Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What’s the Benefit of Newswire Distribution Anyway?

By Chancelor Shay, Account Executive

If you’ve worked in PR for more than an hour, you’re probably familiar with “the wire” and services that help move your news across it. And whether you’re with an agency or working in-house, your clients or CEO are probably familiar with it as well. What they don’t understand, and even some PR professionals don’t get, is that distributing press releases over the wire typically does not drive meaningful coverage.


Bummer, right? I’m sure every PR pro would love to craft a magnificently worded and poignant key message-riddled news release and then simply press a button to have their news covered by every outlet reaching their target audience. But as it turns out, the media are in the business of making money by providing content their audience will value and your release announcing that there will be an announcement typically won’t cut the mustard—unless you happen to be Apple, the White House or Charlie Sheen.

With that said, wire services should be looked at as another tool in the PR pro’s toolbox that, when utilized properly, can still provide value to your client. Here are three tips for understanding why wire distribution may or may not be in the client’s best interest.

1. Relationships still rule

Each day, journalists receive hundreds of highly targeted and personalized pitches from PR professionals they’ve already developed relationships with. This provides them with plenty of potential content for stories. Unless your news is earth shattering or is a larger announcement from a global brand (Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Toyota), it’s highly unlikely that your impersonalized news release blasted over the wire will cut through the hundreds of tailored pitches the journalist received to spawn a story. If your client wants coverage, explain to them that the resources spent on wire distribution would be better used developing relationships with targeted journalists and working with them to develop something useful for their outlet.

2. Bigger doesn’t mean better with distribution circuits

Clients will often suggest they want their news distributed across a large circuit because they think the more outlets it’s sent to, the more coverage they’ll get. It’s our job as PR professionals to explain that wire distribution doesn’t work like a batting average, where the more opportunities at the plate you get, the greater likelihood you’ll get a hit. To the point above, where’s the value in sending the release to more journalists who will completely disregard it? Online outlets are no different. As PitchEngine Founder and CEO Jason Kintzler points out, you must also evaluate whether the downstream sites where your release is posted will be visible to your audience. Most likely the answer is that it won’t, but the value of those sites is...

3. SEO

That’s right, even if no reporter or buyer ever happens upon your news release hidden away on Yahoo! Finance, the mere fact that it’s posted to a live web page with inbound links to your website provides search engine optimization value for your news. This is especially important for industries where executive level decision makers are actively looking for news on industry trends, topics, players and rumors. Choosing your keywords strategically is essential to realizing the wire’s biggest benefit and there’s a definite science to why you’d choose one key word over its synonym, so do your research. Nobody knows exactly how the algorithms employed by Google and the other search engines work, but as long as you’ve done your key word homework and are following SEO-friendly news release best practices, you should be in good shape.

When some PR pros get the phone call from a client wanting to blast news over the wire, they feel like they’re walking the plank, but hopefully with these tips in your pocket, you’ll feel like you’re balancing on the wire.


Julie Wright said...

#2 above is my biggest pet peeve. The national circuit doesn't necessarily produce more hits or coverage opportunities than a regional circuit. So much wiser to spend the minimum on newswire by choosing a regional or targeted circuit and use the $100s of dollars saved for more productive PR uses.

Chancelor Shay said...

Good diction by the newswire services to persuade customers into thinking that it does produce more hits. "National" distribution is much more alluring than "Arizona" distribution. Part of what clients expect from their PR agency is direction on what not to do when it comes to communicating with their publics. If they had our knowledge and skills, they'd do it themselves, right?

Not to mention, clients love when they're advised to spend LESS money and are fairly receptive towards this type of consultation.

Laura Anderson said...

"It's our job as PR professionals to explain that wire distribution doesn't work like a batting average..." -Chance Shay

Once again Chance Shay, very nice article! I love how you tied in baseball conversation with your article, especially coming from you. Go Halos!!

Chancelor Shay said...

Thanks Laura! When a person is explaining something to me that I don't understand, I always find it helpful when they describe it in terms of a similar situation that already makes sense to me. I thought the batting average comparison worked for this. :)