First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dan Beltramo: My family is handling COVID-19 ok – fortunately, only suffering from low-level boredom and malaise.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Onclusive.
Dan Beltramo: Three very talented and creative engineers founded Onclusive. I joined the company 2.5 years ago to bring in more operating discipline and some additional product expertise. I was attracted to the company based on its premier customer base, high-end analytics, and innovation, including PR Attribution(tm) and Power of Voice(tm), an AI-adjusted share of voice metric. I enjoy working with innovative companies and was well prepared for Onclusive based on my experience starting and running Vizu, a digital media advertising effectiveness company that I founded and ultimately sold to Nielsen. As EVP of Product at Nielsen, I was able to gain a broad perspective on marketing effectiveness systems, data, and products. Fortunately, I’ve also been able to bring over some of the best talents from both Vizu and Nielsen.
How does Onclusive innovate?
Dan Beltramo: Onclusive has always placed a premium on innovation and has a culture built around that. Our innovation is driven along two vectors. First, we are always listening to our customers and trying to evolve our products to meet their current and future needs. Second, we are constantly researching the latest technology in areas like natural language processing (NLP), machine learning, and predictive analytics to adapt the most suitable technical innovations to our marketplace. A recent step forward in this regard was our quantumly improved new sentiment model, which uses machine learning to identify the sentiment of articles in far more languages and more accurately than anything else available on the market.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dan Beltramo: I like to say we were not in the lucky 20% of businesses that benefited from coronavirus, nor were we in the unfortunate 20% of businesses that were largely wiped out. We are in the middle of 60% that is feeling a general squeeze. We have done a good job retaining our existing customers and even growing in some areas like hospitality and travel that we know were negatively impacted by COVID. Overall, though, it takes a little longer to bring new clients through the purchase process, given budgetary uncertainty on their end. The good news is that we have kept the pedal to the metal in terms of innovation, so our customers are getting more value for their money than ever.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dan Beltramo: We did have to make hard choices. The hardest of which was implementing a temporary salary reduction across the board when coronavirus hit. By doing so, we were able to retain our entire team so that we could provide uninterrupted, premium service to our clients and continue to innovate. As a result, we were also able to develop and release a lower-priced version of our enterprise-level media monitoring system. Our new Pro media monitoring system is perfect for PR agencies and small to mid-sized companies and is even available with a free two-week trial. One of the lessons I learned was that people are willing to tighten their belts for the collective good when the purpose is clear. We were already a very geographically diverse company, but I also learned just how productive a fully remote workforce can be.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Onclusive in the future?
Dan Beltramo: At a personal level, I try to deal with stress and anxiety by exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, and maintaining personal relationships. In terms of protecting the company during this time, our key tool has been flexibility. Realizing that a lot has changed in society and for our individual teammates, we have tried to be quite accommodating with respect to new working arrangements, including significant geographic moves. Of course, we also try to be prudent from a cash perspective, given the uncertainty in the business environment these days. Lastly, we never forget that our customers give us the privilege of our jobs; so, we do our best to serve and delight them every chance we get.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dan Beltramo: Cision, our biggest competitor, is a conglomerate built via numerous acquisitions. While they focus on financial engineering, we focus on product engineering. Fortunately, during times of crisis like the world is facing, companies need to communicate more effectively and more broadly…and their customers are listening more attentively. As a result, corporate communications has risen as a corporate priority, and we empower those communications professionals.
Your final thoughts?
Dan Beltramo: Public relations is a critical part of any entity’s ability to influence the marketplace and encourage desired behaviors and thoughts ranging from purchases to affinity or awareness. It is also a critical part of managing entities’ reputations, which are central to their ability to accomplish their objectives.
Typically companies under-invest in public relations because they lack good measurement systems. That is no longer an acceptable excuse. The systems and metrics are now available, and the imperative for understanding and influencing the media environment has never been higher. Besides, spending incremental dollars on standard advertising and marketing programs is unlikely to yield meaningful returns for most companies. Any mid to large-sized company should have a PR tech stack just like they have systems for finance, sales, HR, etc.
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