A recent survey among US journalists sought to find out how journalists like to receive news from PR sources. The results show that only 1.4 percent of the surveyed 2400 journalists prefer to receive press releases via commercial newswires, while 90 percent said they’d like to receive news by email. These results inspired me to reflect on the changing role of PR newswires in a highly dynamic and ever-changing media landscape.The new media landscape changes how journalists work
Reaching journalists with your story takes far more than just sending a press release over the wire. This is not new. Creating compelling content, good writing and strong relationships with important reporters in your industry have always been the fundamental pillars of any successful PR program. But this is even more true in the age of the social web.
The way journalists work has changed dramatically over the last years. Many publishing houses have cut their reporter staff. At the same time, the number of PR professionals hasincreased drastically, exposing each journalist to more pitches and press releases. The social web and the digitalization of different media forms requires journalists to take on additional responsibilities and juggle between multiple tasks. Many journalists are now also bloggers, Twitter users and Web TV producers at the same time. They are very busy and forced to be extremely selective about their sources. All of this means they have less time to deal with PR people and their stories, which makes it harder to get through to a reporter. For any PR pro it is therefore, now more than ever, extremely important to establish oneself as a reliable source that journalists trust and listen to. The survey results mentioned above reflect this: Instead of browsing through all the press releases that come through the commercial wire services every day, journalists preferably rely on trustworthy sources sending their news via email.
Using a newswire to reach journalists?
There are, however, still benefits to using a PR newswire. Even though journalists prefer to receive their information via email, there are still reasons for them to browse through the stream of a commercial wire service, for example, when researching a specific topic or looking for a new and specialized source. In these cases it is clear that being present with press releases on a newswire site can be beneficial. A newswire can also be extremely helpful if you don’t have any relationships with journalists in place yet or when entering a foreign market. In these cases it will at least enable you to reach a certain number of influencers that could be interested in your story, and you’ll get the press release into search engines. Newswire sites, like PR Newswire, Business Wire or Market Wire, still receive high Web traffic, so posting a press release can result in good visibility on search engines. This is a very effective way to reach journalists as 91 percent turn to Google when researching a story, the study shows. When distributing the release over a wire, it will also automatically be posted on major news sites like Yahoo Finance etc., which provides additional SEO benefits.
As already pointed out, establishing your own network of press contacts that are relevant and sending press releases to reporters directly is still the most effective way of getting your news out. But there are other tactics that can work as well. Writing a blog post on your corporate blog can be very effective and there are many companies doing just that. It is a great way to get your news into search engines, especially if your website and blog gets a lot of visits. Another benefit is that you drive traffic directly to your website instead of driving it to a newswire site.
It can also be very effective to just pitch certain key blogs with a story and offer them an exclusive. Popular blogs can serve as distribution vehicles. Their posts not only rank high on search engines but are also followed by many journalists at mainstream and industry publications (especially in the tech space). One downside of this strategy, however, is the loss of control over the message. While the content of a press release can be entirely controlled (of course not the resulting coverage), a blogger will write whatever he/she thinks of your news, so there is a possibility that the focus of a story will be different than expected or even take a negative tone.
Reaching new influencers
The social Web has not only changed how journalists work, it has also changed the audience PR pros need to address. Brands not only need to reach analysts and journalists but also influencers on the social web as well as customers. This is why the Social Media News Release (SNMR) was developed. The idea of the SMNR is that it offers many different sharing options for various social media platforms but also multimedia content, such as videos, that can deliver the message in a different format. The SMNR also acknowledges the fast-paced work environment of journalists and tries to not only provide a news text but also additional content, such as links to articles that put a topic in context, as well as in-depth background information. This provides journalists a more comprehensive view on a topic, even without additional research. A SMNR can be created in form of a blog post or with specialized services such as Pitchengine.
PR newswires have lost some of their relevance, but they aren’t obsolete. When planning any media outreach, it should be assessed closely if a wire distribution makes sense or not. There are surely many alternative tactics. Hopefully, the big newswires will realize this too and further adopt their products to the needs of the social web. While most of them offer sharing buttons and multimedia integration, they are still far away from offering comprehensive SMNR’s.