Wired for News - In today's world, it's not enough just to send out a press ...

In today's world, it's not enough just to send out a press release. Mary Ratcliffe shows how the newswires can give PR pros a more targeted distribution.

In today's world, it's not enough just to send out a press release. Mary Ratcliffe shows how the newswires can give PR pros a more targeted distribution.

Whatever the market is for your company's press release, newswires can help you hit your target accurately, effectively and economically in today's shifting media environment.

The leading wire services are PR Newswire (PRN), and Business Wire (BW).

PRN is the older and the larger of the two, but BW is catching up fast, laying claim to 48% of the market.

The two are comparable in their ability to deliver for their clients in different ways. PRN focuses on general company news, while BW focuses on hi-tech and biotech, as well as general company news.

The public relations pro will be able to reach a highly refined target audience using either one. However, it's best to use both, or they may miss half the news. As BW executive VP Cathy Baron Tamraz s says, 'People don't double plant anymore.'

Finding your niche
Niche marketing is desirable from the standpoints of both efficiency and economy. The wire services offer a variety of ways to help the PR pro meet their targeting needs.

PRN's specialty circuits include Capital Newsline, EntertaiNet, Broadcast Serv-ices, E-Wire (environmental), PRNews-Foto, SportsPack, and University Wire.

BW special markets include African-American, Hispanic, and Asian media circuits; Broadcast Wire; Radio; College Newspapers; Energy circuits; an IPO circuit; the High-Tech corridor circuit; LegalWire and more.

When you're looking for the 'biggest bang for your buck,' says PRN senior vice president John MacLeod Williams, 'the answer lies in sending methodology.

When we send, we send to receiving points at the media in the method that they want to receive it.'

Historically, that's been via private wire network, but PRN has incorporated whatever new technology has come along. They will use facsimile broadcast, electronic mail, fax on demand, bulletin board systems, and even the US mail when necessary.

The wire is the core business at BW as well, according to BW vice president of marketing Michael Lissauer. Wire stories can be targeted according to clients' needs, and they can be sent to 'virtually anything a client could target.'

For feature stories, PRN emphasizes the advantages of its feature packages.

By grouping holiday stories together, for example, PRN gives editors 'a significant leg-up' in finding what they want. Features are bundled by topic and transmitted to specific editors in the various feature-writing fields and also to the editors of special sections. Feature stories on PRN do not have to be bundled, however. Like news releases, they can be targeted by time and distribution.

Unlike PRN, BW does not bundle feature stories with news on the same subject nor do they follow a media calendar. Instead, BW uses its regular distribution channels but labels the release with a special BW Features heading. You get to determine the best release date for your purposes, and can customize the distribution list to your objectives.

Adapting
In specific trade categories, BW's Tamraz says, 'we are always refining our circuits based on client needs. If we've missed something important, our media relations team will add it immediately.'

While you're targeting your audience, journalists, writers and editors are searching wire services for news stories and features.

PRN's Press Room, with more than 7,500 members, is a journalists-only web site for newspaper, broadcast, wire service, and trade publication writers and editors. The media can check into the Press Room to find stories relating to their beats - automotive, multimedia, entertainment, utilities, oil and energy to name a few - and by industry. Feature stories appear here, too. Every release sent via PRN goes to the Press Room.

At BW, a similar service is Press Pass, an Internet product that is free to journalists. Lissauer says that Press Pass 'is currently used by 2,000 journalists, who can access news from 31 industries by type of news within that industry, such as mergers and acquisitions, new products, management changes, and earnings.' All client releases distributed by BW are also sent to Press Pass.

PRN's ProfNet links public relations professionals with journalists who post their queries for story information and experts. The queries are e-mailed to ProfNet Search subscribers.

BW's ExpertSource interactive Web site has a password-protected 'live queries' section for journalists researching stories and looking for authoritative sources. BW members can both visit the site and register their experts for an annual fee.

Presentation
Using web technology, PRN Video News Wire can present your release in full-motion video and BW's Smart News Release can embed photos, graphics, audio, video and even spreadsheets.

And just in case you want to know all about the journalists you're targeting, PRN can fax you the bios of 3,000 editors in and reporters in a few hours.

'Anyone can send a news release,' says PRN's Williams, 'so for the receiving parties, primarily media, it's important to receive copy from a bona fide filter.'

Public corporations generate the greatest percentage of news at both wire services. Basic service for all of their news, no matter how wide or narrow the geographic distribution, includes full-text distribution, at no additional cost, to the disclosure points required by the SEC. These points include Reuters, Associated Press, Dow Jones, Bloomberg Financial, the SEC, and stock exchanges.

For publicly traded companies, however, immediacy and simultaneity of news delivery are paramount in order to satisfy SEC disclosure requirements on material news. Material news includes earnings, dividends, major product developments, and management changes.

At BW, 80-85% of the business is material news, with hi-tech number one in terms of information released. Biotech is also very important.

At PRN public corporations account for about 65% of the news. PRN created its newswire business 45 years ago to handle companies' financial and business news according to SEC requirements. Today, as well as company news, they also transmit news from governments, politicians, state universities, sports teams, and feature stories.

To the wire
How do you get your release to the wire services? All accept copy by traditional means: fax, e-mail, hard copy by snail mail, or via their own secure uploading systems.

PRN Direct accepts files directly from your hard drive (except for graphic, web, and database files, which must be exported into text for uploading).

BW Connect requires software developed by BW, but they supply the disk, along with a tech for installation, testing and instruction.

If your company is a not-for-profit or government organization, then you also have the option of using US Newswire (USN), which limits its subscribers to these two groups. USN shares all of the features of PRN and BW. However, their information is limited to news about public policy.

At USN, 'the organizations that we work for and the news that we carry are dramatically different, and so therefore the audience that we're reaching in the newsroom is different' from PRN and BW, says USN president Bill McCarren.

It's true that USN, like PRN and BW, can send to international, national, regional, and city circuits for clients who pay an annual fee to access its services. It can target media to suit the client's needs and interests via a variety of me-diums like the Internet, fax, Lexis-Nexis, AP, and through its Specialty Media Services.

What it does is transmit: news from special interest groups, trade associations, governments, think tanks, and organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Association of Retired Persons.

As an added touch, USN will hand deliver media advisories and other materials to news bureaus in the National Press Building in Washington.

USN's largest client is the Executive Office of the President. 'We transmit everything that the White House Press Office puts out, every day,' notes McCarren.

What the future holds
BW's Tamraz foresees a future that is more web oriented. 'I see a lot of migration to the Internet,' she says, 'and video when that quality gets good. I think the next generation of news releases will definitely be web-based.'

With the onslaught of WebTV in millions of homes, PRN's Williams sees another dimension. 'The future lies with interactive TV - that is where the Internet is going. People will continue to send releases out by the wire, but interactive TV will broaden the spectrum of people who receive it.'

SAMPLE WIRE COSTS: NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND LOCAL

 

CATEGORY			 PRN		  Additional
 400 words News release			   100 words

 

FULL NATIONAL

 

 Comprehensive			  $525		 $130

 

NATIONAL

 

 Major markets			  $425		 $105

 

REGIONAL

 

 Northeast				$220		 $55
 New York Metro			 $140		 $35
 Washington DC			  $125		 $20

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 NY, LA, Nashville		    $200		 $45

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 National				 $400		 $100
Disclosure points	    YES
Applicable Trades	    YES

 

ELECTRONIC

Newswire's web site,

 

 online services,	    YES

 

databases

 

CATEGORY			 BW		   Additional
 400 words News release			   100 words

 

FULL NATIONAL

 

 Comprehensive			  $495		 $125

 

NATIONAL

 

 Major markets			  $425		 $105

 

REGIONAL

 

 Northeast				$210		 $55
 New York Metro			 $140		 $35
 Washington DC			  $70		  $20

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 NY, LA, Nashville		    $190		 $35

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 National				 $450		 $110
Disclosure points	    YES
Applicable Trades	    YES

 

ELECTRONIC

Newswire's web site,

 

 online services,	    YES

 

databases

 

CATEGORY			 USN		  Additional
 400 words News release			   100 words

 

FULL NATIONAL

 

 Comprehensive			  $495		 $125

 

NATIONAL

 

 Major markets			  $295		 $75

 

REGIONAL

 

 Northeast				$195		 $50
 New York Metro			 $100		 $25
 Washington DC			  $75		  $20

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 NY, LA, Nashville	   NA		   NA

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

 National				 $225		 $60
Disclosure points	    NA		   NA
Applicable Trades	    YES

 

ELECTRONIC

Newswire's web site,

 

 online services,	    YES

 

databases

TIPS ON USING WIRES

1 Decide whether your release is directed to a specific and narrow geographic area, or is of national or even global interest. John M. Williams, senior vice president at PRN, cautions, 'The market is no longer within the boundaries of the United States. Products sell around the world.' PRN and BW offer translation services to facilitate global releases.

2 Augment the wire's distribution points with your own fax or e-mail lists, for example: specialty trade publications not included in the wire service media points, a company's board of directors, small community publications, or any group that meets your specific objectives. BW and PRN will maintain lists of second-and third-tier specialty publications for clients; they will even help to compile them

3 Do you have a photograph? Use it. Newswires can transmit high-resolution photographs.

4 Post your release to your own web site. PRN's MicroSites can do this automatically when your release is transmitted over PR Newswire.

5 If your release is a feature story, does it fit PRN's feature package calendar? Or is it timely enough to release separately? For example, does it react to news developments such as legislation that makes a feature on retirement planning appropriate, or a fashion line that creates interest in a new fabric?

6 Confer with your wire service account representative, who is trained to advise you on the most effective and economical distribution of your release.

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