Kendra Galante

Don’t Get Stuck in the Past with Your News Release

By: Kendra Galante | October 9, 2017 | 
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News ReleaseIt sounds nice; you write a news release, distribute it on the wire, kick up your feet, and wait.

But the reporter calls never flood in.

The fact is, that’s not how PR works anymore (if it ever really worked like that).

Distributing a news release via a wire was standard practice a few years ago.

However, two important details have changed, which render this tactic insufficient.

The News Cycle Went 24/7

Wire services used to be an efficient vehicle for distributing story ideas and business news to newsrooms across the country—actual brick-and-mortar newsrooms with water coolers and fax machines and real live people.

But wire services don’t hold the key to getting in front of reporters and breaking the news anymore.

And the news doesn’t just break in the morning.

The advent of the 24/7 news cycle has busted the concept of any one entity—outlet, reporter, or brand—owning the news.

This diffusion has led to the creation of all sorts of publishing platforms, from cable news to blogs, Twitter, and Facebook Live.

This is a great thing!

PR professionals who have been able to learn new skills and platforms now have more tools at their disposal to tell their brand’s story.

Earned media used to be the bread and butter, but now the discipline encompasses tactics that fall under paid, owned, and shared strategies as well.

SEO Has Evolved

For a brief period, some people were hip to the fact that if you stuffed a news release with keywords, it would get picked up on websites which linked back to their website, helping their site rise in search engine results.

But Google and the major search engines didn’t let that fly for long.

Their mission is to deliver the most relevant search results to users.

They are constantly tweaking and finessing their algorithms. They do that to account for context and user search intent to deliver quality information back to searchers.

Updates like Panda and Penguin notably restricted the linking free-for-all. It also forced wire services to enact policies to weed out spammy, stuffed news releases.

Megan Belt, public relations account director at Ervin & Smith, reminds us:

Press releases should not be a substitute for a link-building strategy to improve SEO. Google does not index press releases – it treats them advertising. If SEO is your goal, your strategy and dollars are best put to work elsewhere.

Fun fact! Agence France-Presse, the third largest wire service in the world behind Associated Press and Reuters, was the brainchild of advertising executive, Charles-Louis Havas.

So in a way, we’ve come full circle.

When Does a News Release Distribution Make Sense?

There are a few instances in which using a wire service does make sense.

These include times when there are many stakeholders in the mix. As a corporate representative, you need to distribute the news to all relevant news outlets in a timely fashion, and at the same time.

Publicly traded companies working in certain industries may be required to make disclosures via news release to comply with industry rules and regulations.

Common examples warranting a news release include product recalls, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate earnings announcements.

What’s the Alternative?

Working with clients in all industries, we are proponents of proactive media outreach versus news release distribution.

That’s not to say news releases don’t have their place; it’s just that we’re using them less frequently to create connections with journalists and secure stories about our clients.

Dani Hatfield, PR counsel at Ervin & Smith, shares a great, real-world scenario about how a larger media relations strategy might incorporate proactive media pitching AND a news release distribution:

Maybe your original survey research results are distributed via wire release. Then you share the story through traditional media outreach as an example supporting the results.

Today, more than ever before, people are paying attention to the asterisk that shows the source of an online story.

They’re paying attention to whether it’s a wire service, advertorial (paid or sponsored content), or other.

It’s worth telling your story through a reporter or direct media contact, rather than relying on a wire service.

Conclusion

If you do use a wire service, invest in a high-quality, paid service to distribute your news releases.

Smart distribution partners well-versed in PR industry best practices will do their part to protect you.

They have editorial guidelines. They will monitor for hyperlinks in your news release that search engines could view as unnatural. And will automatically add rel=”nofollow” to your links to keep Google happy.

Be sure to identify at the beginning what role a wire service plays in your overall PR strategy.

Perhaps it’s in conjunction with proactive media outreach and pitching, or a content marketing or brand campaign push.

Don’t be afraid to have candid conversations internally if you think a news release isn’t the right tactic.

Think of it as an opportunity to display your value.

You can share with your manager or CEO to prove alternate ways you can use public relations to tell the brand story.

And if SEO is indeed your game plan, forget the news release—instead, here are 30 useful link-building tips for building authority, authentically.

About Kendra Galante


Kendra works on media relations and thought leadership programs for the agency and its clients, helping to tell compelling stories through traditional and digital news, as well as social media and content marketing.

  • This is such a great breakdown! I know one question a lot of our readers will have is “how do you explain this to clients?” So how do YOU explain it to clients….

    • That is a good question @laura_petrolino:disqus, and one that we can approach a few different ways:

      1) Start the conversation with ROI. Clients appreciate transparency, and don’t like to hear that a wire service could be a waste of money. Talk about the ROI of other PR tactics, for example, targeted pitching resulting in a high-value placement, that better support their overall communications strategy.

      2) Talk about attention span. I like to make the point that news releases are long-form content in a sound-byte world. Instead of a news release, talk to the client about using shorter, more visual tactics to get the word out. I like that @kristyccartier:disqus mentioned blogs and social, both are channels that often make more sense than a news release these days.

      3) Frame it competitively. Competitors X, Y and Z are over there churning out press releases, let’s do something different! Clients respond well to ideas that can set them apart (internally, with their business partners, and externally, from what others in their industry are doing). For example, clients are perking up more and more when we discuss video, recorded or live-streaming, as an option for talking about products, services or company developments.

  • Good explainer. We still do the traditional press release but our guidelines have become more stringent on topics deserve one. Even our brand refresh only got a blog + social. As a public company, this fulfills the investor news aspect. Behind the scenes, our agency and PR staffer continue to do outreach for earned media. Our business unit often contributes content to industry media. We work to get our industry-known staff speaking engagements too. A long way of saying, it takes a mix!

    • I like your point, Kristy, about establishing guidelines. That makes it easier for PR managers and directors, especially in larger organizations, to be consistent when press release requests get lobbed at you!

  • Julia Carcamo

    Good thoughts on the topic. I still have clients and co-workers who are stuck in the past.

  • I’d love to know your thoughts on a future without the traditional news release Kendra. Does anybody know the origins of the paid to distribute releases – rather than news distribution services where publications pay to receive syndicated news?

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