It 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.
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.