Newswires: The other end of the newswire

Understanding how journalists actually use newswire services is a valuable asset and should inform the way a press release is created.

Understanding how journalists actually use newswire services is a valuable asset and should inform the way a press release is created.

If the axiom for marketing is "know thy target," it follows that when pitching journalists, PR professionals should know how reporters use newswires.

By understanding how they do, PR executives can in turn increase the visibility of the content they post. And because a recent survey of journalists found that reporters by and large do not favor one newswire over another, the packaging of a press release is still one of its most important components.

According to the 2004-2005 Newswire Awareness Report, carried out by Brodeur Worldwide on behalf of Market Wire, 97% of the 155 journalists polled said they are indifferent to the newswires from which they receive press releases. Moreover, 78% of these respondents indicated that they do not rely on one newswire over another.

"[Journalists] are going to focus on the newsworthiness of the content," says Jim McGovern, CEO of Market Wire.

"It really behooves the PR and IR professional to make their release work hard. I think the savvier PR and IR people are sending out [information] that is really a full-function press kit."

News releases that include multimedia content are the most likely to be picked up by reporters and get about 2.5 times as many click-throughs, notes Les Blatt, multimedia manager for Business Wire.

"If you have a new product, show it to me," he says. "That's an edge."

Digital video, which might not be of high enough quality for broadcast, might still appeal to web editors and bloggers. (Business Wire recently started allowing some bloggers to register for its content.)

In addition to adding multimedia components, PR officers also can take advantage of other services newswires offer, says Ken Dowell, MD of targeting services for PR Newswire.

"You want to make your press release as rich a source of information that you can for the journalist," he says.

The Newswire Awareness Report also found that reporters at regional daily or weekly newspapers were most likely to use newswires (41% of survey respondents), and that reporters at national business newspapers were the least likely to do so (2%).

The report concluded that PR professionals need a "value-added touch point" for the business media, which relies on one-to-one expert relationships.

PR Newswire's ProfNet or Business Wire's Expert Source, for instance, offer databases of experts on given subjects, allowing PR professionals to assist reporters in their research on a particular topic.

In September alone, Prof Net received 2,700 queries from the media, says Dowell.

The timing of a news release is also important. PR Newswire, for instance, will sometimes bundle news releases that address the same issue in a features package.

For individual releases, Dowell notes, even the minute a release is sent out can affect its visibility.

"[Editors and reporters] get a big dump of press releases at 8 am," he says. "They could handle [your release] a lot better if it came in at 7:50am or 8:10am."

McGovern adds that PR teams also should take into account the closing dates for the publications they want to target.

"News kind of goes in cycles. ... Generally you tend to see heavy volume on Mondays and Tuesdays," McGovern says, adding that if a PR team can avoid these peak periods, it should try to do so.

Most journalists (73%) indicated that they do not proactively search out news from the wires, according to the Newswire Awareness Report. But 54% of respondents had signed up to receive press releases by e-mail, and 62% indicated that they read "most" or "each" of them.

Business Wire and Market Wire, therefore, send reporters customized e-mails containing content sorted by beat, geography, or company.

PR Newswire's releases are posted on Yahoo! and Google News, Factiva, and even on some newspaper websites to increase visibility.

To speed access to press releases, PR Newswire, Business Wire, and US Newswire all use the satellite feed of The Associated Press to deliver content directly to a journalist's desktop.

Brian Taylor, VP of sales and marketing for US Newswire, estimates that only 10% of media outlets use the US Newswire website.

"Anyone can post anything on a website to get a reporter's attention - anyone," he says. "We don't try to represent our website as a destination for our reporters."

Taylor notes that wires are likely to be monitored by reporters looking for breaking news, but that wire feed distribution might be less important to journalists covering business or financial stories.

Laura Sturaitis, VP of new media development for Business Wire, notes that journalists are accessing news releases from their PDAs and cell phones. Headlines of news releases, therefore, should be pithy and mention the company name, she says.

Although news feeds make it easier for journalists to obtain press releases, they make it harder for PR officers to monitor them because it is virtually impossible to track pickup.

"We track coverage," Taylor says. "And that's what clients are paying us for."

McGovern notes that because of a great overlap of media subscribers among news sites, it doesn't pay to distribute the same release to different newswires. What some companies will do, however, is use different newswires for different types of releases, he says.

"I really don't think it's advisable to distribute your news release to multiple sites. For the most part, you're really doubling your cost without doubling your service."

Dowell notes that even with new technology to increase the visibility and usefulness of basic press releases, the basic rules still apply.

"The use of a news-release distribution service doesn't mean you shouldn't do your normal pitching and targeting," he says.

Technique tips

Do use different services for different types of announcements

Do take advantage of other services newswires offer, such as registering clients as experts

Do add multimedia content to your news release

Don't send releases during peak periods whenever possible

Don't use wordy headlines or fail to specify company names

Don't forget basic press release and pitching rules just because you use a service with a lot of bells and whistles

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