How can newswires remain relevant in a rapidly evolving marketplace?

Gone are the days when content distribution meant providing information solely through a written press release.

Julie Batliner, MD, Carmichael Lynch Spong

Neil Hershberg, SVP, global media, Business Wire

Karin Kane, VP of client services, evolve24

Josette Robinson, VP, CJP Communications

Sarah Skerik,VP of social media, PR Newswire

Julie Batliner, MD, Carmichael Lynch Spong:
Gone are the days when content distribution meant providing information solely through a written press release. For a story to survive in this age of constant information, it must have meaning and be engaging - both within its development and distribution.

This means taking the news beyond facts and moving it into how people will feel about it, what will make them want to share it, and what will make them do something about it.

Once you have a great story for a client, there are best practices in which you must engage.

The first goal is to accompany news distribution with visuals such as photos or infographics that have a high "sharability probability" through social tools. People only spend seconds on each piece of news, so it has to grab them and be easily understandable right away for them to want to learn more.

The next objective should be short, simple headlines that work within social media to drive back to more information, pass-alongs, or a call to action. A recent study by PR Newswire stated that although news releases are more often shared on Facebook, Twitter drives 30% more traffic back to the release.

You also need to provide incentives to share and ask for real-time feedback. The next generation wants some skin in the game when it comes to being part of something newsworthy. For example, if it's a release about a scholarship a brand is announcing, allow the audience to increase the amount of the scholarship with every share.

What's next? Location-based social content distribution. We're already seeing some of it in technology such as Foursquare and location-based ads, but generally it has only received a slow adoption rate up to this point. However, the more we can localize our content distribution, the more relevance it will have and the more coverage it will receive.

It's easy to provide a lot of information. Simplifying it for deeper meaning and engagement is the hard part.

Neil Hershberg, SVP, global media, Business Wire:
The industry has clearly kept pace with the changing dynamics of news distribution and consumption. The evolution has been all-encompassing, ranging from the proliferation of delivery platforms, to audience diversity, to more sophisticated metrics. It is a near total transformation from the linear distribution model - getting from point A to point B - that once characterized the industry.

A key mantra continues to be identifying new opportunities to make content remotely available via multiple options. The ubiquitous use of portable devices means that users want on-the-go access to press releases, multimedia content, events, and corporate contact information, all on a branded platform rendered specifically for mobile viewing.

Perhaps newswires' greatest contribution is that everyone can now take advantage of SEO and social media; the industry has provided a turnkey entry ramp by dedicating the resources and expertise to make it universally available. Barriers to entry for social media benefit have effectively been eliminated.

The adoption of multimedia has also been a game-changer. The transition from text to multimedia has made releases more compelling. Numerous studies also confirm increased usage. The ability to include multiple assets makes every release a mini-marketing package with multi-dimensional features.

Perhaps the biggest change from a client perspective is the valuable measurement data that quantifies the ROI on its marketing. Elevated client expectations mean all service providers must create data-rich monitoring reports that enable clients to gauge success and share results with colleagues and managers.

Though many avenues exist to distribute news and share information, newswires still play a major role in shaping the day's news agenda. For many users, they remain the jump-off point for identifying items of interest and, in turn, sharing them with a global village. The conversation still starts here.

Karin Kane, VP of client services, evolve24:
Newswires must be much more proactive in optimizing distribution networks. Sharing news with key industry influencers improves both the rate of adoption and overall message acceptance. Key influencers aren't necessarily the people with the highest reach, they are the people or publications your target audience seeks for trusted information. While many larger newswires enable customers to distribute releases to specific industries, these media lists may not be the most influential.

Predictive analytics and scenario planning can help newswires gauge the expected response and help customers tweak messages appropriately. Traditional and social media intelligence partners can provide a snapshot of current consumer opinion and, using planned messages, predict likely responses across target audiences. This initial analysis can be used to select what wording to choose, which influencers will have the most impact, and which channel will get the most pickup.

Newswires could provide recommendations on captivating headlines and encourage customers to upload an infographic to garner attention. Once the release is distributed, newswires should help customers understand how to generate more traffic to their sites by sharing links on Twitter, posting updates to Facebook pages, or creating a QR code.

Newswires must help customers track the impact of releases. Helping customers identify how many people within their target audience saw the release and how they responded can provide real insights on the overall message impact and advise customers what to do next.

Josette Robinson, VP, CJP Communications:
While it's still standard practice for PR firms to use newswires, across the board it is becoming a less popular way to disseminate news. They can still be useful, but journalists are increasingly getting information from many sources, including Twitter and other social media channels.

A recent MyPRGenie survey of 2,400 journalists found 90% prefer to receive press releases by email. Only 1.4% preferred to get releases via commercial newswires.

There's also the issue of targeted, quality coverage. We have longstanding relationships with reporters and it makes sense to communicate directly with them when we have news. Those personal relationships and the trust established break through the deluge of information journalists receive every day.

Newswires can still be very useful, though. We have a client that sells long term-care insurance and issues an annual report on the cost of long-term care in all 50 states. That's a lot of territory to cover. Newswire distribution helps bulk up our coverage and broaden the geographic media footprint. It also gives the "Cost of Care" survey a much longer shelf life, with journalists able to access it any time and through multiple search engines.

Also impacting newswire use is the multimedia news release, which is equally valuable for direct-media relations, but particularly useful for newswires. With their embedded links, videos, and podcasts, journalists have everything they need to research and write a more rounded story - particularly helpful if they can't reach out to the PR pro or client.

Newswires have a role to play, but must keep evolving. When it comes to achieving high-quality, targeted coverage, there's still no substitute for solid relationships between communications pros and journalists.

Sarah Skerik, VP of social media, PR Newswire:
The information marketplace has changed how news is consumed. In addition, managing audience fragmentation can be daunting. Encouraging audience engagement, however, can deliver an exponential effect for a message's visibility. A nimble approach to communications requires new best practices, including:

  • Brand streaming. Think about communications not as episodic outbound campaigns, but as ongoing conversations informed by changing audience interests.
  • Curating. Social presences are fueled by content, but ongoing content creation can be challenging. Curate content from credible sources. You will build your audience, as well as your brand's network of influencers and access to market intelligence.
  • Atomization and distribution. A hybrid push-pull approach that respects people's interests and doesn't spam different audiences will net the best results. Syndicating content online and distributing information to key journalists and bloggers is just the start. Your curation strategy can be used to distribute messages, too. However, the key to doing this well is atomizing the content - pulling out a variety of interesting snippets and distributing them to relevant audiences (such as via Twitter with an appropriate hashtag) with a link to the rest of the story.
  • Calls to action. Whenever you distribute content digitally, provide your audience with links; a white paper, landing page, or demo to click through to if they're interested. Once you garner their interest, cultivate and keep it by providing more useful information.
  • Measure specific outcomes. Agile engagement of your audience requires you to pay attention to what does and doesn't work and adjust accordingly. Develop a set of measurable outcomes, such as the rate of click-throughs to links you serve or the frequency with which your brand is favorably mentioned within a specific context. Paying attention to specific outcomes will help you cultivate a more qualified audience and deliver better business results.

The Takeaway

  • Grab the reader's attention with eye-catching infographics that are simple to understand.
  • Newswire services must make effective use of the advanced analytics tools available to communicate to clients the ROI on their marketing investment.
  • Message distribution can be enhanced by supplying curated content that is relevant to the targeted audience.

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