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Perhaps PR Should Uncross Our Wires
By: Mike Bush
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If you believed the news last week, Google acquired a wireless hotspot provider named ICOA. The cost was $400 million, and the deal had the potential to help Google keep eyes on its search, as opposed to moving to Apple’s Siri, and GigaOm* pointed out in their original piece (a great analysis of why Google as an Internet provider makes sense).
 
Of course, if you ask the CEO and Chairman of ICOA, George Strouthopoulos, he’d say this:

“This is NOT TRUE!! Never had any discussions with any potential acquirers!! This is absolutely false!

How does this happen?
 
(If you’re in PR, you probably know the next section, but allow me a quick paragraph or two for our non-PR readers).
 
PR folks use so-called Wire Services, which allows us to send press releases into newsrooms, email boxes, and even publish on hundreds of websites all at once. Pricing for these services can range from cheap (or Free) on through thousands of dollars, depending on who you want to reach, selection of micro-target lists, translation services for other countries, etc. Many of these services have rigid guidelines for what they will allow as “news” vs. “advertisement,” and the rules for who can submit a release to a service vary by provider. There are literally hundreds of other add-ons I’m not mentioning here, but “production and inclusion of images and video,” “SEO Expertise,” “Outdoor Coverage,” and “Underwater Basket Weaving” are all services you can find with these service providers.
 
In this case, someone that doesn’t work for Google or ICOA (and apparently lives in Aruba) submitted to one of these wires, called PRWeb, which is owned by Vocus. PR Web apparently has very little interest in regulating what is published through their network, and also, very little interest in verifying who is actually doing this publishing (see this scathing piece from Search Engine Land for a thorough analysis).  
 
Here’s the thing:
 
Wire services were fantastic before the Internet took over… well… everything. Prior to email, wire services were the most efficient way to get your news in front of reporters, and then just hope for coverage. Then, as Google was looking for inbound links to a website to prove their worth, Wire Services became a valuable SEO tool.**

But now, is there really a need for this?
 
If you ask a reporter how they like to receive information, they’ll probably use some of the following:
  • A targeted email that shows an understanding of what I cover
  • A short pitch that allows me to draw my own conclusion
  • A company blog
  • An RSS Feed form a company I’m interested in
  • A DM Tweet
  • Don’t Call Me… ever.
None of those include “something I saw on the wire” or “something that was automatically posted to Yahoo Finance (via a wire).”
 
In 2008, the SEC rules that corporate blogs can serve as disclosure of material corporate information. Brian Solis (now an analyst with Altimeter Group but then a writer for TechCrunch) called for the death of the press release.
 
Today, we should be closer than ever.
 
Would a post to a corporate blog, along with a Tweet from the corporate Twitter account, accompanied by personal emails from corporate communications (or a PR firm) to the relevant reporters and bloggers in a space, and uploaded to Yahoo Finance via RSS (for public companies) effectively replace the Wire Services we use today? Yes. Would this save companies (tens of) thousands of dollars, which could be used to hire stronger writers to create more compelling content? Yes. Would more compelling content be shared more often, re-reported more often in targeted media, and lead to better search engine results? Yes!
 
Now, here’s the real trick. In order for this quality-content-centric-corporate-utopia to be created, we all need to stop our use of wire services. And convincing corporations to do so will be the real challenge.
 
*I pointed out GigaOm as a site that was duped by the release, but it isn’t to imply that they were alone. Dozens of news outlets and websites picked up the story with different angles. I simply found theirs to be one of the more thoughtful and in-depth pieces. TechCrunch, ZDNet and Computerworld, for example, also picked it up (although the former has updated the post and the latter two have removed the story altogether).
  
**In my personal opinion, it seems as though Google no longer gives weight to every link with identical content all pointing to the same place. I may be wrong, but it seems as though Google now, accurately, assigns value to a press release distributed via a wire once, as opposed to the hundreds of times the press release is picked up across the Internet.


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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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