Kutcher-Backed Gyft Finds Way to Track Publicity

(Corrects headline and sixth paragraph to show that Gyft could track tweets, though it isn’t yet doing so.)

CJ MacDonald is preparing for a crazy December. Consumers will likely be flocking to his site, Gyft.com, to buy gift cards from more than 200 retailers, including Toys “R” Us, Crate & Barrel and Zappos.

With a staff of 15 focused on operating the business, MacDonald doesn’t have the personnel to deal with another critical piece of startup life: public relations. As media outlets cover his company, sales go up and more people write about it. So to track that virtuous (or vicious) cycle and how and why it’s all happening, MacDonald turned to AirPR, a Web-based tool that provides a dashboard showing when stories run and connecting that information to sales spikes or lulls.

“It’s a really simple go-to place to get visibility and access as to what’s going on behind the scenes,” said MacDonald, who started San Francisco-based Gyft last year. “I’m wearing multiple different hats, so I don’t have all day to focus on PR strategy.”

Gyft is among the early users of AirPR’s analytics software, which debuted earlier this year to help companies understand the effectiveness of their PR and target future campaigns based on that insight. The New York Stock Exchange signed on to AirPR to track press around initial public offerings, like Twitter’s recent blockbuster deal. Wix.com, the provider of tools for creating websites, is a customer, as is Leap Motion, maker of a motion controller that replaces the computer mouse.

For between $1,000 and $100,000 a month, depending on the number of brands or products being followed, AirPR is offering to fill an analytics gap. While software exists for companies to track marketing campaigns, sales pushes, and product launches, PR is squishy. Some media outlets are more influential than others, and the occasional niche blog may have surprising resonance.

One way MacDonald could use AirPR is to help determine how traffic changes when celebrities (Ashton Kutcher is an investor) tweet about the service. Tracking for Instagram posts is on the way.

It’s still early days. AirPR, based in San Francisco, was founded in 2011, raised $1 million in financing and has only six employees. Rebekah Iliff, chief strategy officer, said e-commerce is one of the markets the company is going after, and there are deals in the works, though none she can name other than Gyft.

She does have a message for those manually tracking their PR. “It’s an immense amount of time you’re not spending on your products,” Iliff said.

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