Sadly, there is no simple answer. Every client is different, so the objectives of the PR campaign will be unique in each circumstance, meaning there’s no one-size fits all approach to using newswire services and publishing your press release. An effective newswire does multiple things, including helping a press release reach more media (and therefore potentially increase coverage), increases SEO, and act as a way to share multimedia files with the press without filling up their inboxes.
Those are the upsides. The major downsides are cost, and the uncertainty that using a newswire will make any difference to the results. And there’s a growing view by PRs and media alike that the press release itself has become an outdated and counter-productive format, and no amount of newswires will help get it read.
Let’s look at the three main questions clients ask about newswire services.
1. Will a newswire help secure coverage?
Every newswire service makes great claims about the breadth of its distribution – however, sending a press release doesn’t mean it gets read. Some of the more ‘premium’ services include reports on response rates and any links or coverage created, but of course what constitutes quality coverage is totally subjective.
In a survey of journalists who cover mobile apps we carried out earlier this year, we found that fewer than half of journalists use newswires as a way of receiving or researching news stories; it’s reasonable to assume that the same percentage would apply across the media landscape. So this shows that even the best newswire service achieves less than 50% of its claimed reach.
Then there’s the question of whether the press release itself is an effective medium. Search online and you’ll find that this is a debate that has been going on for some time. Well-respected journalists like Charles Arthur and Mike Butcher have both been very vocal in their dislike; however, what many journalists fail to appreciate is that many clients still regard the press release as the only legitimate way to distribute announcements. Changing this attitude will take time, and perhaps the evolution of a new and agreed methodology for sharing news in today’s more asymmetrical media landscape. For now, PR professionals are still going to be using the traditional press release format for as long as some media are happy to continue receiving it.
So the answer to whether a newswire will help secure coverage is possible – but with the caveats that a) fewer than 50% of media on the distribution list will even look at it, and b) quantity of distribution does not mean quality. If you don’t start with an interesting and genuinely newsworthy announcement in the first place, then no newswire will increase the chances of it getting picked up.
2. Does it help with SEO?
The short answer is yes, for now. The longer answer is more complex, as there are a number of different elements to an effective SEO strategy.
One of the most important aspects of good SEO ranking is having high quality inbound links; so if, for example, you generate coverage in a publication like the Financial Times, the SEO ‘juice’ will be much greater than a niche trade-focused website. So if the additional coverage generated by using a newswire is low quality, then the SEO impact might actually be negative.
One of the most positive SEO benefits of newswires is the inclusion of social sharing, typically on Twitter, but also depending on whether the release includes multimedia content, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. As Google calculates ranking by looking at the quality of links across multiple sources and the volume of shares and followers, the more social engagement you can generate from PR content, the better.
Following Google’s major ‘Panda’ update in July 2014 a number of major newswires saw a massive drop in SEO ranking, as explained in this post on PRDaily.com. In response to this drop, one of the largest and most respected newswires changed it’s editorial guidelines to reiterate that good quality, relevant content is the best way to ensure a positive SEO boost.
3. How much will it cost?
Cost is always a big concern for clients of every size, so working out the return on investment of using a newswire is usually the first and last question we get asked.
With so many newswires out there, there is a huge variation in cost, from free to hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Some, like PRMac or Games Press are extremely targeted, so deliver good access to a niche audience and are therefore good value. Others are cheap because they offer distribution to lesser quality media, which as we’ve already seen can actually have a detrimental effect when it comes to SEO – and so we’d generally recommend to avoid them.
The best-known services also include distribution to Bloomberg, Reuters and the Press Association, which are essential for publicly listed companies and come at a premium. If you wanted to use PRNewswire or BusinessWire expect to pay upwards of £400 per release, depending on how many words and to which countries or regions you want to send it to.
As with many things in life you typically get what you pay for – but don’t assume that spending more will get you better results.
Only use a newswire if there is a good reason to do so
Whether to recommend using a newswire ultimately comes down to the question of context. For a specific news announcement, will using a newswire give a better than even chance of a positive result, either in terms of coverage, SEO boost, or both?
If the content you plan to share isn’t good enough to stand on its own, then even the best newswire can’t help improve its chances in the hands of the media. And with an increasing number of influencers speaking out about the curse of terrible press releases full of corporate doublespeak, more and more PRs (us included) are recommending to clients that there simply isn’t the guarantee of any return on the cost.
So, by all means use a newswire as part of a considered distribution plan, alongside your SEO, social media and media outreach – just be aware that there are as many potential drawbacks as benefits in doing so.
If you liked this article then be sure to read the 10 low cost/free online tools no PR professional should be without.