Kate Finley

Why Newswire Services Don’t Work (and When They Do)

By: Kate Finley | November 27, 2013 | 
59

Why Newswire Services Don't Work (and When They Do)

By Kate Finley

I have a confession to make. It’s hard to say this in front of everyone and I’m hoping you won’t judge me harshly but it has to be said: I don’t use newswire distribution services.

I also don’t think “putting a news release on the wire” is earned media (aka organic PR.)

Instead, I think it’s advertising (aka paid media).

Yikes.

There. I said it. Please don’t hate me.

I’m not trying to ruffle feathers needlessly. I promise.

I’m legitimately stating I don’t think newswire services should be considered within media relations reporting metrics.

They’re just not good, old-fashioned, roll up your sleeves and dig in PR. They don’t drive significant site traffic in the majority of cases (unless you’re Home Depot or another big brand).

I’m not saying they have no value at all because I do think there are one or two reasons to use a news release distribution service, which I’ll explain.

What is the True Value of Newswire Services?

Let me be clear: I have friends working for leading newswire services and I am by no means saying their area of expertise is lackluster. I do, however, want to take this opportunity to explore the topic of “putting a release on the wire” and discuss how exactly it should fit within PR tactics – if at all.

You’re probably going to hate me. Know, actually, you *will* hate me. I use a private newswire service so my clients can say they were QUOTED and/or SEEN ON ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WALL STREET JOURNAL, ETC. You see, I told you you would hate me. I call it authority manufacturing. And while I know I will be scrutinized by this comment with comments like “But that’s NOT earned media” or “You are giving people the impression your clients were contacted by reporters and that the articles you publish are vetted by those media outlets” etc., I don’t care. I make a TON of money doing this, and my clients do, too. Spin’s Awesome 🙂

Anthony Smith
From the comments

It’s a question I’ve been debating with colleagues and discussing with clients for quite some time now. And honestly, I’m not sure you’ll agree with me on my current stance.

So instead, I want to tackle some questions I’ve been getting and gain your feedback.

Back in the Day: Impressions, Advertising Equivalencies, and Wire Services

If you’ve been in the PR industry for even the last five years, you know things have changed considerably. We’re in a new era and we’re in the process of ditching many of the old tools, processes, and perspectives that previously were commonplace.

We’re concerned about analytics, lead generation, and driving public relations efforts back to sales. We’re trying. We’re improving and we’re growing. Yes, there are still some who are stuck in the PR dark ages but for them we say a prayer and continue onward and upward.

So, we’re placing a lot less value on media impressions and advertising equivalencies, and, in my experience, newswire services are falling into this “less used” category. Why? Because …

Newswires are Not Earned Media

Recently, I had to explain to a client the reasoning behind why we choose not to use newswire services for our clients. I explained we choose not to invest their retainer in that area because it creates little to no affect on SEO, and – in our experience – journalists do not see the wire release, nor do they follow-up for interviews.

They quickly agreed the use of a newswire wasn’t an option they wanted to pursue for that particular announcement.

When Should You Use a News Release Distribution Service?

OK, OK I’m not totally knocking newswire services here. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I DO think there is some value to using a wire service … it just depends on what your goals are.

For example:

  • 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. I’d be interested to hear feedback from you all as to whether you’ve seen this happen.
  • 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.

In all of the above instances, putting your news release on the wire could be a valuable option. Still, always consider organic PR outreach first.

Conclusion: Open to Debate

Now here comes the fun part: What do YOU think?

Do you use newswire distribution services? Why or why not?

Do you completely disagree with me?

We have an abundance of smart and savvy PR professionals that will advocate either side of this issue. So, why should or shouldn’t we use a news release distribution service? Are the best suited for certain situations over others? I’m all ears…

About Kate Finley


Kate Finley is the CEO of Belle Communications, an integrated marketing firm based in Columbus, Ohio, where she helps CPG brands and startups with PR, social media, and content marketing. She is a media relations expert, leading teams in executing more than 1800 media opportunities for industry leading clients, with coverage in NBC News, TODAY, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and other top media influencers. She’s a Paleo-eater, half-marathoner, and recently acquired a taste for CrossFit.

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

Leave a Reply

59 Comments on "Why Newswire Services Don’t Work (and When They Do)"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Kate Finley
Kate Finley
2 years 8 months ago

Weigh in!

yvettepistorio
2 years 8 months ago
I’ve used them in the past, but I think it just depends on the situation. In my previous position I was tasked with building relationships with influencers. Yes, I had things to pitch them (as Gini can attest to) but that wasn’t the time or place to use a newswire service. But other times like you mentioned above when you are a big brand or during a crisis, they can be a valuable tool. I think right now there is still a place for them, but who knows what’s to come! Great post Kate – you bring up really good… Read more »
lauraclick
2 years 8 months ago
OK – I’ll bite. I actually agree with you for the most part. The Forbes article you linked to is excellent and highlights my example. I did use a wire service for a startup I worked with a year ago. We used the wire to distribute a release about this startup getting significant funding. That announcement was actually picked up and used as part of a larger story that mentioned how this particular kind of company was gaining traction. It worked in that case, but it was a bit of a fluke and it falls within the recommendation to use… Read more »
Anthony_Rodriguez
2 years 8 months ago
I agree wholeheartedly with your post Kate. The value of news wires is dwindling and rapidly. Reporters are more and more likely to ask to be on the do-not-send list so unless you do even more work, it’s hard to really know if you release made it to a reporter’s inbox or went directly to their spam folder. At the end of the day, we need to do he research and make personalized contact and build a relationship with reporters and bloggers. The one-size-fits-all approach of a wire service just isn’t going to give the results for the dollar amount… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

yvettepistorio I thought it was very interesting that Coke recently announced they want to cut news release use by half in general! It’s very interesting to see this tool evolve …

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

lauraclick Thanks for taking a bite! I’m very curious about your example with the startup when you say it was a “fluke” — how exactly did the media pick up on it?
One question I would ask a bunch of journalists if I had them in a room: Do you / how do you use newswire services within your research?

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

Anthony_Rodriguez Did you guys use the wire when you were at the Dave Thomas Foundation? That seems like a time when it could be worth trying …

lauraclick
2 years 8 months ago

KateFinley They incorporated the announcement into larger story in Fast Company about this particular type of online company gaining traction. I believe they even linked back to the wire release. We didn’t pitch it to this reporter – the reporter must have found the wire release and included it in the story. That’s why I say the coverage was a fluke.

lauraclick
2 years 8 months ago

KateFinley If I were to bet, the reporter already had the story idea and found the release when doing research, but I really don’t know. I don’t know if reporters seek out wire services to troll for news. But, I could be wrong.

JRHalloran
2 years 8 months ago

I agree with you completely, Katie! From working at a savvy internet company the past couple months, learned news wire services do almost nothing for SEO. The reason is because it’s considered “duplicate content,” and such content doesn’t rank in the search engines (especially Google). That’s why you can’t count it as “earned media.”

However, if you need a quick filler for content, news wire services are the way to go.

Frank_Strong
2 years 8 months ago
I agree with everything you say, except for not using a service. To this I say we need to think differently about a release.  A release over a wire is a formal statement by a company and still holds credibility.  Sure, it’s popular to bash press releases, but a well written release can still earn attention.  To that end, I’m a huge fan of using paid media to drive earned media. Google may be beat up on links, but press releases are STILL search able and find-able.  I still get reports that tell me how many people read a release… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

lauraclick This is a great example of a wire release being useful! Thanks for explaining further …

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

JRHalloran Hi 🙂 What do you mean by “filler for content”? What’s an example you’re thinking of? Thank you, sir!

lauraclick
2 years 8 months ago

Frank_Strong I think your point about them being read and searchable is important. And, I think that’s likely why it worked for my client a year ago. Like it or not, a wire release in CNN Money is going to show up in search results more than other things. So, it can definitely help to get information out there. As you said, it’s just ONE approach – not the only one.

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
Frank_Strong Thanks for weighing in and bringing up points of debate. A couple things:  1) I don’t agree that a news release on the wire is necessarily credible — it’s really just advertising, isn’t it? It’s paid for by the company and not backed by a reporter. 2) I’m not bashing news releases. I, personally, adore a well written release and think they still hold lots of value. They also are still a preferred tool with journalists.  3) I’d love to hear more about the example you’re referencing … 6,000 impressions reported by the wire service or click thrus from the… Read more »
martinwaxman
2 years 8 months ago
From reading today’s Spin Sucks post by KateFinley,  it’s seems like the two of us talked beforehand. Or just share a similar POV. First, a confession – I still write releases (grudgingly) and use the wire when clients want it. But I generally counsel them to try a different route and because the news bureau themselves. And with apologies and the greatest respect to my friends and colleagues who work at newswires, I think the traditional wire release just doesn’t have the same traction it used to – and especially in the pre- or earlyish Internet days. And without trying to… Read more »
Frank_Strong
2 years 8 months ago
KateFinley Really?  It’s a stake in the ground.  I have about a half dozen check points to run through before putting out a release  — you can make a mistake in a blog post — but a press release?  That’s the written record of a company.  Write an erroneous release and see how fast that sails around the web!  As for measurement, reads is like  “unique page views” in GA.  Most release services offer this metric as “reads.”  This is not impressions. It’s not possible views rather its READS. 6,000 people read (or at least skimmed) a press release. Click-throughs on… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
Frank_Strong Me again 🙂  (Thank you for indulging me) Yes, really! Just last week I had a client point out a competitors release that was put on the wire with “facts” that were skewed and not accurate. It was that company’s official stance and there were no grammatical errors, however, the information they presented as “fact” was, in fact, bias. If that same (inaccurate) information had been shared with a reporter, that reporter would have checked the facts and not shared the release or come back questioning the source’s credibility. Regarding impressions … I like your comparison to GA and that’s… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

martinwaxman Twins! 🙂 I do enjoy a well written release though. I feel like they can be a masterpiece …

martinwaxman
2 years 8 months ago

KateFinley I used to and would be happy to again – but I’ve seen too many clunkers.

Frank_Strong
2 years 8 months ago
KateFinley  I appreciate the banter Kate — opposing views are important.   1. In some ways PR and marketing types have incentive to be bias.  It’s not a bad thing. In many ways its like helping a friend get ready for a first date — we want to help them put their best look on. But we’re biased. There’s a difference between having a different take on data and being flat out misleading.  I’ll never defend the latter. 2. As for reads, it’s hard to argue with those.  People that read releases find them in search — which is by… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

martinwaxman OH I just meant if *I* write them they are masterpieces … Ha!! 🙂

JRHalloran
2 years 8 months ago

KateFinley For example, if you just need a news story to fill space online but don’t really need the SEO value. (Mostly it’s a stupid request, but people request it nonetheless.)

martinwaxman
2 years 8 months ago

KateFinley Of course! How silly of me not to realize that! I completely agree!!

Anthony_Rodriguez
2 years 8 months ago

Yes. But when we did most of went online was just a reprint of the news release, word for word. To me, there isn’t much value in that. I personally have never seen, or read, a news release that wasn’t on the WSJ or Bloomberg. I just don’t see the value of impressions.

Tinu
2 years 8 months ago
I’ve never used press releases traditionally. I use them as a vehicle to help get a message in front of a certain audience in a timely fashion when other methods aren’t appropriate or available. The illusion that a press release would get a journalist to write about something never occurred to me. But I matured in the age of the internet. I agree with you that they are paid media, and are NOT the same tools they were, say 40 years ago. It’s wiser to form mutually beneficial relationships who have access to the audience you want – journalists or… Read more »
Randy Milanovic
2 years 8 months ago

Bang on Gini! In my experience, reporter follow-up to news releases has been like a lottery – one in a million (realistically, 1 in a couple thousand). The part that catches me the most is the measurements the news wires have provided, as in “4000 have gone out”. To me that’s not a useful measurement at all.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman
2 years 8 months ago
Really interesting discussion here. The press release, when used properly and with defined expectations still works; it also still works if you use the wire service strategically. Firstly, I’ll never let a client put out a news release ‘just because.’ We’ve all seen too many useless  and ‘news-less’ press releases. Secondly, the wire service can still give you great distribution – and if you’re representing a credible organization – reporters still ask me if they can get the release ‘on the wire.’  As for SEO – you’re likely right, not so much. Also, some wire services have evolved into the… Read more »
SavvyCopywriter
SavvyCopywriter
2 years 8 months ago
Great insight – I 100% agree with you on this! For PR agencies, there’s a struggle with this though. So many people still think newswire services are the end all be all way to reach clients. It’s crucial that clients have realistic expectations up front. If all a client wants is to be able to show investors that their name got printed somewhere on the Wall Street Journal website, then fine, click send and use all of the reprints of your press release to your advantage in that way but DON’T expect much ROI from it in terms of traffic… Read more »
trackback

[…] Why newswire services don’t work (and when they do) […]

Bernadette Lee
Bernadette Lee
2 years 8 months ago
It’s important that the companies using wire services understand that the resulting value begins with a solid communications strategy.  News release distribution has to help you reach your PR and MarCom program goals.  We find that the organizations who use our wire service seek an efficient means to share their company’s message with targeted media, investors, consumers, bloggers, etc, both quickly and reliably. There are times that companies need to cast a wider net and instances when they want to be more targeted in their approach. However, there is no magical silver bullet and hasn’t been for a while now. News releases are… Read more »
cmor21
cmor21
2 years 8 months ago

Great post Kate. Safe to say that the wire model is broken and should only be used in very specific cases.  I never thought of it as paid media, but completely agree with that view.  I think it can be generally associated with the spray and pray model, which we all know isn’t what successful PR campaigns are about.

JoeSloanSays
2 years 8 months ago
Glad to hear your perspective on newswire services. I am relatively new to the field and while I have heard a bit about some of the competing services, I have very little experience with them. However, as a young and (relatively) tech-savvy PR pro my initial snap-judgment of these services is that they seem to be simply online news release mass-mailer companies for PR which seems a bit lacking. But as you said, there is definitely something to be said for the value that they can provide in specific circumstances. Thanks for the info! All in all my opinion is that while newswire services definitely have a useful place… Read more »
Word Ninja
2 years 8 months ago

Thanks for this post, Kate, and for the great comments it encouraged. Very helpful. I’ve not used newswire services, mainly because building relationships with local media contacts has been the most beneficial, and I prefer it. But it’s always good to consider something anew, and your post helped provide some good information.

SarahSkerik
SarahSkerik
2 years 8 months ago
Do newswires work? Yes, and in a variety of ways.  Are they the sole tool in the PR toolbox? Of course not.     I’ve pulled some data and penned a blog post on response to this one.  Here’s the link: http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/12/02/do-newswire-services-work-pr-newswire-does/  In a nutshell, there are reasons why thousands of media outlets and tens of thousands of journalists and bloggers subscribe to services like PR Newswire (my employer.)  We’re efficient, we do some of the legwork in authenticating stories. and we vet the copy.  But the audience is bigger than just the media, and online distribution of content has value.… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

Tinu One of the areas that things are getting a little confused … I’m A-OK with news releases. They still hold value when used correctly (as you so wonderfully stated) … it’s newswires that leave me wanting more.

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

cmor21 Spray and pray — HA! I love it.

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

SarahSkerik I love this! I’m so glad you chimed in and even replied via a rebuttal post! THIS is what I want to see. Show me WHY I should use your services. What is the real value? I’m reading / digging in now and will reply with comments / follow up in a minute …

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

Word Ninja Have to keep those ninja skills harp 😉

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

JoeSloanSays Right, and that pudding won’t taste very good. Glad to have you here, Joe!

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
ElissaFreeman Thanks for jumping in and commenting! I love hearing the different experiences and perspectives.  I agree with you that the news release can still be quite useful, I’m just questioning the actual value of newswire distribution services. When you say reporters ask for the release to be put on the wire … how often does this sort of thing happen? And, in that scenario, are you reaching out to media organically and they are, in turn, letting you know they will only share the release if it’s auto-populated to their news site through the wire?  That’s been my experience in… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

Randy Milanovic In my experience, “lottery” is pretty accurate. 🙂

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

SavvyCopywriter Your point about realistic expectations is key and those expectations should be setup on the front end, before the release draft.

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
Bernadette Lee Thanks so much for your comment! From your last sentence, it sounds like using a wire service can be beneficial in reaching a larger audience when you don’t have the budget for a PR agency? I think this is an interesting point that hasn’t been brought up yet. Thank you.   Although, I would recommend that if budget is a restriction in organic PR outreach, instead of investing money within a wire service, perhaps having a knowledgeable, engaging team member reach out to journalists organically on a local level would be best? I’ve found that reporters respond quite well… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago

Frank_Strong Thanks for joining in on the debate with me 🙂 
I LOVE your ROI case study. That is the sort of thing that should be at the front of newswire websites: case studies, success stories — yes! 
I do agree that news releases are a tool within the toolkit too. I use them regularly but rarely on the wire.
I’d agree to disagree with you anytime! Thanks for letting me stir the pot.

Randy Milanovic
2 years 8 months ago

Sorry Kate. I should have attributed you properly. Great article.

KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
SarahSkerik Alright 🙂 I’ve had a chance to review. First, as the author of this post, my experiences are based on data across dozens of clients and eight years of experience with news release distribution organically and via wire services.  Second, I have to say I kind of love your idea about sharing a timely blog post via a wire service. I’m thinking through how that could work so thanks for the idea. A couple comments … (more like a wish list and food for thought) 1. I’d love to see an unbiased study on how journalists actually use wire services.… Read more »
SarahSkerik
SarahSkerik
2 years 8 months ago
KateFinley SarahSkerik Okay, Kate, here we go! This is fun! 🙂  I’ve worked through your questions, and have organized my answers accordingly.   1)       A survey would be interesting, I agree.  Obviously, if we had a hand in fielding it,  the objectivity would be questioned.  But I’d happily read the results.   We did field a significant survey of media in conjunction with PR Week, and key findings are http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/prnewswire/43321/, but it didn’t focus solely on journalist use of newswires, it was much broader in scope. 2)Is what PR Newswire does PR or advertising?  I would say that depends upon the circuit the… Read more »
KateFinley
2 years 8 months ago
SarahSkerik Thank you for your thoughtful reply! To your main point, I agree that we need to continually work toward understanding the value of the content we share and the mediums with which we share that content. However, we may just have to agree to disagree in that all of these points do not convince me that newswire services are the most efficient use of my clients news releases. Especially when organic PR generates so much more bang for the proverbial PR buck.  Dark traffic and a lot of the information you shared is valuable and exists regardless of where… Read more »
susancellura
susancellura
2 years 8 months ago

During my most recent job, I found that not using the wire service paid off. I was able to build relationships with the editors and then find more placement opportunities with smaller newsworthy items. 
Thank you for this very insightful post KateFinley! And, the comments are wonderful!

wpDiscuz
[postmatic_subscribe_widget]