by Keith Reid-Cleveland
November 26, 2019

Perhaps the single most valuable resource in today’s economy is engagement. After all, businesses wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have anyone to sell to. 

Ironically, engagement is also one of the most difficult performance indicators to measure, with companies regularly blindly shooting for the next big marketing campaign — looking to you, Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich — to stir a media frenzy.  

For those leading campaigns in communications and public relations fields, there’s a need for more information, which is where Cision can help. By providing companies and public relations firms with a more accurate read on not only who is engaging with their content, but when, where and how, Cision can help those firms can help better plan and produce campaigns. 

Cision’s latest update to its Impact product, aptly named Impact 2.0, allows users to pull precise attribution data from wider, more disparate sources, creating a better picture of the downstream effects of campaigns. 

There’s a lot of tech behind Impact 2.0 — improving one of the greatest needs in marketing and communications is no easy feat — and the engineering team at Cision’s Austin office (formerly TrendKite’s office) gave us the insight on the development of the new product. 

 

Cision office

cision team austin

cision office austin

 

FOUNDED: 2014

EMPLOYEES: 4,500 globally, 225 local

WHAT THEY DO: Cision provides software that helps clients track their media coverage and find the most effective ways to share stories with their audience. 

WHERE THEY DO IT: Austin

FOOD AT ARM’S REACH: Cision boasts a fully stocked kitchen that keeps employees appetites at bay. But that’s only when they don’t have time to visit one of downtown Austin’s many great restaurants. 

INCLUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT: Cision is committed to maintaining a workspace that reflects the world we all live in. It made this evident when it joined 600 other companies in signing the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge.

 

Cision team
photo by Hannah Koehler 
Cision Employee
PHOTO PROVIDED BY CISION

 

Mallory Brandt, Machine Learning Engineer

You can think of Brandt as a combination of a data scientist and a software engineer. She spends her time at Cision identifying problems, running machine learning experiments to solve them, and deploying and optimizing production models. Looking ahead, she hopes to continue to grow and become a strong female role model in the data science career field.

 

Can you tell us more about how you got involved with the development of Impact 2.0? Were you there from the inception of the idea or get involved later on? What were your first thoughts about the product? 

My teammate and I — both ML engineers — were not there when this brainchild was born, but we have been aligned with the project since the initial kick-off. When we started discussing the product, my initial thoughts were “DATA!!” as they walked us through the future dashboard and showed us different capabilities. It was clear that we were about to get a whole playground of data and I was extremely excited to experiment with it. And the more we discussed the project’s vision and brainstormed with our VP of Product Moses Velasco, the more excited my teammate and I got about the “what if's” of Impact 2.0.
 

I think that I've learned more at Cision in the past 16 months than I did at my former job of four years...”


How do you imagine customers will benefit most from machine learning in Impact 2.0? How will it allow them to gain a better focus on how to reach their audience?

I really believe that by, for example, inserting machine learning into Boolean search composition and audience and journalist recommenders, we can create a more accurate audience base that will uncover persona patterns. 

Imagine today that you’re targeting a list of 10 journalists who seemingly drive traffic to your website and convert to buying your product. Now imagine that Cision is able to capture that 75 percent of your converters are female, age 25-30, make $70,000-$80,000 annually and have no kids. Now you can see that there are four other journalists in your industry who you have not been pushing your content to whose audience base matches that persona. By continuously refining audience clusters and recommending journalists you may be interested in contacting based on their reach, we can potentially increase their earned media in a way that takes minimal time.

 

 

How has being at Cision impacted your career? What are some unique opportunities you were presented with? 

Cision made me realize why I have always hated the question, “Where do you want to be in five years, and how do you plan to get there?” Here, people focus less on some fuzzy future goal and more on bettering you and your experience at Cision today. They take the time to make sure you’re getting what you need, that your interests align with what you’re working on. They encourage you to pivot your career if something new is of interest to you, and they are very supportive of continuous learning and skill development. 

I think that I’ve learned more at Cision in the past 16 months than I did at my former job of four years, and I credit a lot of that to not only the pace of development and change but to the autonomy that is given to those working here. 

 

Cision Team

Cision Employee

 

Chris Friend, Sr. Data Engineer

Friend is a master of all things data, as he writes software that ingests and processes data from many different sources and shapes it into a more user-friendly mold. 

 

Can you tell us more about how you got involved with the development of Cision Impact 2.0?

I spoke to my manager about the role and he directed me to the senior director of engineering overseeing the existing Impact team, which had already been working on the project. I spoke with him about the role and expressed my interest in transferring to it after I heard about the kind of work they were doing and how important the product was for the company.  
 

Cision has a great team that works with customers to put together the right options for them based on their unique goals...”


What systems are in place to help customers identify which data points are most important for their specific purposes? 

With Impact, Cision is integrated with advertising networks that give us great insight into the traffic being driven to a customer’s website from online earned media. This makes it much easier to tell when this traffic is occurring, where it is coming from, who is behind it and how those audiences behave in terms of conversions — things like newsletter subscriptions, product purchases, and more. And Cision has a great team that works with customers to put together the right options for them based on their unique goals and gets things set up for them so they become productive quickly.

 

Looking forward, what are some of your hopes for the product’s impact? How will this add value for your customers and solve inefficiencies that may have existed? 

I hope the Impact product lives up to its name and really helps our customers know who they're reaching with their earned media and which sites are drawing in those audiences so they can pitch their content to the right outlets. But, more broadly, I also hope it further cements Cision as the dominant player in the earned media analytics space and makes our product offering indispensable among PR professionals.  

 

cision tech team austin

Cision Employee

 

Max Eve, Sr. Software Developer

Eve spends most of his time working behind the scenes while he moves, stores and transforms data. He’s looking forward to exploring the areas of Impact’s application that he hasn’t seen up close yet. 

 

What need did you see in the industry for Cision’s Impact 2.0? What solutions do you see it providing customers? 

Impact 2.0 is a massive leap forward for public relations attribution. With Impact 2.0, we are able to collect much more precise attribution data for our clients. Historically, we have only been able to give our best guess at viewership based on outlet level aggregations or external data providers. While not perfect, Impact will help our clients pinpoint their audience.

 

 

What were some challenges you had to solve for while working on Cision Impact 2.0? 

The product was built with incredible speed and made a fantastic debut in the market. The next major task we face is scaling up the infrastructure to handle the projected growth, given the interest of our customers, all while maintaining the current application and starting work on the 3.0 features.
 

Joining the Impact team ... is a great opportunity to work with some interesting technologies in a challenging problem space.”


How has being at Cision impacted your career? What are some unique opportunities you were presented with? 

Cision, and formerly TrendKite, has been invaluable for my growth. In the early years, the pace and diversity of projects challenged me to be a better engineer, and having a great support system meant I felt safe pushing past my comfort zone. Joining the Impact team is no exception — it is a great opportunity to work with some interesting technologies in a challenging problem space.

 

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