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
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
In fact, some studies show that many writers still prefer that
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
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
’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
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
’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
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
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
1 Find out which method of distribution key journalists on your
circulation list prefer.
2 Constantly survey your circulation and continually refine your
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.
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.