Why your newsroom should be at the core of your distribution strategy

Why your newsroom should be at the core of your distribution strategy

9 out of 10 PR teams we speak to are massively underutilising their newsroom. Chances are, so are you.

In the vast majority of cases, PRs use their newsroom – providing they even have one – as a supporting act for their media distribution. Press releases are posted and then forgotten about. Stories are linked to once and then squirrelled away.

And the media centre? What media centre? Just a small image gallery of logo variants and nothing more.

When I then ask about newsroom visitors or where people who view their press release are coming from, my counterparts usually shrug.

This is a massive missed opportunity. Your team puts a great deal of work and effort into creating that content – why not embed it in your distribution strategy?

I’m not simply talking about posting a press release once on your newsroom and then emailing it out to journalists as a link, although of course that’s at the heart of it.

There are a few more steps you can do with your newsroom to wring the most value out of it, increase your reach, and improve clarity internally. More than that, by paying attention to how your story performs online, you can get valuable information on how to boost the efficacy of your storytelling in future.

Prezly – software for modern PR teams

  • Write & publish brand stories in an online newsroom

  • Send email campaigns, pitches & newsletters

  • Manage all your contact lists in a single CRM, with easy import & export

  • Measure performance to see who's engaging with your stories

If using your newsroom for distribution is so great, how come so few people are doing it?

To be clear, many PRs are doing it – and they’re the ones already reaping the rewards.

For the rest of us, it’s the same answer as when we ask ourselves why we haven’t seen our friends in so long, or why we stopped playing guitar, or seen that new movie we liked the sound of, or gone to the gym. (Alright, that last one might be an outlier.)

The answer is time.

People feel they don’t have the time to spend on reviewing their distribution strategy.

But I ask you, what is the real cost of not doing this?

Because the alternative means not learning from what worked, not taking advantage of new channels, and not becoming more effective in our roles.

We humans are terrible at paying for better value upfront – we feel time poor, so the knee-jerk reaction is to spend as little of it as possible at any given moment. But that’s not how investments work. By devoting a little time now to setting up your newsroom and planning it into your distribution strategy, you save your team aeons in the long term. And honestly? That long term isn’t really all that long. You can start reaping results within a week.

Ok, enough philosophising. How can a newsroom help me with distribution?

I’m so glad you asked.

Aside from the obvious – both that you can upload your press release and assets once to your newsroom, and have your team share it eternally – there are a few things you can consider based on the story you’re telling.

Share the link to your story and newsroom on your social media channels. Tag any people or brands mentioned, and ask any related parties to like and share. Forward the link to collaborators, partners, stakeholders etc and encourage them to share it too.

Step 2. Add inlinks pointing to your story

Add internal links to your story from your other owned content – for example, in related stories on your or the brand’s website. This makes it easier for existing site visitors to discover your new story, and will gradually boost your organic ranking, further increasing your organic reach.

If a particular old story or page gets a high number of visitors (you should be able to see this from your site analytics), capture that attention by adding a prominent link to your new story near the top of that page.

Step 3. Review clicks vs impressions

Use your analytics dashboard (either the one in Prezly or via an external analytics tool) to look at how many visits your stories get, the bounce rate, time spent on page, etc. Marry that with your social media analytics – to see how many impressions your shared stories get vs how many people click through or engage with your content.

You should start to see a pattern. What’s different about the stories with the lowest engagement? How is the title phrased, what’s the topic? Is there a captivating header image? Start to note down what does and does not seem to work, the way you would with campaign data, and use that information to inform your next press release.

These suggestions aren’t complex – anyone can do them. The problem is that nobody will, unless you create a process around them.

Prezly – software for modern PR teams

  • Write & publish brand stories in an online newsroom

  • Send email campaigns, pitches & newsletters

  • Manage all your contact lists in a single CRM, with easy import & export

  • Measure performance to see who's engaging with your stories

But I’m doing all of that!

Ah fantastic, I apologise for seeming presumptuous – I didn’t want anything to go overlooked. In that case, it makes sense to look a bit further at your distribution strategy. For this the PESO model developed by Spin Sucks is pretty handy.

Step 4: Use the PESO model for inspiration and planning

It divides your distribution efforts across 4 different approaches:

  • Paid media
  • Earned media
  • Shared media
  • Owned media
Learn more about the PESO model on Spin Sucks.
Learn more about the PESO model on Spin Sucks.

As PR people, we tend to get bogged down in the “earned media” approach – after all, that’s what’s expected of us. But that only really covers media relations. In this day and age, PR’s remit is far wider, and there are more ways to get results.

Start by selecting a few channels that are easy for you and make sure you consistently distribute your content to those channels as well. For larger pieces or effort, it probably makes sense to do this exercises with a specific story in mind, it is useful to experiment with some new channels as well.

It's never the intention to cover all areas equally, or see this as a checklist of everything that needs to be done. It should simply remind you of the possibilities and snap you out of your typical way of working, which for me is always a valuable exercise.

Ok, I’m sharing my story far and wide. What now?

Once you've started with a bit of a broader distribution strategy, you should start looking at your newsroom metrics regularly, remember that most of your efforts will in one way or another refer people to your newsroom, so you should start seeing traffic coming from different channels as well.

And whenever you see a channel working well (as in driving traffic) you double down on it further.

[browser]What your analytics dashboard might look like.
What your analytics dashboard might look like.

This is all well and good, but will it get me more coverage?

The answer is… maybe. But coverage isn’t the ultimate determinate of your worth.

It might be that you're still required to report AVEs, so you're be thinking, why should I put in this extra effort if it's not going to deliver me coverage?

Firstly, this is an outdated way of measuring the performance of your stories, as I’m sure most of us will agree. There are far better ways to calculate PR value. Online traffic, reputation and engagement on social media, sentiment, all of that is now the purview of PR, and all of those are likely to have more of an impact on a brand’s bottom line than a single feature in a newspaper. The hard part is usually convincing the well-meaning but often a bit clueless c-suite.

Here are a few links for your arsenal:

Secondly, we all know that media relations has turned into a tricky business. Journalists are often overworked with a mailbox that's overloaded. So getting through that clutter with email alone, unless you have a solid relationship with them and they know your name, has become increasingly difficult.

Thirdly, there’s such a thing as long-tail coverage, or inbound PR. While it’s nice to think that anyone who’s anyone in your industry is neatly tucked away in your virtual rolodex, that’s simply not the case – online allegiances shift far too fast for anyone to meaningfully keep track. So instead of putting all your eggs in the basket labelled “don’t come to us, we’ll come to you”, roll a few into platforms where influencers and new names can happen upon them. In the majority of cases, that means search and social – so, SEO and a social media plan for the key platforms – but it can go a bit more niche, like dedicated LinkedIn groups or specialised fora.

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Use content as the starting point for a new relationship

Ok, so we've got your content shared a bit more broadly, we're learning as we go and we’re improving. Now, let’s build on that.

The next step is to capture that traffic.

Demonstrate the value you offer through things like educational content or interesting updates and encourage your social media to convert to followers. Do the same on your newsroom and press releases by pointing people to a low-effort, low-commitment newsletter subscription form. the key here is creating an avenue, however small, to keep in touch.

This allows you to expose them to follow-up content in the long term, opens the door for a conversation that can gradually evolve into something more, and gives your stories more opportunity to get picked up.

I hope that whatever your current strategy, you’re starting to get excited about the opportunity that’s on the table! I’d love to hear about how your newsroom fits into your distribution strategy, so do get in touch via email or X, details below. Stay safe out there!

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