Targeting niche audiences through newswires

Reaching specific audiences is possible through general wire services as well as targeted ones. Sherri Deatherage Green navigates the many specialist wire services.

Reaching specific audiences is possible through general wire services as well as targeted ones. Sherri Deatherage Green navigates the many specialist wire services.

PR practitioners traditionally go to the wires when they need to reach mass audiences quickly. Now, a proliferation of smaller services boosts the wires' ability to target specific audiences, too. The web helped niche wire entrepreneurs get started, but technology isn't alone in fueling the trend. "The mindset in the past may have been, 'Speak English, this is America,'" says Gina Amaro, international and multicultural markets director for PR Newswire (PRN). "We're a more tolerant, accepting culture now." Homogeny gives way to diversity as traditional minorities become majorities in some cities. "Anyone's sweet spot is their native language," Amaro says. Newswire entrepreneurs almost universally say they started their services to reach ethnic, demographic, or industry markets the leading wires didn't target closely enough. "I saw the need, and I filled the gap," says Manny Ruiz, president and founder of Hispanic PR Wire. Corin Ramos and Valerie Steiner - respectively president of Access Media and acting communications director at UCLA Center for Health Policy Research - hit the streets to target Asian and other immigrant audiences. Ramos visited mom-and-pop grocery stores to find Asian- language publications. Steiner contacted ethnic chambers of commerce and consulate offices. Asian Americans can be particularly difficult to reach since they come from many cultures and speak many languages. Ramos developed her own Asian-American media list, which she makes available to clients. "As for major newswires, if you find one that has Nguoi Viet, the leading Vietnamese paper in the US, I'll be surprised," Ramos says. Miami has become a hub for ethnic newswires. Four-year-old Hispanic PR Wire (HPW) and three-year-old Black PR Wire (BPW) both call the city home. Both maintain lists of politicians, clergy, and other opinion leaders in addition to media lists. HPW pushes its Hispanic Digital Network, which builds free websites for news outlets, that, in return, link HPW news releases to their home pages. Market Wire CEO Jim McGovern says reporters may opt to get press releases from more than 120 subcategories through his company, which partners with Noticias Wire to reach Hispanics. Black, Asian, and white Americans look to mainstream media, and Asians often subscribe to publications from their homelands, he contends. Bernadette Morris, president of BPW, disagrees. African Americans trust black-owned media, she says. "In Miami, black professionals still depend on the Miami Times, the Westside Gazette, and the Broward Times just as much if not more than what we get out of The Miami Herald and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel," she says. BPW, HPW, Collegiate Press Wire (CPW), and environmentally focused E-Wire all partner with Business Wire (BW). "We have identified leading players in different markets," says Neil Hershberg, BW's VP of global media. If the company identifies an unserved vacuum, it develops its own proprietary media list to fill it. Otherwise, BW teams with acknowledged market leaders. PRN, meanwhile, uses its "microlists" to fine tune distribution. The company employs Hispanic specialists in 15 US cities, as well as in Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. It also boasts an exclusive relationship with Agencia EFE, the world's most prominent Spanish-language wire service. PRN launched a North American Chinese system last year. "Chinese Americans make up the largest part of the Asian population in the US," says Amaro. But niche media can be difficult to reach through traditional wire-distribution mechanisms, the proprietors of some newer services claim. In decades past, PRN and BW delivered press releases via the AP, which evolved from using telegraph wires to satellites to reach newsrooms. AP costs, however, prove too steep for many niche titles. Even university papers seldom use the AP due to expense or because the AP sometimes views campus papers as competitors to general-market dailies, explains Matthew Farlie, CPW's director of business development. While BW, PRN, and the AP have added secondary, internet-based distribution services, some niche wires depend primarily on e-mail, along with faxing. "There is a chunk of the Hispanic press that will demand to receive news by fax," Ruiz notes. E-mail also enables reporters to be targeted individually. Traditional wires deliver press releases to newsrooms, but reporters choose which ones to read or set up filters. Brian Taylor, VP of the public policy/nonprofit-focused US Newswire, says his company transmits all releases by wire, but supplements them with e-mails or faxes to reach specialized audiences. Although the wires allow broader distribution less intrusively, "to target individual journalists, you can't do that by wire," Taylor says. "You've got to do that by fax or e-mail." Some services, including US Newswire, nonprofit-serving Ascribe, and health/scientific focused EurekAlert, count on content to attract beat reporters. "We screen our content to keep quality very high," says Catherine O'Malley, senior program associate for EurekAlert, which was founded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Reporters know the information they get from us is credible." PR pros say delivery mechanisms don't matter as much as results. "I must be convinced that ...the media has a track record of using it," says Todd Appleman, founder of the LA-based virtual agency the Appleman Group. He agrees niche services should supplement, not replace, mainstream wire distribution. Cost also plays into any service purchase decision these days. Rate structures for targeted services vary widely. Some wires charge less for reaching out to smaller groups, and others treat special lists as add-ons to general distribution. While targeting niches may carry a higher "cost per million," Appleman says, reaching out to trade, ethnic, or college media can be very effective. "It's less expensive to target these media groups because they're younger," explains Amaro. Newer media outlets have fewer resources and are more apt to run press releases. "The pick-up rate is significantly higher. They are starved for content." Sarah Lora, a US Hispanic practice manager for Burson-Marsteller in Dallas, uses HPW frequently and agrees Spanish papers need more copy. "Often, press releases are completely lifted and published," she says. ----- Technique tips Do consider using niche newswires or specialized media lists when your message resonates with specific audiences Do expect strong pickup rates for press releases targeting niche media with limited resources Do compare services, distribution details, and media-list quality before picking which wire or news service to reach a niche audience Don't assume a news release distributed over the AP wire will reach ethnic, collegiate, or other niche media outlets Don't expect wire service personnel to make follow-up calls to targeted journalists. Do that yourself Don't define your distribution target too narrowly. Other segments might be interested in your news as well

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