PR TECHNIQUE - DISTRIBUTION: Alternative methods of distributing your messages - Wire services are the main - but not the only - distribution method for press releases and other important information Craig McGuire reports.

While newswires may be the most common method to distribute press releases and other information to journalists, they are not the only way.

While newswires may be the most common method to distribute press releases and other information to journalists, they are not the only way.

While newswires may be the most common method to distribute press

releases and other information to journalists, they are not the only

way.



Now, of course, we have the Internet. There is e-mail. And reports of

the death of the fax as a means for news distribution are greatly

exaggerated.



In fact, some studies show that many writers still prefer that

channel.



Which method to use largely depends on what the journalists want.



’The bottom line is that journalists are used to getting information a

certain way, and you have to service them,’ says Sarah Hofstetter, vice

president of corporate communications at Net2Phone.



Jon Austin, managing director of corporate communications at Northwest

Airlines, says that while PR Newswire is his primary method of news

distribution, he also uses direct e-mailing. ’E-mail is big, and it’s

free with little back-end cost,’ says Austin. He explains that the

success of a mass e-mail campaign relies solely upon the quality of the

in-house developed circulation list.



’You have to survey the sources on your internal lists, refining them on

a continual basis, or else they’re of little use,’ he says.



PR professionals are discovering the virtues of such things as

cybercasting and multimedia content development - with the Internet

revolutionizing the way they do their jobs.



Often the press release is now being used merely to point to further

information. ’In our industry, press releases and media advisories are

being used more to promote corresponding Web sites, Webcasts and other

devices related to telling the story,’ says Brian Taylor, director of

marketing communications at US Newswire. ’This is a recognition by PR

professionals that the Web is an important part of PR, but by no means

the only part.’



Jeaneen Zappa Butler, marketing communications manager at E-Transport,

an online business-to-business company, has found one Web-based

application she considers effective. ’Last spring we cybercast the

product launch of a new suite of e-commerce tools, and later archived

that presentation,’ says Butler. ’At last count, we had 170 inquiries

directly attributed to the cybercast - the most recent on January

17.’



Reporters are obviously relying on the Internet more. Hundreds of sites

are springing up like NasdaqNews.com, the news site partitioned from

Nasdaq’s main site and dedicated to serving journalists. ’We post

everything to our Web site,’ says Nasdaq director of media operations

Scott Peterson.



’Reporters who write about Nasdaq regularly have the advantage because

they know to check the site first. It’s also a good educational tool. I

just direct the reporter to the appropriate page and let him loose.’



A 1999 MSNBC survey reported that 25% of consumers currently go to the

Internet first for news.



’As a result, our clients can no longer afford to send their

time-sensitive news announcements through the traditional wire services

to a brick-and-mortar building,’ says Amy Orebaugh, PR manager at

Internet Wire. ’They must fully utilize the speed and reach of the

Internet.’



On the IR front, simple mass e-mailing (or faxing) of a press release

doesn’t offer the security of a wire campaign when it comes to the

sensitive issue of selective disclosure.



’What I’ve found is that the newswires are an effective way of issuing

simultaneous disclosure,’ says Thomas Kelly, vice president of corporate

media relations at Bank One. ’Last year we issued a couple of earnings

warnings over the wires which negatively affected the stock. But, we

made the SEC happy and, more importantly, we want to be known as a fair

company that gets out the information quickly.’



As for the good-old fax, services like those offered by BlastFax may be

an element in every major campaign, but they’re now often more of a

secondary consideration. PR professionals are well aware of the

limitations of faxes and are opting for more sophisticated

alternatives.



’Fax vendors are more for when you have an announcement, such as an

appointment, than for a real news release,’ says Rick Lehman, director

of marketing for fax vendor Exstream Data, formerly E-Fax

Communications. ’If you have a news release and need a network to

distribute it to, you’d probably go to the wires. I mean, we go to the

wires when we have our own news releases.’



Lehman adds that, as with e-mail, fax vendors also do not provide

distribution lists.



Bank One’s Kelly says, ’We use BlastFax sometimes but the bread and

butter of our media operations is US 1 (PR Newswire’s primary

distribution list), which gets it to everyone it needs to.’



Jack Serpa, executive vice president at Internet Wire, says, ’Fax

distribution is popular because it allows companies to select the

specific journalist they want to target and send a hard copy of their

announcement to that journalist by name.’



He adds, ’The downside to faxing is that journalists have to pay for

paper, so many organizations have unlisted fax numbers or change them

with such regularity it is almost impossible to deliver news

successfully.’



Finally, technological tools and expertise are assets, but no substitute

for well-grounded management and communication skills. ’The biggest

’don’t’ in this business is don’t let somebody else talk to the media,’

says Marlin Collingwood, partner and director of PR at Bozell Camstra

Advertising and PR. ’Use their tools and distribution channels, but make

sure you’re the one pitching the stories and building those key

relationships with the media.’





DOs and DON’Ts



DO



1 Find out which method of distribution key journalists on your

circulation list prefer.



2 Constantly survey your circulation and continually refine your

lists.



3 Understand that generic announcements, such as appointments, do not

require a wire and can be mass faxed or e-mailed.



4 Include good contact information on every release.





DON’T



1 Use faxes if the news release is extremely urgent.



2 Neglect multimedia when putting releases on the Internet.



3 Think that journalists will read 10-page releases.



4 Let someone else talk to the media for you.



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