, i’ve scrolled up and down 5 times. Kinda bad for a blog focused on PR and marketing?

  10. Tom 

    November 8, 2011. Took me 24 seconds to find that. Not sure what else to tell you.

  11. Mike 

    A great post Tom. Another point to consider is global reach/support. A number of companies and brands operate on a global scale, so for some it’s important to look at the capabilities (monitoring, database, etc.) of each and the services they’re able to provide in various markets around the world.

  12. Tom 

    Excellent point Mike, thanks.

  13. Great post Tom! I love the way that you respond to all your comments. It’s very much appreciated. Hope all is well with you. BTW any new updates to this post? Has the ratings changed much since the last time you did this?

  14. Tom 

    No problem Jeff, that’s the “social” part of social media. :-) As for updates, I still think both tools have their strengths and weaknesses. We’ve been spending a lot of time with Cision recently. It’s very powerful, but some of the features are unnecessarily cumbersome and difficult to use. To Cision’s credit, I think they understand this and are working on it, but for now – it’s a steep learning curve.

  15. Tania 

    My vote is definitely for Vocus. I tried to work with Cision with a previous company, but customer service was HORRIFIC! I was given 3 different account representatives, all of which were not very accessible, and when the company dissolved partnerships it was a nightmare to work with them to continue services. Vocus is much friendlier and easier to work with, all pluses when it comes to the speed of PR and the need to focus on other aspects of the business.

  16. Tom 

    Always a good idea to periodically re-evaluate. None of these offerings are static.

  17. Lori Wilson 

    How do the two stack up price wise?

  18. Tom 

    They are in the same ballpark: depending on features and options (and negotiations), generally in the range of $500-$1,000 per month.

  19. Renise A. 

    Hi Tom,

    As a Vocus employee I definitely appreciate this article! It’s been 1.5 years though, any update? And how are you getting your Vocus side if your company uses Cision? I hope that didn’t come across at combative, I just want to make sure you have an up-to-date view on our service! If not, I’d love to show you haha.

  20. Tom 

    Hi Renise – actually, we’ve switched from Cision back to Vocus since this post was published. :-)

  21. Tom,
    OK for us small to medium guys out there that need media DB and access but not an 800 lb. gorilla – do you have any sidebar recommendations? (Have been in discussions with both of these firms.)

  22. Helen 

    I have a one person, complimentary healing company. My specialities are chronic digestive disorders and chronic pain.

    I would like to my services out there in a big way and let people know that there are other options. I am a one person office I just don’t have enough hours in the day to market my services. I probably already spend 15-20 hours a week. I spend most of my time educating people about how my services can help them.

    I have limited marketing money to spend. I am weary about contracting PR services. I am looking for ideal clients but I can’t find them and I don’t know where they hang out. Any help would be most appreciated. My marketing outlets consist of newsletter, FB, twitter, teaching and blogging. I have not be able to convert viewers to callers. I’m PR stuck. Help

  23. Tom 

    Hi Helen – for your type of business, PR may not be the best place to start. I’d recommend you begin by search-optimizing your website; Yahoo has a free tool to help here: Also, if you’ve got even a modest budget for online advertising, use Google AdWords (search only – not the content network). You can set geographic parameters so that your ads will only show in your local area. Hope that helps!

  24. Tanya 

    Hi there, but is there any good alternative to either of these two?

  25. Tom 

    Hi Tanya – there are other tools for news monitoring like Nasdaq OMX and Moreovew Newsdesk, but these don’t include media contact databases and news release distribution capabilities like Vocus and Cision do.

  26. Mary 

    Hi Tom,

    Have you heard anything about Custom Scoop? Seems to have a much more reasonable pricing scheme than these two and a pretty user friendly system. Thoughts?


  27. Tom 

    I hadn’t heard of Custom Scoop before, no, thanks. Looks like it may be good for social/news monitoring but doesn’t have any distribution capabilities or media contact database.

  28. Hi Tom-

    Thanks for this review. I’ve always built my own and am looking to try a professional service from a time and resources perspective. You mentioned some other tools your colleagues use for social media monitoring etc. Could you elaborate please? Thanks!

  29. Tom 

    Hi Jenifer – the tools landscape is constantly changing, so that’s tough. Radian6 (now owned by is one of the best social media monitoring tools available, but it’s pricey. You may want to compare it to lower-cost options like uuberVU and Trackur. You can find reviews and links to more tools in the “Cool Tools” section on this blog ( Finally, for the really big view of online marketing tools, you could knock yourself out with this amazingly comprehensive compilation:

  30. I’d be interested to see an update of this post because I assume the interfaces/databases have evolved in the last 3 years. Your post left me wondering if BurrellsLuce + Google Alerts would be sufficient since we always custom research media lists since turnover is so high in journalism and do custom pitches?

  31. Tom 

    Hi Julianne – certainly both tools have evolved. Neither is perfect, but both do a respectable job. Google Alerts can be a helpful supplement to other tools, but it misses too much to use alone. The increasing pace of personnel change in media: journalists being downsized, switching to PR or blogging, the emergence of independent bloggers and other forms of “hybrid” media (mix of publication/portal/blog) have complicated the maintenance of accurate media databases for all players. Custom lists and pitches, while time-consuming, may well be the best approach.

  32. Super useful article and reviews – would love to know the update and what you’re using now! I’m the founder of, we’re a team out of MIT building the next generation of journalist search and media monitoring tools. What are you using now?

  33. Tom 

    Hi Dan – post-merger, we’re always willing to take a look at new tools. Is Spokepoint a true alternative?

  34. Tom – depends what you’re using Cision most for. If it’s finding journalists and managing lists and outreach – that’s our bread and butter. Our customers are using us as a supplement to their databases or replacing their subscriptions entirely. If it’s for media monitoring, that’s not built into the current version of Spokepoint so best to stay w/ Cision or others!

  35. Tom 

    Thanks Dan for that clarification. Is media monitoring capability in the future plans for Spokepoint?

  36. 100% yes.

  37. Tom 

    Excellent, please keep me posted! I’m @TomPick on Twitter.

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