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).


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.

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…

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.

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