Jun 13, 2011

Setting the Record Straight Regarding Web Disclosure

A recent blog post on the IR Web Report asserted “STATISTICS from trackable links in company press releases suggest that even small companies’ websites are the most heavily used sources for financial disclosure information, and that dissemination via PR wire services is mostly ignored by investors.”  This statement simply couldn’t be further from the truth, and we believe it’s our duty to set the record straight.

Of course, both sides of the discussion have their biases and business agendas.  The author of the IR Web Report provides IR website consulting services to companies and has a vested interest in seeing more public companies embrace web disclosure. And press release distribution is PR Newswire’s core business, though we too have a thriving IR web site services division.

But agendas notwithstanding, the facts tell a different story, and reveal why fewer than a dozen public companies have made the switch to web disclosure.

A misguided characterization of press release stats

IR Web Report’s use of tracking clicks from the press release on the PR Newswire site to the issuing company site as the sole measure of traffic driven by a press release gives a very incomplete picture of the traffic generated by the message, and is, in fact, a very poor measure of how well a press release distribution worked.  Why?  The answer lies in syndication.   When you send a press release out over PR Newswire, it will appear – in full text and in many cases with the links you embedded in the copy – on thousands of web sites, ranging from financial powerhouses like Yahoo! Finance and CNN Money to a huge network of personal finance and investing sites, media web sites and blogs.   The version of your press release appearing on these sites will drive traffic to the URLs and links you included in the copy.  One needs to look at the total effect of the syndicated press release – not just the traffic referred from the newswire web site.

Don’t forget social sharing
Social sharing is another important component of press release visibility, and PR Newswire content is shared on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at an astonishing rate – thousands of times each day.  Social sharing provides important and credible third party promotion and redistribution of news among audiences eagerly pursuing equities news.

In reality, a handful of companies are using web disclosure

The PR wires – PR Newswire included – remain the easiest and fastest way to comprehensively and simultaneously reach the spot news desks at Dow Jones, Reuters, Bloomberg, the AP and other financial news services, other relevant media and online audiences.

Many companies that have explored web disclosure find it’s difficult for them to make a sudden shift and begin to rely on an IT department or web staff that may or may not understand the complexities and vagaries of Reg FD the way that the wire services do.  As a result, a number of well-documented mishaps have resulted in early and uneven disclosure of financial news from companies large and small.

For these reasons, the number of companies that have switched from using press releases to relying solely on web disclosure remains so small.

The company web site really should be the financial communications hub

All that said, it’s important to note that PR Newswire is an avid proponent of delivering excellent, robust and up-to-the-second financial communications on corporate web sites.   It’s common knowledge that a company’s website is ultimately where audiences should go to find the most comprehensive and up-to-date information available related to that organization.  It’s also commonly understood that social media sites are important for broadening the reach of various types of content, but it’s the company website that should be the place where it all comes together.  On these points most IR pros – and the team here at PR Newswire – agree.

In fact, the example IR Web Report called out, Boeing, is a long-time user of PR Newswire’s MediaRoom service, which enables the Boeing communications team to manage their media site and incorporates a live XML feed of the press releases they issue via PR Newswire to ensure the news is available on their site within milliseconds of being disclosed via the wire.  This long-standing and tested solution fully satisfies the timing and accuracy requirements of Reg FD.  Multiple levels of security safeguard content until release.  PR Newswire has had thousands of companies engaged in this seamless process for many years.

For years PR Newswire has focused on automating communications processes where it makes sense to do so, enabling communicators to swiftly reach key audiences and update their web sites so they may devote their time to the higher-touch and more complex aspects of their jobs.  Along the way, we add quality control (our editors routinely catch and fix mistakes in almost 2/3 of press releases submitted for the wire) and rigorous authentication of sources that means media and web sites can trust – and immediately act upon – press releases they receive from PR Newswire.  We devote entire departments to developing audiences for investor news, and building the syndication network that delivers enormous online reach.  There’s more to press release distribution than meets the eye.  We’re very proud of the work we do and the services we provide, and we thank you for allowing us to set the record straight.

John Viglotti is PR Newswire’s vice president of investor relations products & services.

PR Newswire offers secures investor relations web sites that are easy to update, flexible and can incorporate an up-to-the-millisecond feed of your press releases.

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