National Public Relations enters the martech space

A bid to fill a gap among brands struggling to connect data and PR.

Jonathan Litwack

Jonathan Litwack

After seeing a lack of cohesion in how brands use marketing tech for better communication outcomes, National Public Relations has unveiled a new marketing technology practice.

“On the PR side, brand managers and communications managers are not having conversations they need to have with technology partners within their own companies,” says Jonathan Litwack, who leads the new business unit as vice president of marketing technology. “So what this practice does for our clients is enable them to have those conversations where we can remain technology agnostic.”

The result National is aiming for is a business unit that can scale to clients’ needs, either acting as a complete external martech department or as more of a consultancy partner.

The new unit is available nationally though hubs in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax (and beyond Canada in London and Boston).

Clients such as the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Shred-It, Ontario Power Generation and Keurig have already begun working with the martech unit.

The new division is partly the result of last year’s acquisition of Shift Communication, an American PR agency that has developed a martech expertise that was driving about 12% of its revenues. Rick Murray, National’s chief digital officer and managing partner of its Toronto office, says he has similar revenue expectations for the Canadian business.

While PR has traditionally offered media metrics tracking impressions, social media interactions such as “likes” and calculating the resulting reach of a campaign, Murray calls most of those measurements “ridiculously soft and focused on output that is questionable at best… What every client has been asking us for as long as I can remember is ‘tell me what I’m spending with you actually matters to my business.’

“This is not a pure PR play,” Murray says. “We want to be a performance-driven communications company,” and while that may broaden National’s competitive set, “our expertise is always going to be focused on the performance of content in the market.”

The tools National will use in its martech unit are expected to change frequently, Murray says. So while it may currently offer expertise in social media listening and brand management tools such as Sysomos, Dunami and CrowdTangle, National staffers are also developing their own bespoke systems, “but there could be five new things next week that, if they help us doing things faster, smarter or cheaper, then we’re going to play with them.”