Reexamining The Value Of Syndication Services: What PR Pros Should Keep In Mind

By Conrad Egusa Published: 16 May, 2016 Last updated: February 18th, 2022 at 11:21 am

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This article originally appeared on Forbes.

Young startups have a tendency to treat press releases like lottery tickets: they send as many as possible out into the universe and hope to see results.

Like playing the lottery, the thinking is that the more “tickets” you have, the better your chances of success, which is why startups pay hefty fees to have their press releases syndicated. They figure that spreading their press releases around will increase the likelihood that a journalist will see it and decide to write a story. However, this mentality is flawed. Despite the fact that many startups actively use these services, syndicating press releases will not necessarily help you get media coverage. Here’s what you need to know before deciding to use a PR syndication service.

A Brief History of Syndication Services

First of all, let’s talk about what a PR syndication service actually is. “Wire services,” otherwise known as news agencies, have played a significant role in journalism for hundreds of years. During the 19th century (and still today), most local newspapers could not afford to send reporters to cover national and international beats/stories. News agencies arose to address this need: They had teams of journalists that reported and wrote stories that got published on a wire, which newspapers paid to access.

The first press release was published in 1906, after a train wreck in New Jersey. It served as a way for a Pennsylvania Railroad to issue a statement to the public, as well as multiple media outlets, at one time. Other organizations and businesses quickly followed suit and adopted the press release as a way to share company news of all kinds. In 1954, PR Newswire was founded to provide “a new and improved way” for public relations and investor relations practitioners to deliver news releases. Its approach looked a lot like a newswire, except that it delivered press releases, instead of fully formed articles, to a wide range of journalists.

As the nature of journalism and PR has evolved, PR syndication services have gained significant momentum.While one out of every four reporting jobs has disappeared, there are now 4.6 public relations specialists for each reporter in America.

Cutting Out the Noise

At the same time, the internet has created an environment where media outlets’ survival depends on page views, meaning they need high volumes of content (quantity versus quality).  However, this does not mean that journalists are going directly to the syndication wires, like PRWeb or BusinessWire, to source ideas. For one thing, journalists are presented with more pitches than they can handle, and would probably only go to a syndication service to look for stories if they had nothing else in their hopper. In today’s digital world, the likelihood of that happening is low. Syndication services don’t increase exposure; in fact, they rarely get your story in front of reporters who would not otherwise have seen it.

Another disadvantage is a lack of discovery tools. PR syndication wires are flooded with insignificant, irrelevant and otherwise widely-accessible content. A reporter simply does not have the time to sift through thousands of generic press releases to find one or two that interest them, and most of the services don’t offer discovery tools, which pinpoint the best and most relevant content. As a result, the syndication wires end up offering far more noise than signal.

Furthermore, journalists look for stories that are newsworthy and unique , even if they feel the pressure to churn out words at a rapid pace. If a story is on a syndication wire, it means it is universally accessible. Anyone can see it, and this could undermine its newsworthiness in the eyes of a reporter.

Yet another drawback is the anonymous nature of these services. With an email, an entrepreneur or PR rep can craft the pitch, leverage their contacts, and write a personal appeal that factors in a reporter’s interests. It is easier to catch a reporter’s attention and instigate a dialogue. Syndication services, on the other hand, have no personality and do nothing to form a bond between a reporter and a potential story.

Rethinking the Value of Syndication Services

The reality is that chances are slim a reporter will see something on a syndication wire and decide to write a story. If your goal in shelling out $1,000 on syndication is to catch a reporter’s attention, then it is not money well spent.

However, syndication services do have a number of potential advantages: one is creating a public history for your company. A journalist is not going to write an article every time your company hits a milestone. They may write about your launch or a round of funding, but announcements like product updates or new hires generally fly under the radar, and pitching them on small stories of this nature can backfire.

However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t want or need a record of those milestones out there, and syndication services can be a great way to create that record and build legitimacy as a brand, without a journalist serving as a gatekeeper. This way, when someone — whether it’s a potential employee, customer, partner or journalist — searches for your company name, they can find a log of all you have achieved.

Another benefit is that syndication services can be used to index announcements on search engines. They also provide opportunities for keyword linking and name recognition and are more shareable than releases published on a company blog, which make them more likely to perform well when posted on social media sites. If you do decide to invest in syndication, make sure you are doing everything you can to fuel traction by promoting the content online. Syndication can extend the “shelf life” as well as the credibility of your company news.

Despite these advantages, the benefits of syndicating a press release through a service are growing smaller every year. Rather than paying big money for syndication, invest those resources in other, more impactful forms of content marketing, such as good writing, blog posts, relationships with journalists, and newsworthy press releases.