Don’t Ask the Barber if You Need A Haircut and other Press Release Wisdom from Warren Buffett

May 26, 2009

Last week, HubSpot’s provocatively titled webinar “How to Be Smarter than your PR Agency” took a stab at analyzing the effectiveness of press releases.   We applaud their efforts and will chime in here with some footnotes based on 48 years in the press release biz.photo from Times Picayune

But first, thanks to HubSpot for tackling this topic.  We’re delighted to see an inbound marketing software firm like HubSpot acknowledge how well press releases can perform in linkbuilding and organic search. 

Among HubSpot’s findings:

  • “Traditional” press releases are “syndicated” 20% more frequently than “social media press releases”  — meaning they are republished in full on major portals like Google and Yahoo! and authority websites.
  • “Traditional” press releases drive 14% more traffic to your website than “social media releases.” 

We’ve known this for years–but as every PR pro is aware, third-party endorsements breed credibility.  Thanks again, HubSpot!

Wire services “push” content

Presenters Rebecca Corliss and Michael Volpe explained that services like Business Wire have media relations teams that work directly with portals, to whom we “push” content based on need.  At Business Wire, we have 30 full-time media relations professionals worldwide.

HubSpot gives full credit to “the wires” for being able to “push” content better than anyone but bemoan we can be “pricey.”

Here’s where we disagree.   Starting at $210, we believe the press release is a multi-tasking bargain with its ability to work NOT ONLY as an SEO/linkbuilding tool but as  direct marketing.  

Treat your press release like its own interactive web page and it works as a tipsheet for reporters, a mini website, a brand ambassador.  Awareness raised by the well-done press release is hard to beat, because NOT ONLY does it contribute to SEO, it markets your message directly, ESPECIALLY when  pushed out to other authority sites, or “syndicated” as Hubspot calls it.

HubSpot discouraged the use of multimedia and XHTML formatting–bullets, boldface, italics, white space–in press releases.  Again, we disagree.

Attractively presented content gets read

Sure you want traffic to your site, but you also want people to READ what you WRITE.  That’s much more likely when content is attractively presented.   Our metrics show press releases with graphics get two to three times more clicks.

When HubSpot introduced the “the inbound marketing press release” to join the H-release, the social media release, the SMNR, SMPR, it was hard not to wonder:  Do we really need another template?    

Thanks to investments in NewsML by Business Wire like our patented NX technology, real world applications exist NOW for virtually any template or format you choose.  Every press release can include multimedia or not, can be shared or searched, include anchortext and/or lengthy URLs–it just depends on how you build it, having something to say, and your goals. 

Good content, well written, appropriately distributed

Our press release mantra:  Good content, well written, appropriately distributed.  No need for your press release to serve as SEO link builder OR a direct marketing tool–it can do both.  

And here’s where we quote our boss, Warren Buffett:  Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut. 

HubSpot is a software company, so naturally they will encourage the use of  software and website solutions for online marketing success.   More power to ‘em.

Those beating the drum for the social media news release are often in the business of profiting from its acceptance–frequently by carving a consulting biz out of a very crowded social media echo chamber.  It makes sense these folks would promote various templates’ alleged strengths.   Are they ”tech agency execs push(ing) faux ‘innovation’ for the sake of making names for themselves”? as one HubSpot blog commenter posted?  That’s for the reader to decide.

We, meanwhile, remain in the press release business and believe that well-done press releases address myriad online marketing challenges and at a reasonable price. 

The movie business began with silent movies, which became ”talkies,”  and later, color motion pictures.  Today we call them movies.  So it is with press releases.  They’ll continue to evolve and at Business Wire we embrace the evolution because in the end, they’re all press releases.

photo: Chuck Cook / The Times-Picayune


The SEC’s Interpretive Guidance on the Use of Company Web Sites: A Reality Check

August 8, 2008

In Business Wire’s response to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Interpretive Guidance release on the use of company web sites, we cite some very real concerns that the commission’s report did not effectively address. From security issues to simultaneity, the release provides no enhancements to the current disclosure model for material news and in fact introduces quite a bit of ambiguity with regards to disclosure.

Today, Reuters did an analysis piece on the issue that’s a good read. This excerpt cites a member of the SEC’s own Advisory Committee on Improvements to Financial Reporting (CIFR) which provided guidance to the SEC for this ruling:

“The advisory committee’s report says its recommendations on increased website usage are “not intended to affect the valuable role that newswires and other news vehicles play in disseminating important company information,” said advisory committee member Edward Nusbaum, chief executive of auditing firm Grant Thornton.

And this, citing a former SEC director who now advises companies on corporate governance:

“The SEC’s report outlining the guidelines says there are “very limited circumstances” where the Internet could be the sole way to disclose information, and urged companies to take additional steps to notify investors. No matter what the rules are, some people will abuse the system, said David Martin, co-chief of the corporate practices division at Covington & Burling LLP and former director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance. “Am I going to say to my clients, ‘Play “Where’s Waldo” with this information?’ No,” said Martin, who advises companies on corporate governance.”

One thing we know for sure, the vast majority of public companies embrace the concept of full and fair disclosure, creating a level playing field for all investors, regardless of their technical sophistication in accessing news. Business Wire provides a secure, trusted platform for both news issuers and recipients. Authenticated content, issued with sub-second simultaneity via patented technology to all market participants, in a variety of formats so that tables and content are rendered properly in each setting.

For each individual issuer to replicate that level of distribution on their own is unrealistic. For end-users such as investor services, content aggregators and news services to accommodate the varying formats and technologies of individual issuers is also simply unrealistic. To say that RSS or Atom feeds do the same thing is naive at best and dangerous to a fair and open market at worse.

Business Wire works with tens of thousands of companies each year to accommodate their specific requirements in the dissemination of material news. Ask any of our professional editors if that process is turnkey. It certainly is not. They coordinate translations, fix formatting problems, catch typos and add keywords which are essential to the sophisticated coding systems/engines powering today’s information platforms.

We work with market regulators, exchanges, news services, content aggregators and a wide range of media to ensure our news feeds are received, parsed and displayed properly. Ask any of our development staff or the staffs of the vital sources of news if that process is turnkey. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” technology that would make the display and use of content work for the different technologies used by the thousands of recipients we accommodate. Our editors and our patented NX network accommodate the varying needs of these sources.

As we’ve moved from ANPA-based content to XHTML-based content, the push towards adoption of wider earnings tables by end-users has been a years-long process. With XBRL mandates on the horizon, Business Wire stands uniquely ready, with the experience and technology, to help issuers and recipients adapt to that reality. Don’t know ANPA, XHTML or XBRL? If you hope to push content out effectively, better start studying.

As for RSS and web postings, they are very important components of effective outreach. But they are just components. For example, Google scrapes sites for news. It doesn’t host news content. So, if you issue your release just after a scrape of your site, there’s going to be a delay in it showing up in Google searches. And if that’s your core method of distribution, you’ve got some unhappy shareholders that didn’t get your news or have to trade based on what external voices are saying about you in those search results.

The sources individuals trust to get their news continues to fragment. The cool thing about Business Wire is we are constantly working with new sources and technologies to ensure our news feeds are included in their offerings. To flip the model and say the onus is now on the individual to seek out and authenticate material news from public companies doesn’t make sense. Individuals already can create their own custom feed of content using RSS and Atom, but they don’t have to do that. They can also rely on their favorite website or investor service to do that for them, simultaneous to what professional investors see.

J. Robert Brown of the legal blog “The Race to the Bottom” has an interesting take on the SEC release as well, calling it a “great disappointment, containing nothing that the average security lawyer doesn’t already know.” The blog discusses how so much of the release’s offerings on a company’s ability to adopt different technologies and procedures for disclosure “depends upon the facts and circumstances.” Ambiguity, not clarity.

Finally, the failure to address the very real security issues that would naturally flow from the sole use of a company web site for disclosure postings is also troubling. This is particularly crucial in light of this week’s headline news about the FBI breaking a major international identity theft ring. On the identity theft case, they show how advanced and adept individuals can be (and how they can network together quickly) to exploit security weaknesses. On the SEC guidance, however, they are silent on the issue. To think that hackers and others won’t attempt to exploit public companies looking for unreleased, pre-posted material news is naive. Just read today’s news headlines to get a glimpse at the creativity of those seeking to gain unfair financial advantage.


Business Wire Announces New Website Design, SEO, and Multimedia Features

February 11, 2008

  

Following a successful soft launch in December, we are glad to officially announce our new website upgrade. Over the next few blog posts we’ll discuss the changes we made on our site. The overarching theme of all these updates is making the content we distribute on behalf of our clients as accessible as possible to all the different user groups who look for it, and in the ways they look for it. First, our new and improved website design and accessibility. 

So how is the new website design different and better now? Here’s what we did:

Redesign: 

After successfully introducing a few new international websites in 2007, we were ready to shower our main website with some additional attention as well. So in order to make the site look more up-to-date we decided to make it a bit cleaner, less cluttered, and make more effective use of white space. We’ve also reorganized some of our pages in a way that makes important content visible to those looking for it, and in a way that fits the ways in which they look for it. Below is a screen grab of the new homepage design:

  

BusinessWire.com homepage

    

In addition to the improved look-and-feel, the new homepage structure strikes a good balance between offering news content and highlighting Business Wire’s key products and services. It highlights various important products such as our PR, IR, and Media services, while still displaying our news feed in a visible place on the page. It also highlights more clearly many important features such as our RSS links, tradeshow news, Business Wire’s own news, and more. This updated look and structure extends to our internal pages as well. Here is a screenshot of our new Products and Services section: 

 

Business Wire Products and Services 

Search and User Visibility: 

On the accessibility front, we’ve updated our website code to include improved labeling and tagging of different parts of our pages, in order to make it easier for search engines to spider our content; made it simpler and leaner under the hood so that pages load faster; optimized the site for some newer versions of web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari; and switched to a unified URL structure that also makes our content more search friendly and enables more accurate traffic measurement. All these increase the likelihood of our clients’ press releases showing up higher in search results, and of users being able to more easily and quickly access our clients’ releases.

Search Engine Optimization is a moving target, and there are no silver bullets. However, we continuously enhance our SEO efforts. Examples of this include offering our EON: Enhanced Online News search and social-media-ready platform; continuously providing our clients with tips and best practices on how to better communicate in the new media landscape and make their content as web-friendly as possible; and helping clients understand how to combine SEO efforts across press releases, new online services, and their own websites. Our continuous upgrades, like the one we’ve announced today, is another example of how keep making our content as accessible as possible.  We encourage you to check out our new site design, and as usual, feel free to let us know what you think.

The official press release is here. Stay tuned for more on our multimedia and sharing updates.


New Surveys and Rankings Show Business Wire’s Strong Presence in Both Traditional and New Media

November 15, 2007

Arketi Survey 

As the blogsphere establishes itself as a meaningful and reliable source of information -- with some tech, media, and political blogs wielding as much influence as, if not more than, some traditional media outlets in certain areas -- we at Business Wire are happy to see that we are still able to continually serve both worlds well.  

A recent journalist survey by the Arketi Group found that news releases are used by 90% of business journalists as sources for story ideas, sharing the top spot with industry sources. 54% of journalists mentioned they currently use blogs for story ideas, while 84% said they may report on stories that originated from blogs.  

A larger survey with a slightly different focus, conducted by PR industry news site Bulldog Reporter and online newsroom provider TEKGroup (fair disclosure: all the above mentioned companies have ties with Business Wire), shows that 69% of journalists follow at least one blog regularly, 44% visit social media sites at least monthly, 37% are subscribed to at least one RSS feed, and 20% actively seek multimedia content from companies at least once a month. (this survey also shows some different data on commercial wire services. Michael Tangeman of Media Mindshare makes a few interesting observations on methodology and findings).

Finally, the recently published Techmeme Leaderboard, which ranks websites based on how frequently their stories appear on Techmeme’s increasingly popular technology news application, places Business Wire as its 24th highest source for news (as of the writing of this post), with similar ranking to traditional news organizations as the Wall Street Journal and the BBC, and blogs such as Search Engine Land and PaidContent.org.  

Techmeme Leaderboard snapshot

In recent years Business Wire has put substantial effort into enhancing our multimedia capabilities for video, audio, and photo distribution; enabling our EON: Enhanced Online News search-optimized platform; introducing social media sharing features; reaching new-media sites and platforms; and creating robust RSS offerings. These initiatives are intended to help our clients reach end-consumers directly, interact with the blogsphere, and reach the young and young-at-heart generations of journalists who use new technologies and new media as tools and resources for their work.  We are thrilled to see that these efforts are paying off with both new and traditional media, as indicated by the Arketi and Bulldog Reporter/TEKGroup surveys and Techmeme’s Leaderboard. 

Malcolm Atherton, our eloquent and new-media-savvy account executive, who is one of the strong proponents of our digital media offerings, provides some great info in an interview with podcast site Rocky Mountain Voices during the recent Blogging for Business conference in Salt Lake City. Malcolm sums it all up fantastically. Check it out:

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/11/PID_012978/Podtech_BusinessWire_SocialMedia.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/4524/new-media-helped-by-traditional-news-distributors&totalTime=420000&breadcrumb=38b0ffcfc3294db2bec05fb60c682b0d]

Posted by Ken Zamkow, Director of Product Development, Business Wire


Yahoo! Finance Debuts Business Wire XHTML Feed

October 19, 2007

Today is a very satisfying day for many of us at Business Wire and we think it’s also a good day for investor relations. After several years of development and more than a year of working with our downstream partners, Business Wire’s XHTML feed is now being carried on Yahoo! Finance.

Why is this important? XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language) enables us and IR professionals to break a decades-long limitation in how earnings tables are transmitted, presented and re-utilized. Limitations in data feeds and ANPA and ASCII languages and technology have meant that tables could be no longer than 70 characters in width, could not support underlines, bold text or bulleted lists. This means tables are often difficult for humans to read and harder for computers to parse in today’s automated times.

Earnings Tables that are Easier for Humans and Computers

Enter XHTML. With XHTML, we present tables that closely mirror how they appear in their original spread sheet format. Wider, with underlined headers and numbers. And they are more easily readable by humans and electronic systems. For humans, the benefits are obvious.

Look at these two examples of tables:

Each element of the Business Wire NewsML press release in XHTML is tagged – the content within the headline, body copy, tables, contact information, etc. so that systems can find and utilize the exact data they need. This ultimately helps news organizations to speed the reporting of earnings results and further levels the playing field for access to corporate financial data.

This is a very big “next step” in our ongoing efforts to change the way media, syndicates, financial information services and consumer sites handle content. Our patented Internet “NX” delivery system is the backbone for this system. We have spent countless development hours and invested millions of dollars in building a smarter system to simultaneously deliver rich content to end users. We’re working on getting more systems online with XHTML in the near future.


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