Insiders at PR software giant Cision are wondering what's next after layoffs and an exodus of top execs

  • Insiders at leading PR software company Cision describe confusion and uncertainty under new owner Platinum Equity.
  • Platinum has cut staff, shifted Cision's sales strategy, and parted with 12 top execs over the past year.
  • A proposed merger between Cision and top rival Meltwater also fell through in late 2020.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Employees at PR software giant Cision are complaining of confusion and a lack of transparency from leadership as the business undergoes big changes under its private equity owner Platinum Equity.

Since Cision was acquired by Platinum Equity in January 2020, it's shifted sales strategies, tried to sell its biggest property, Trendkite, and sought to merge with its top rival, Meltwater. Most recently, it just laid off staff after a string of top execs left.

Now, insiders are wondering what's next for the company and if their jobs are secure.

Read more: Cision and Meltwater, the two largest PR software companies, are planning a merger, and the DoJ has explored whether it would hurt competition

Cision is by far the largest player in the $4.1 billion PR software industry. It helps clients like Edelman and Google distribute press releases and messaging and track their PR efforts and media mentions.

Platinum's goal was to integrate the 4,000-person company's 12 acquisitions and use its position to dominate the industry, former employees said. 

But current and former Cision employees say there's been a lack of communication from leadership since the Platinum acquisition, leading to confusion across the workforce.

A Cision spokeswoman hasn't responded to requests for comment.

Cision had planned to merge with Meltwater, but Meltwater went public on the Euronext Growth Oslo exchange on December 3, marking an end to those plans.

Cision insiders say they learned about big company changes from the press

Employees only learned about the Meltwater plan and that Cision was trying to sell its most expensive acquisition, Trendkite, from reading the news.

The company, known for high pricing relative to the market, has since dropped its prices to outsell competitors, leading some to wonder how the price cuts will impact profits, an insider said.

"Our new business team is giving out deals that were never approved prior to the pandemic, like 70% to 80% discounts and price-matching rather than maintaining a premium price product position," this person said.

Read more: 27 software firms that companies like Amazon and Unilever use to supercharge their public relations efforts

The Trendkite news upset engineers who'd spent the previous year trying to integrate it with Cision, a former employee said.

"It is not a very transparent organization around changes and layoffs," said another.

Cision has also had significant turnover since the acquisition, with at least 12 top executives leaving, leading to speculation about who might be next. Platinum Equity named a new C-suite in late 2020, including CEO Abel Clark, formerly of fintech startup TruSight. 

"A hallmark of leadership is not informing us of layoffs even when they happen," said the insider. "Platinum's style is to tell us everything is going great."

Around 15 people — including at least some senior employees — were laid off earlier in January from Cision and MultiVu, its content creation and distribution division. That round followed cuts in March and summer 2020 as brands cut their PR budgets in the pandemic, employees said.

"It was a tough time to take over a company generally and a PR services company [like Cision] in particular," said a person close to the business. "In tough times, PR budgets get cut and PR services companies are even further down the hierarchy."

Several former employees told Insider their separation agreements prevented them from discussing Cision in any capacity.

These are the most prominent execs to leave Cision over the past 11 months, in chronological order. All either declined to comment or did not respond to related queries.

  1. Kevin Akeroyd, CEO (February 2020)
  2. Erik Huddleston, president (March 2020)
  3. Gregg Spratto, COO (March 2020)
  4. Jenn Deering Davis, VP of global comms, content, and brand (March 2020)
  5. Kevin McKeown, SVP of U.S. new business sales (March 2020)
  6. Rainer Mathes, president of Cision Insights (May 2020)
  7. Hayes Davis, SVP of revenue operations (June 2020)
  8. Chris Copeland, CTO (July 2020)
  9. Jack Pearlstein, CFO (September 2020)
  10. Brendon O'Donovan, head of global product marketing (October 2020)
  11. Mark Weiner, chief insights officer (January 2021)
  12. Devon Wijesinghe, head of corporate and business development (Jan 2021)

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