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Meet the man who wants to automate the PR industry

A Singapore-based entrepreneur is hoping to eradicate the middle-man between start-ups and the media – public relations agencies – through an automation tool that sends press releases directly to journalists.

Chris Chong, co-founder of Groupon Singapore and former social media editor at the South China Morning Post, has launched SumoStory – a platform that uses data to automatically target journalists with press releases without the manual intervention of a PR company.

Aimed at early-stage start-ups, who may be less able to afford PR agency fees, SumoStory so far counts FinTech company FOMO Pay, consultancy service MBA Link, co-working space platform Flyspaces among its early clients.

Currently the average retainer fee for a PR company in Singapore is roughly S$5,000 a month, while SumoStory charges a base rate of $800 for six months.

Although at the moment, SumoStory employs a team-of-four to manually write the releases, Chong said he hoped to eventually automate the writing task through natural language processing technology – something Google has also invested in.  

Other areas that could potentially be automated within the PR sphere in the future also include preventing crisis through algorithmic-backed social listening.

Speaking to Mumbrella Asia about his new venture, Chong said: “Right now our main focus is helping companies with their media outreach. Start-ups have very simple PR needs – many just want to fill the ‘As seen in the media’ section on their website.

“We want to eventually introduce more tools to take it beyond media outreach, but of course there are certain areas, such as crisis management that still needs a human hand. But there are other areas such as monitoring online brand sentiment and eventually the writing itself that can be automated.”

Chong began his own entrepreneurial career when he co-founded the start-up Beeconomic in 2010 alongside his brother Karl. Less than a year later, the discount coupon platform was bought by Groupon for S$24 million and has since been rebranded as Fave.

Chong later went on to try his hand in the newsroom by taking over SCMP’s social media accounts. It was partly this experience that led him to create SumoStory, a name inspired by an office called ‘the sumo room’ where in which the company was conceived.

He said: “For a while now, we’ve seen newsrooms and print titles struggle to adapt to the online space. This is a tool that can not only assist news-writing, but inspire journalists to find new stories. As well as having brands use it to reach out to the media, we’ve had some of the reverse too with journalists using it find sources for their stories.”

He added: “PR is an industry that’s ready for disruption. I see myself as an outsider who can look at the industry from a new angle and not be confined by the legacy of PR.”

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