I’ve worked in marketing and PR a long time. How long? I remember having to fax press releases! So I know what I’m talking about when I tell you there have been a lot of changes in how we communicate our news. I’ve certainly changed my methods and strategies, that’s for sure. (I hope you have too!). What’s interesting to me is that despite all this change, some very “traditional” (read: old-school) modes still prevail. Like newswires.
The Changing Role Of Press Release Newswire Services
Three questions I want to address are:
- Is there any value in using a newswire service to distribute a press release?
- For what type of news should you use a newswire service?
- What kind of results can you expect from a newswire service?
First, three facts about newswire press releases:
- Online news releases have little to no affect on SEO – the major search engines put an end to that racket years ago via substantial changes to their algorithms. Those inbound hyperlinks from the news release to your Web site? They no longer impact search rankings. David McInnis, Chief Executive at Cranberry News Marketing says “the real failure of all newswires was their inability to replace consumer traffic lost to Google algorithm changes in 2013. Wire services simply failed to adapt and reach news consumers in a relevant way.”
- It is unlikely that your newswire release will show up on search results. True, if you search “news” for the exact headline of your news release then yes, it will likely show up. But who does that? The fact is that most people who stumble across your online news release did just that, they stumbled upon it; probably while they were in the process of doing something else unrelated. So most newswire “reads” are from an audience that has zero interest in your news.
- Most journalists won’t see your newswire release. If they do, it’s probably only because they proactively “subscribe” to the newswire service you’ve used. So if you distribute your next press release through the “wrong” wire service, chances are your target won’t see it. Now, you could of course spend thousands sending your next press release over all the top newswire services to raise the odds of more journalists seeing the release – but not all journalists have opted in to get news releases. According to this poll, few journalists even pay attention to newswires on a regular basis: Which newswires do journalists actually read? 80 journalists surveyed.
Curious to find out more, I asked a local journalist for her take. Jondi Gumz is an award winning reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel (owned by MediaNews Group), and like many reporters I spoke with, she has a “favorite” newswire service; one she opted into in order to receive releases that relate to her region. Beyond that, she does not actively monitor or seek out “press releases” from other newswire services. This affirms the point I make above, which is that you need to already know your target’s preferences before you send; spray & pray won’t cut it.
The Visibility Play
When deciding whether to send a newswire release, ask yourself what your goal is. If you’re like most brands I speak with, your answer is visibility — either to a targeted audience, or via news coverage. So let’s look at visibility.
No major wire service is going to drive much traffic to a news release. Most press releases just aren’t that effective at generating traffic. When you do the math on what you are paying per “read” via most major newswire services you’ll find it’s usually about $0.45 to $0.75 for most news releases by most B2B brands. So a thousand reads may cost you at least $450. But most of these reads are from outside your target demographic. So if your goal is visibility by a targeted audience I believe that dollar-for-dollar, there are other tactics besides a newswire release that will drive more targeted visibility to your news. Like blogging and social media.
As I discussed earlier, most journalists won’t see your newswire release, so without doing some good-old-fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves media relations it is highly unlikely a reporter will contact you. You’ll need to work to get their attention.
So When Should You Use Newswires?
I like Kate Finley’s answer from her blog post, “Why Newswire Services Don’t Work (and When They Do)”. In her article, she poses three key questions about goals:
- Are your clients or their investors looking for vanity measurement? If so, they may just want to see their name within top media and don’t care as much about how it got there.
- Is your brand a ‘top dog’ in its respective industry? I do think Fortune 500 brands have a better chance of securing a follow-up story with a reporter due to a wire release. It still doesn’t happen often.
- Are you managing a PR crisis? In this case, I do think putting a news release on the wire can be valuable because it can be executed quicker than reaching out to editors organically, and you control the message.
I’ll add a fourth item to this list:
- Do you have a high budget, and low expectations? If a newswire service is one of many promotions you are doing to bring attention to your news, then I see no harm in using a newswire as long as you have the budget and aren’t expecting miracles. (If the newswire service is the ONLY promotion you are doing, then you’re not likely to get the visibility or news coverage you want.)
A Tale Of Two Companies
To illustrate all the above, let’s have a parable: call it A Tale of Two Companies. One is Lazy Brands, the other is Savvy Brands. They’ve each recently conducted a survey, and they each want to make people aware of the findings.
The marketing person at Lazy Brands writes and distributes a newswire press release about the survey results with a link to a form where someone can download the entire survey. They also mass-email the press release to a bunch of journalists and call it a day. (Don’t laugh, this happens all the time! I didn’t just create this scenario for dramatic effect!)
The marketing person at Savvy Brands publishes a primarily non-promotional blog post about the survey results, and anyone can consume the content without filling out a form – the only thing promotional about the content is a CTA at the end of the piece. The marketer then spend a few hours on social sharing a link to the content, relying on a combination of catchy headlines, strategic hashtagging, and some targeted @mentions. Lastly, they send a personalized email ‘pitch’ to a handful of carefully selected reporters at industry trades, daily’s and business periodicals.
Which piece of content gets better visibility – the newswire release or the blog? More often than not, for the average B2B brand, it’s going to be the blog post, the social promotions and the targeted pitching. And not because Savvy Brands committed more time, money or resources; the overall investments are actually about the same.
Let’s recap what we’ve discussed so far:
- If you want media placements, you’ll need to pitch the press (media relations).
- If you want “reads,” expect to spend at least $0.25 per on a newswire service.
- If you want targeted brand visibility, think blogging and social media: this approach provides the best odds at the lowest cost.
- If you have a large budget and you still want to send over a newswire, make sure to also blog about it, promote it on social and do some targeted media relations.
In other words, I place a premium on blogging, social and media relations.
For more insights on this subject check out this very informative exchange about the value of newswire releases between the author @KateFinley and a PR Newswire employee @SarahSkerik in response to Kate’s article “Why Newswire Services Don’t Work (and When They Do)”.
In conclusion, a disclaimer: I am not totally dissing the newswires. I still use and recommend newswire services. But I use them less often and for different purposes than I used to because things have changed. But many brands still use newswire services as if it’s 1999. As a result, they’re wasting their money and missing opportunities Newswires are not for every business and they are not for every piece of news. As with all matters related to marketing content, establish your strategy first, then execute.