Should you be sharing your news? It’s one of the oldest marketing tactics in any communicator’s toolbox. Tune into any old movie with a frenetic newsroom and there will undoubtedly be a scene where reporters are hunched over a teleprinter, which is just as frantically pounding out letters of breaking news from around the globe.
Effective? Yes…back then.
Today? Maybe not!
Looking back at newswires
Back before the wide array of digital media tools were at the immediate disposal of communications professionals’ fingertips, a newswire was instrumental in ensuring news was heard from coast to coast, and even across the world.
With its origins in wire services formed by news organizations such as Agence France-Presse in France and Associated Press in the U.S., which would distribute publication-ready articles via now-archaic teleprinters for newspapers to pick up, modern communications newswires originated in the 1950s to distribute news from companies to the world’s media.
It was a simple, but effective process. The company would send their news release to a distribution service that in-turn would disseminate news to a broad range of news organizations and reporters. Invariably, it was the quickest and often most efficient way to get news into the hands of the media.
Today, wire services have evolved to blend traditional media outlets with outreach to new media, including blogs, vlogs, podcasts, news websites, and more. And the roster of PR newswire services has evolved just as quickly with established companies such as PR Newswire, Business Wire, PRWeb, and eReleases joining a full menagerie of newcomers promising fast distribution, dizzying coverage, and deep market saturation.
But the question remains – is it a worthwhile investment to make when determining how to share news and does it make sense for your business? Finding the answer rests in asking critical questions –
What can a newswire do for you?
There is a misnomer in the business world that a wire service can fill the role of a communications or marketing team for companies. While a release distributed via a newswire can increase visibility and be a resource to support wider communications efforts, a newswire release doesn’t fulfill two critical functions that the marketing team can. Specifically:
1. A newswire cannot boost SEO.
The value of digital communication outreach is measured in SEO. It used to be that distributing a news release across a wire service was a surefire way to secure SEO, create greater visibility, and drive traffic to your website. But just as quickly as the internet has evolved, so too have search engine algorithms, particularly the gold-standard Google, which have gotten wise to the optimization hack of sorts. Today’s algorithms based on content quality have assigned very low SEO value to news releases.
2. A newswire doesn’t lead to news stories.
To an untrained eye, they may seem to be the same, but a newswire posting and a unique story authored by a reporter are two vastly different animals. A wire posting is classified as owned media, that is, something that a company has originated and distributed. A story is earned, and with it brings newsworthiness and validation from a third-party.
How do I choose a wire service?
Not all newswires are created equal. Starting with cost, which is often one of the most significant drivers of whether a company will choose to distribute their news on the wire, options span the gamut from free and low-cost services to ones costing several hundred dollars.
So what’s best? As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.
Traditional newswire services with deep, respected roots in the news industry will have detailed contact lists, the ability to target by industry, region, interest, and more, and typically more content-rich tracking resources to allow PR professionals to see where and how their release is being picked up.
Low-cost and free services often do not have as many high-quality contacts or the ability to target to the level most companies would find beneficial.
Most costs are based on a variety of factors, including word count, targets list, geographic distribution, photo, or multimedia accompaniments among other options.
At a glance, a cross-section of the most recognized news release services reveals the differences:
Best Use: Large companies or companies looking for an all-in-one platform
Cost Starts at $355 for state and local outreach, $ 475 for regional and top markets and $825 for national release; word count and enhanced features (e.g., multimedia) will increase costs
Allows users to send, track and measure news release pick-up
Provides specialized and niche journalist and outlet targeting
Affiliated with Cision, one the most reliable media databases around, with more than 40,000 active and vetted news sources
Offers a variety of secondary and multimedia tools to expand reach
May be challenging to navigate for first-time or infrequent users
Best Use: Small businesses looking to share their news
Cost $99 for basic news release; costs increase with additional features
Although it’s a subsidiary of Cision, it offers lower pricing than PR Newswire
Easy to use
Real-time reporting and analytics
Lower overall media visibility
Reports aren’t as detailed as other services
Additional charges (e.g., same day distribution)
Best Use: Small businesses that are new to release distribution
Cost Starts at $299 per release for a 400-word release; cost increases with word count and additional services added
Offer release writing services
Relatively large distribution network
Customer service support
Website is not user friendly and offers a poor user experience
Added fees (e.g., extra money to release on the next day, release writing, etc.)
When does it make the most sense to use a wire service?
Now that algorithms have changed, perhaps the only time it makes sense to rely solely on a newswire as a distribution source is when a company has major, significant news that will impact a wide audience. As mentioned earlier, newswires are not a replacement for alternate methods to share the news. In fact, a wire service is most effective when used as part of an integrated public relations and marketing approach.
Other unwritten PR rules about when to use a newswire:
Only share major news via a newswire. While a new hire announcement or launch of a webinar may be exciting news internally, it’s likely not major news unless they directly affect your C-Suite, are high profile in nature or impact a large segment of the audience.
Do not rush to share your release on a newswire if you don’t have a clear PR strategy. Using the “spray and pray” approach to secure any kind of pick-up can be risky, especially when you haven’t thoroughly thought through strategy and targeting.
This is where strategy comes into play and understanding how your release will be received. If a release is posted near major holidays, conferences, or significant announcements, it will likely be overlooked.
Understand the environment.
The world is changing rapidly, and it seems that everyone has an opinion they would like to share. Newswires are not a vehicle to share those opinions, especially if they do not relate directly to the business at hand. Even then, the release should be properly framed within the current environmental context.
Avoid sharing news that is written by someone not in PR. Wire-distributed news releases share common ground, most notably, they’re written in a news-writing style that often takes years to master. Anything less can be viewed as unprofessional or questionably credible by journalists, which is why it’s important to consult with a PR professional to act as a guide.
If I decide to use a wire service, how do I make the most of it?
Priced significantly less than blanket national distribution, local distribution typically also includes outreach to online contacts for heavy national hitters, including Yahoo! Finance, and Reuters.
Complement outreach with a wide-reaching, integrated marketing program to make a news release work harder. As the name would imply, public relations has increasingly become a relationship-based profession where blanket outreach isn’t enough to secure coverage. Fewer journalists in newsrooms covering more beats than ever are using wires to verify information instead of source stories. Customized 1:1 pitching to target journalists secures high-quality stories.