Sunday, January 12, 2014

Campaign News Releases - The New "Online Advertising"

Reaching The World For the Price of A News Release
Ned Barnett

I've been reviewing David Meerman Scott's excellent 4th (2013) edition of his seminal "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" and was impressed by the impact his views can have on a political campaign's media and public outreach efforts.  He maintains that while "press releases" should continue to target campaign and political news media gatekeepers (editors, producers, reporters), "news releases" should be targeted to information users - donors, volunteers, voters - rather than to those traditional news media gatekeepers.

He makes that distinction in naming - "Press Release" (for the press) and "News Release" (for those who want to read the news), and I think it's helpful in understanding, how the role of these releases has changed.

This role- change is at the heart of what I call "Political Campaign PR-Marketing 2.0," and in this (as in most political marketing and Earned Media/PR concepts), David and I are of one accord. For more than 15 years now, I've been encouraging clients to embrace the use of "news releases" - distributed across the Internet into places where real people are really looking for news - as a way of getting "the word" out to potential donors, volunteers and voters - the very lifeblood of any campaign.  Properly handled, news releases can be posted on the many news websites. 

One way of doing this is by using commercial press release placement services, such as BusinessWire (which I usually use, though PR Newswire is the other market-leader).  These services have, under contract, news aggregator sites such as Yahoo, Marketwire and a host of other news (and news release) aggregators. With BusinessWire, you get placement everywhere online from MSN to the Albuquerque daily newspaper - and 293 other sites as well.  In addition to being sent to geographically and topically-selected political news reporters and editors, your news release is sent all over the Internet, where people looking for your news can find it.

Some political news media will occasionally pick up a well-written wire-distributed press release - one which contains real news. They will turn it into an article, or use it to justify an interview-based feature - which, for the campaign, is even better. However, when I want those results, I find I get more placement success by emailing specific editors, reporters and producers directly - or by picking up the phone (if they accept phone calls from campaigns and candidates) and pitching them directly. 
But wire-distributed news releases do get picked up and used by those nearly 300 online news aggregators, and when potential donors, volunteers or voters key-word search, they will find those news releases.

After reading David Meerman Scott's insights, I had one of my own. 
Political, campaign and candidate news releases that are placed over one of the major wire services  are nothing short of a new online advertising medium. Without quite intending to, these wire services have become a fee-based way of getting your news out, through the Internet, to news-reporting places where potential campaign donors, volunteers or voters can find that news.

Here's what I mean. In traditional campaign advertising, your ad-buy guarantees that your message (in print or broadcast form) is placed in a certain medium, generally at a specific time and often in a specific location. However, in traditional campaign Earned Media - better known outside politics as PR - you were not buying a message placement.  Instead, you were buying a means of reaching out to a news media gatekeeper, asking for campaign or candidate coverage, and using the news value of the release as justification for that coverage. If you used a wire service such as BusinessWire, you were increasing your odds of being picked up, but you were not buying placement. 

That was then. This is now.

Today, when you place a release on BusinessWire or one of it's competitors, you are buying the placement of your message - not only in a direct feed to reporters and editors, but also in a direct feed to Yahoo Business and Marketwire and all the other hundreds of news aggregator sites that contractually agree to place releases provided by the wire service - including your campaign's press releases. 
You are, in essence, buying an ad on Yahoo and all 294 of those other sites.

For as little as $400 on BusinessWire (and less on some of their competitors - but believe me, in this, you get what you pay for), you get a very controlled, up-to-400-word message placed in some very prestigious and well-traveled websites. So if you're following David Meerman Scott's recommendation to put out campaign or candidate news releases on the Web to reach donors, volunteers and voters directly, then - when you use one of the wire services - you are, in essence, buying a guaranteed placement in specified locations and at specified times. 
In short, advertising. A different kind of advertising (more like an advertorial than a traditional print ad), but still an ad.  You control the content, the timing, the placement.

When you compare the relatively nominal costs of a BusinessWire placement to the relatively astronomical costs of an advertisement in any mainstream medium, even with campaign discounts, this becomes a huge bargain. One ad on an ABC/CNN/Fox News program costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars - even in a local cable market, those can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars - and those campaign messages are here and gone in 15 or 30 seconds. 
However, a much longer campaign or candidate news message placed via BusinessWire lives on up to 295 news-aggregator websites for 30 days, 90 days or an infinite number of days, where they are there to be found by any Google, Bing or other key-word search.

In the world of Campaign and Candidate Earned Media/PR-Marketing 2.0, a traditional low-cost PR distribution tactic has evolved into an incredibly cost-effective targeted-voter, targeted-donor and targeted-volunteer advertising tactic, making use of the way that press release distribution wire services ensure that their clients generate coverage through their news-feed contracts with Yahoo and hundreds of other other online news aggregators.

If you need help with your campaign's Earned Media (PR), speechwriting, strategy, ghost-writing, or many other campaign-winning services, contact me at - or 702-561-1167

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