Newswires are still useful in PR, says John Ozimek from Dimoso

In the early days of my PR career using a newswire service was tantamount to admitting you didn’t have the media contacts you claimed to have. And while it’s true that a good PR is still judged by their media contacts, a lot has changed in recent years to make newswires a positive tool for a company’s PR strategy.

Let me start with the obvious: even the best wire can’t help a bad release. Distribution wires are never going to be as effective or as influential as a well-written, newsworthy announcement coupled with a pocket full of friendly journalist email addresses.

We PROs are finding that a growing proportion of our work is evolving into a content-led approach – which means that everything you do needs to include effective SEO and an overarching digital strategy to track clicks and downloads. In this context, a wire service becomes the PRO’s friend: because when it comes to even basic SEO tactics like getting Google to index a release so it appears in the search, your brilliant press contacts don’t count for much.

Also, through wider distribution of a press release, the wires are able to push the story to blogs and websites that re-post press releases and this can generate a lot of links, quickly. Often, these are typically automated and don’t have proper editorial input, so these kinds of sites count as coverage in the vaguest sense: but while they aren’t going to help your story influence anybody, there is some value for SEO as they will generate links and therefore help drive relevance on Google. For that reason, we call this “linkbait coverage” – useful in its own way but not enough to carry a story on its own.

Some wires offer better SEO tools than others; at Dimoso we prefer to use services that offer permanent hosting of the release under a unique URL, as this is better for sharing and also Google ranking. You will find that many services actually delete releases after 60 or 90 days, meaning that links will only be valid for a relatively short time. Of course, all this only works if there is already an effective SEO strategy in place across the web and social media channels to take advantage of the links being generated.

Recently, there has been discussion in the SEO community that Google is no longer attributing links from PR distribution services to its PageRank algorithm (i.e. that links in press releases help increase the search ranking of the company website they link to), but all evidence points to there still being a positive halo effect from wire generated links on ranking and discovery. This can only be further boosted by the creation of content or news that is also insightful and so shareable –which has its own positive impact on Google’s rankings.

Even the best distribution service can’t guarantee coverage. It can help boost PR outreach and it can give a useful SEO push that normal PR can’t. But with so many ways to share news, insight and comment with an online audience, the rule of thumb is that if it isn’t genuinely newsworthy, don’t turn it into a press release in the first place – try something else instead.

John Ozimek, Director at integrated marketing and PR agency, Dimoso

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