Exploring the value of newswires
The idea of the press release wire can sometimes seem a bit alien to those who sensibly prefer well-considered individual pitches to members of the media. However, wire distribution of the humble press release can add value.
So what is the value of press release wires? There is no simple answer to such a question because press release wires or newswires (like our own SourceWire News Distribution) offer a variety of potential benefits. All need to be considered before you make a judgement about whether such things are right for you, or your client or your particular story.
Good old fashioned media coverage
The word ‘wire’ in press release wire comes from the old days when national and regional newspapers and broadcasters were connected to news agencies via fixed telephone lines or ‘leased lines’, down which stories (and even pictures) were sent to teleprinters at each media outlet. News agencies saw the commercial opportunity of selling access to their ‘wires’ to PR professionals and the concept of the press release wire was born. The objective of using such a wire was of course to increase the chances of gaining conventional – print or broadcast – media coverage, rather than relying purely on the PR professional’s own press list or established contacts.
Things have obviously moved on, instead of leased lines and teleprinters press release wire content now moves via websites, email and indeed social media channels. But the idea of boosting traditional media coverage remains intact and is a significant reason on its own for considering the use of press release wires. Yes, of course it is a bit of a scatter-gun approach and since the late 1990’s PR has become more focused on activity pitched at the individual journalist or media outlet – but in many cases you can’t assume everyone who is going to be interested in your news is on your press list and it can reap dividends to give it a wider audience.
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Search engine optimisation (SEO) became a big driver for growth of online press release wires over the last decade. Put very simply, the very act of publishing a press release on an online newswire helped to increase the search engine ‘ranking’ of a website that release linked to, helping to ensure that website appeared higher up the search results on major search engines. SEO agencies and the more technical members of the PR community cottoned on to this, as did the newswire providers, and soon many people were posting releases to wires purely for their SEO value.
This was all very well but recently the search engines, and Google in particular, have become more selective in how they treat each ‘inbound link’ and how this impacts the ranking of the site linked to. This does not mean that online newswires cannot influence a site’s ranking but it does mean that whoever writes a press release for submission to newswires needs to be a little more careful. There is not space here for a how-to guide in writing press releases for SEO but there are a few basic rules. Firstly, your press release should always be written for humans not machines and unnatural repetition of keywords should be avoided. Secondly, the number of links in each release should be kept to an absolute minimum – perhaps just one. Thirdly, using the same link and link text over and over again in multiple releases is now likely to be not just ignored by search engines but possibly even penalised.
In summary SEO is still a great reason in its own right to use press release wires, if done properly.
Social media has brought added a new dimension to press release wires and its influence works in more than one way. The most basic of these is the social sharing of newswire content.
Many press release wires automatically include each release on their own social feeds – Twitter in particular – and most include ‘social sharing’ links on each press release to make it easy for recipients to include links to press release content easily on the social platforms of their choice. Of course any social sharing will boost the audience of a particular press release, exposing it to people who may otherwise miss it. Some of these could be journalists, bloggers, industry experts or even customers, the latter being something I touch on later.
Obtaining coverage in blogs is considered by many PR professionals to be as valuable, or potentially more valuable in the case of popular or influential blogs, than conventional media coverage. Although many bloggers are journalists by trade many are not and the PR industry has learnt to understand that bloggers behave differently to those who work in more traditional media. One common trait of bloggers is a resistance to conventional PR pitching or being included on press release distribution lists. Bloggers often prefer to root out source material by searching or picking up material shared through social media rather than being deluged by PR material. Therefore ensuring your release is easy to find online and shared socially can only be a good thing in terms of reaching bloggers. One way this can be achieved is to use a newswire.
I’ve left this last but the importance of direct-to-consumer communications is becoming a central tenet of PR activity – like it always should have been.
In the same way that bloggers can find your news on press release wires by searching so can your customers (or your client’s customers). Consumers – and this is meant in either a B2B or B2C sense – are no longer relying on traditional media to inform them of product or service choices and it’s quite normal now to absorb information from social media as well, plus content produced by suppliers themselves. It’s not unlikely now for consumers to read press releases and often the easiest to find releases are those on press release wires.
You could argue at the moment that content marketing is king of the marketing mix. Many companies are becoming publishers themselves in order to entice customers into their world. However, just sticking content on a website does not necessarily draw people in. Content marketing needs to work in conjunction with PR and SEO to really be effective. A simple way PR can work to support content marketing at a tactical level is to ensure there is a press release form of each piece of content and submit this to a press release wire.
As you can see there are many reasons why using press release wires can be valuable. Distributing on a newswire is not an alternative to good coordinated tactical PR plan but it can reinforce a well thought-out campaign and enhance results. For every release you produce, think about the points above and if one or two seem relevant to the campaign or content you are working on then it’s probably going to be worth posting it to a wire.