PR TECHNIQUE: For wires, looking after the media is a priority

Newswires are customizing and enhancing services for their non-paying customers - journalists - with an eye on better serving their paying clients.

Newswires are customizing and enhancing services for their non-paying customers - journalists - with an eye on better serving their paying clients.

"The first and foremost mission of every wire service is to build a media audience for its client's press releases," claims Manny Ruiz, president of Hispanic PR Wire (HPRW). To fulfill this mission, Ruiz and his counterparts from other newswires have in-house media relations teams, employed specifically to cater to newswires' non-paying clients. The teams visit newsrooms to make sure feeds work properly, offer tips to reporters on accessing the information they want, and encourage new journalists to register. The teams also attend trade shows and media conventions to garner interest from reporters. David Armon, president of the Americas for PR Newswire (PRN), says PRN's media relations department makes about 100 newsroom visits per month. "We've always viewed journalists as our customers, and our philosophy is to get in front of our customers," reports Armon. Newswire companies also turn to their media relations teams to check credentials of registered journalists to ensure legitimate members of the media are viewing their clients' releases. Once an editor or reporter is deemed legitimate, they are welcome to several useful services, free of charge. The majority of newswires offer customized distribution of press releases to the media via e-mail or fax. Business Wire (BW) calls it PressPass, and PRN calls it PRN for Journalists (PRNJ). US Newswire's is SourceLink, and Market Wire's (MW) is Personal Beat, while HPRW's remains nameless. Despite the differing labels, all versions basically perform the same function - provide registered journalists with news relevant to them. When registering, journalists can specify what kind of releases they want to receive by beat, industry, company name, ticker symbol, key words, or region. In addition, some newswires post temporary categories - usually current events - that journalists can elect to receive news about. Developing categories that best suit the journalists receiving the news, and, in turn, best serve a newswire's clientele, is most important, says Ruiz. HPRW, for example, offers immigration - an area that greatly interests readers of Hispanic publications - as a subject about which journalists can elect to receive releases. Says Ruiz, "When journalists know they're consistently getting news that's relevant to them, they'll be more receptive. The result is that our paying clients get calls about stories." Delivery time, frequency, and method can also be personalized. Users are free to change their profile at any time, should their beat or preferences change. "If you distribute a biotech story, you want to be sure it gets filtered down to the right reporter," explains Fred Stefany, VP of business development for MW. "You can't risk spamming the entire New York Times staff by sending everyone every release." Another way newswires connect clients with journalists is via media-query applications. PRN's ProfNet service allows editors and reporters to perform online searches for expert sources by posting queries about the stories they are working on. Queries are sent to ProfNet subscribers three times a day, and interested experts then contact journalists directly by e-mail or phone. BW's version is called ExpertSource, which the company has offered for seven years. It essentially functions the same way as ProfNet, but with an added feature that lets journalists create an online dialogue with experts. Brian Taylor, director of sales and marketing for US Newswire, says his company's four-year-old SourceLink "is the same as ProfNet, but provides a screen" - responses first come to US Newswire, which responds directly to the journalist. HPRW does not offer a query service for the media. Ruiz explains, "The ethnic press is still working on making the transition from fax to e-mail, so they aren't quite ready for using media query technologies." Similarly, Black PR Wire (BPRW) doesn't have an online system for providing journalists with expert sources, but it provides the media with complimentary lists of influential academics and business contacts in the black community. Stefany cites online search engine Google as MW's reason for not offering a media query service. He says, "The feedback we've gotten from journalists is that they don't have time to post queries. Going direct and searching for experts through Google is a trend gaining momentum." Another growing trend is newswires' inclusion of multimedia materials. BW's recently revamped website, which journalists can access directly from their PressPass e-mails, includes At A Glance and Logo Library. The former lets journalists view thumbnails with background information about the company issuing the release. The latter lets reporters download a company's logo directly from the site. BW also plans to launch a new delivery system, News Express, next month. The internet platform is designed to deliver multimedia content in NewsML, an XML-based technology that will enable reporters to access text, video, pictures, and graphics simultaneously. "Journalists are clamoring for multimedia content," claims Michael Lissauer, SVP for BW. "Clients aren't doing as much as we would like them to, but once delivery is made easier, we think they will begin using it more." Conversely, Stefany sees the media as an obstacle. He says, "Getting journalists to want the multimedia material is the biggest challenge. They're skeptical of press releases to begin with, so they often view it as more fluff." Apart from formalized media services, many newswires hold occasional events designed to nurture relationships with journalists, in hopes of obtaining useful information for clients. Bernadette Morris, president of BPRW, hosts biweekly conference calls with publishers, editors, and reporters from black media outlets. She picks up the costs of the calls, which are meant to provide feedback on either a predetermined topic or about what type of news journalists are interested in receiving. MW holds quarterly media breakfasts, free of charge to journalists and MW clients. The wire held a recent breakfast at the Hilton Beverly Hills that was attended by reporters from The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Business Journal, and Nasdaq. "It brings our paying and non-paying clients together," says Stefany. "Journalists need PR people as much as the PR community needs them, so the breakfasts benefit everyone." Taylor concludes, "We have to make a point to constantly ask journalists what they want, rather than tell them what we have. Without them as clients, we won't have any paying clients." ----- How newswires court the media 1.Employ dedicated media relations teams that visit newsrooms to check feeds, offer tips, and encourage subscriptions. 2.Check journalists' credentials to ensure a legitimate media audience is viewing releases. 3.Distribute customized press releases to offer news that is relevant to the recipient. 4.Offer media-query tools that connect journalists with expert sources. 5.Provide multimedia releases that include downloadable graphics and links. 6.Hold events that nurture relationships with journalists.

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