No doubt, the Internet has changed earned media forever. From both the journalist's perspective and the PR professional's point-of-view, the exchange of information between businesses and publications has changed drastically over the last 35 years.
Today, when a company is looking to gain public recognition or industry rapport, they face a cloudy decision over technology. Should you opt for old-school tactics—relationship-building and shoulder-rubbing—or should you rely on Internet wire services and syndicated news releases to reach the media? Recently, I published an article reviewing the top web-based news wire distribution services, but the piece didn't cover the basic choice of whether a wire service is worth your time or not.
In this article, I'll review how, as a marketing manager, I direct earned media efforts depending on the goals and desired outcomes of each press release we write. In PR, the distribution practice is nearly as important as the writing process, so before you write your next press release, pay attention to the methodology outlined here.
Choose PR Tactics Based on Desired Publication Site
The initial questions you should ask all center on what you're looking for in PR efforts. What outlet are you looking to earn media from? How big is their reach? What kind of publication is your target—industry-specific, a newspaper, a regional business publication?
When we write press releases at Weidert Group, our content writing process is part of a holistic content promotion plan tied to real, desired outcomes. The goal of the promotion plan, in most cases is to 1) get published, 2) earn a link back to your website, then 3) encourage readers to click through to the website from the earned link. It's all part of a PR-focused inbound marketing plan. From there, the choice of achieving these goals, depends on the kind of publication(s) we're looking to have publish the content and the attributes of what makes the story pitchable.
Often, we group publications by a set of criteria to determine which PR distribution process will work better: manual outreach or news wire distribution. For instance, here's a usual breakdown that we use:
- Municipal or Regional or State or National
- Industry or Business or News
- Competitor-facing or Prospect-facing
- Daily or Weekly or Monthly or Quarterly
- Academic (research) or Editorial
- Mostly Online or Mostly Print
- Graphic-based or Text-based
By using criteria like these, we identify the right approach for earning media, depending on the target publication's characteristics and the c0ntent we're looking to distribute. For instance, if we're trying to publish a press release describing a new contract for a client manufacturer, most often, we're looking for:
(A) A regional news publication that faces competitors as well as prospects, likely published monthly in an editorial (feature-focused) style, emphasizing text equal with graphics.
(B) An industry publication that focuses on the clients' prospects, published quarterly, that might more emphasize heavily research/industry news—similar to an industry journal.
In both of these cases, outreach to the publication may work through a news wire, but it might be more effective to have a trained PR professional do manual outreach, using online and offline tactics to grab the editors' attention.
A news wire release may offer broad syndication to multiple media, but you aren't as likely to hit your target media with quality of content you're looking for. Nor, are you as likely to get a published link back to your website. In the case where you have a clear industry or geographically-bound target, opt for more personal earned media tactics.
When Your News Needs a Megaphone, Not the Media
Depending on the release or pitch, sometimes, there's no specific goal for getting published because you know that your news won't necessarily appeal to a publication. For instance, often, announcements of new customers or partnerships go unpublished by most media because their deemed non-newsworthy. You might be able to get listed in an announcements section, but you certainly aren't going to get a full article written from your release.
In these cases, syndicators are especially helpful. News wire services will distribute press releases to websites and media outlets that publish every press release they get. The news will be seen broadly, but imprecisely. It will create buzz (maybe boost your social media response), but it won't create long-lasting results.
When it's worth having the megaphone effect, then you should turn to news wire services like those listed here.