Newswires may present a golden opportunity for coverage-hungry, time-poor PROs, but their influence on other media gives their journalists the power to pick up only the most newsworthy and best-pitched stories.
Reuters, which opened in 1851, and The Press Association (PA), which started in 1868, dominate the UK market, employing about 400 and 250 journalists respectively. Smaller, niche players such as M2Presswire offer paid-for news distribution, while the US boasts several major players, including the globally recognised Associated Press. The Red Consultancy joint MD Andrew Baiden says coverage on the major newswires gives stories a 'stamp of approval' that can propel a campaign. 'But (newswires) have sharp journalists so stories need to be good to get through,' he warns. 'The Press Association, for example, has a strong brand to protect.'
Tesco comms manager Jonathan Church says it is vital to strike up a relationship with newswire journalists, particularly financial ones, because 'you need to know you can get through to someone at 7am when the markets open. If you miss the boat, you can have something out on the wires that doesn't tell the full story'.
Reuters, says Church, has become increasingly interested in more colourful stories and bringing in lifestyle elements. This allowed Tesco to invite Reuters' retail correspondent on a store tour to explain the operations behind Tesco.com; despite no obvious news hook, it resulted in a story.
The Association of Train Operating Companies media relations manager Jane Vincent also recommends close relationships with industry correspondents.
She points to a recent story, held exclusively for PA transport correspondent Peter Woodman, about the fact that Britons made more than one billion train journeys in 2004. It trumped the story a year earlier about the one-billion barrier being broken for the first time in 42 years, because that had been distributed direct to media.
Vincent says newswires are particularly useful when urgency is an issue or if a specific audience is being targeted - in such cases, it is important to remember that 'news is generally reported more accurately and straight through newswires'.
Lyndsay Griffiths UK and Ireland Bureau Chief
Contact: 020 7542 7950, firstname.lastname@example.org
What type of stories are you interested in?
We cover a great range of stories, from the Brown and Blair spat, celebrity and religion, to financial stories and company results. What we don't do is innuendo, gossip and tittle-tattle.
Why should PROs trust Reuters?
People know we don't have an agenda. Other people's opinions are interesting, but Reuters journalists are not here to give their own opinions. We will report both sides of the story, but straight doesn't mean it has to be as dull as vanilla.
When should PROs call?
We are 24/7. There is always some poor soul here to answer the phone. There are times when it would be less judicious to call, such as at 6.50am with something that's not urgent and there are 15 companies reporting their results.
Late morning would be a better time.
How long does it take to get a story up?
We take incredible pride in being first with the stories. We can get stories up instantly - as we are talking on the phone we could put out 80 words in seconds. For other stories, our journalist could take a few days to research them extensively - pieces will be as long as they are interesting.
THE PRESS ASSOCIATION
Jonathan Grun, Editor
Contact: 020 7963 email@example.com (no attachments)
What range of stories do you want?
The Press Association main wire tells the story of our nation in daily installments, so we are looking for stories across the whole spectrum of news.
How selective can you be?
Every day we receive hundreds of press releases but only a percentage are genuinely interesting and make it on to the main wire.
How can PROs time their call?
We are a rolling news service that operates 24 hours a day so we do not have deadlines as such. Sending us stories under embargo is a good way of ensuring maximum coverage. One-to-one relationships with specialists can help develop understanding of stories and lead to more coverage.
Where do PA stories go?
Everywhere, every day. PA is taken by every major media organisation - every national newspaper and broadcaster, as well as regional newspapers, regional TV and radio, Teletext and internet services - so if a story is selected to run on the PA wire, it reaches everyone at the same time and has a fighting chance of being picked up by dozens of outlets.
Describe your editorial style.
PA stories are fast, fair and accurate - straight-down-the-middle journalism.