Recently we posted comments on “what you should know about links in news releases,” describing why links in news releases don’t help boost search-engine rankings of the websites to which they point (e.g., issuers’ sites). We suggested you keep issuing news releases when you think someone might be searching for its content—which is indexed by search engines even though linked websites don’t benefit.

Here, we’d like to shift the focus to a different audience for news releases—their traditional audience, in fact: reporters who receive information via traditional wire services such as PR Newswire and Business Wire. For its 2014 Media Survey, Business Wire collected views from 300 members of the media in North America. This week, a post by Business Wire’s Hannah Kelly summarized some of the key findings. She writes:

“…68.2% of reporters surveyed stated that their job would be harder if newswire-distributed press releases were no longer available. Newswires make for reliable news sources providing reporters with ongoing, instantly accessible information on a wide variety of news subjects, from technology to pharmaceuticals.

“…89% of responding reporters referred to newswire copy within the last week.” 

Business Wire has an interest, of course, in demonstrating high use or high potential use of its services. And there’s no question that the traditional wire services are trying hard to stay relevant (for example, with new multimedia “Capsule” services) as information-sharing changes dramatically. That said, in our experience these numbers ring true—because reporters need reliable ways to gather and shape story ideas.

That’s why news releases, even those only posted to issuers’ websites without distribution by wire, are still written in a way that meets reporters’ needs. Reporters need breaking news. They need other story ideas. And they need these things more than they need flashy multimedia. Here’s a breakdown for another question in the Business Wire survey—again, one that rings true:

“What do reporters want in a press release?”

  • Breaking news:                   77% of respondents
  • Supporting facts:                70%
  • Story angles:                        66%
  • Quotable sources:               52%
  • Company background:     50%
  • Trending topics:                 49%
  • Supporting multimedia:   29%

Not every news release needs to be hard-hitting, breaking news. What’s important is to write the news or story ideas (such as a Q&A with a company representative) in a compelling way for the intended audience. Match the news to the audience, and write it well, and—over time—you can effectively serve the needs of reporters. As you genuinely serve those needs, you will see results.

Of course, not every news release needs or warrants distribution via a wire service. In fact, even news that appeals to major publications may be best distributed by individual email to reporters who may be interested. Regardless of the distribution mechanism, the point is to directly serve the right audience—whether that’s a Wall Street Journal reporter or a communications director for a local Chamber of Commerce.