Feb
08

Trip-Wires Part 2 – the (shitty) results of PR newswires

Author // Ben Harrow
Posted in // Brand, News, Opinion, PR, Web

In the first part of this two-part post, I introduced the practice and promise of PR newswires, and how the money churned out doesn’t quite earn you the respect with writers that you hoped it would.

That, and the fact that your story is sent out alongside some utter, utter trash, so it’s obvious that no-one would trust it as a news source, journalist or otherwise.

However, I briefly mentioned some of the more promising features – namely a boost to SEO and search engine ranking – that come as a result of the major Yahoo-style hits that can appear as a result of using newswires like Businesswire and PR Newswire.

The entity that is SEO

So I can’t lie – various sources state that there is SEO value in your copy appearing on various websites direct from PR newswires.

But as the B2B PR blog explains, the value is minimal – an appearance on Google News is the main target, and this can be achieved in far cheaper ways via cheaper newswires (or preferably by some appropriately aimed pitches).

These lands are, in fact, almost guaranteed to be identical copy to the original release and featured on a poor ranking website (and if not, in a poor section of a good ranking website – we’ll discuss this later).

Basically, it’s like if your least attractive, least fashionable friend told you your new jeans make you look hot.

You don’t trust their judgement, so the influence is minimal.

And there’s no joy in numbers either – the first hit is the best it’s going to get. Second, third, fourth and fifth identical hits will mean even less than the first hit.

Basically, it’s like if all twenty of your least attractive, least fashionable friends told you your new jeans make you look hot, one after the other.

You’ve heard it all before, and it quickly grows tiresome, providing little to no value.

God Google, you shallow, fickle creature.

Smoke and mirrors

But what about the Yahoo hits? Can’t argue with coverage on one of the biggest network of sites in existence?

Well, this is where things get sneaky. The likes of Yahoo and MSN, across their varying network of categories, seem to be ‘in bed’ with specific newswires, in return for publishing anything on a specific section of their site.

So, apologies, but don’t take it as a comment on the awesome newsworthiness of your press release.

Take Yahoo Finance, for example – quite the impressive hit (and a totally brilliant and reputable site – don’t take this as a comment on their properly produced and sourced editorial).

Take a look at the (brilliantly annotated) screenshot below.

This is a cut of http://finance.yahoo.com/news. Alongside trusted news platforms like Mashable and Forbes, the likes of Business Wire and PR Newswire appear as a few of around 50 ‘providers’ (as well as the ironically named ‘paidcontent.org’).

*This* is how you gather a Yahoo hit via a PR newswire – an auto-posted, identical version of your copy is simply dumped onto a section of the site that can only be found via hyper-specific Google searches or a user clicking specifically on that newswire to look for news. Which won’t happen. Because they feature stories about cruise companies buying a new web domain.

That, and at the time of writing, there have been 50 stories, sent just via Business Wire just to Yahoo Finance, in 48 minutes.

And there are 50 providers.

Do the math.

Clearing the smoke and assessing ‘visibility’

Admittedly, that was just one of hundreds of examples. All sections of Yahoo feature these ‘phantom’ hits, alongside MSN and countless other sites.

But, if you do land via a newswire, head to the homepage and see if you can navigate to your article without searching for specific words in the search box. It’s a challenge.

B2B PR Blog tried, and they really struggled with the major newswire favourites.

So, in short, editors and writers won’t take a look at your content, and the public won’t be reading it. Or finding it.

However, I did say that certain newswires have their certain strengths. Businesswire is good for major acquisitions and financial content (although you should probably hit up AP writers, Reuters, and the like direct instead).

Niche newswires with specific genres, of varying sizes, can also do great work for clients in their area. I’ll admit, I’m still playing with a number to see if there is value, and to see if there could be return on investment.

Plus, the SEO benefit does exist; but it’s very weak and should only be used sporadically to provide any benefit at all (and via the cheapest newswires and packages available).

In fact, I’d love to hear of any success stories with PR newswires to counter my argument and make a new blog post. Feel free to let me know.

But, in the meantime, I should point something out, since my experience counts for something.

Water into (PR) wine…

Doesn’t exist.

To draw results, you have to mash the shit out of the grapes, perfect the flavour and do a whole heap of selling to get the wine on people’s shelves and down their faces.

That’s what matters – if your news isn’t tasty and well presented, why would a newspaper, online news platform or blogger want to drink it?

The classic pitch is the classic pitch because it’s the only pitch that really works. E-mail, ring and natter away to your contacts until they trust that the content you present is worthwhile.

And if you get to the point where you think, ‘fuck it, no-one’s listening, shall we use a newswire?’

It probably isn’t newsworthy. And it definitely won’t make.

In other words:

“If it (your story) truly is so important that it warrants spending thousands of pounds to get the word out there via a worldwide network of newswires, your story is probably strong enough to sell itself and therefore pitching it shouldn’t be difficult”

Whether it be straight PR, national news surveys, infographics or corporate material, hunt down the people that want to know your news and give them a goddamn call.

By Ben Harrow
Digital Editor

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I have worked with 72Point on two campaigns and I have been very impressed with their dedication and professionalism, as well as their creativity and ability to know exactly what makes a news story. Whilst you can never guarantee that a PR campaign will be successful, it is no coincidence given their qualities that we have been delighted with both of ours so far!

Skipton Financial Services

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