Access CNW: A Good Step Forward

I have to give CNW Group credit for trying (if you don’t know, CNW Group is Canada’s largest news wire service). In the last little while they’ve repeatedly impressed me with their efforts in the social media space.

With the help of clued-in employees like Parker Mason, CNW keeps cropping up in my social media activities:

  • I recently blogged about some problems I was having with another wire service while doing PR for PodCamp Toronto. CNW got in touch with me and offered to put our news release out for free. I took them up on the offer – the news release is here.
  • As a result of the above intervention, I invited CNW to sponsor PodCamp Toronto. They accepted and we put out another release with them before the conference.
  • This Monday I got an email from CNW informing me of their new Access CNW service. The email noted that we still had one more release left under our sponsorship agreement and let me know they would be able to set me up to use Access CNW if I wanted. It also invited me to give feedback, either publicly or privately.

Yesterday, I issued the third and (probably) final news release for PodCamp Toronto this year. I posted it using Access CNW.

(PR people note: If you want to pitch someone successfully, do what they did here – tied in the product directly to what the target is involved in)

What Is Access CNW?

Access CNWThe Access CNW website describes itself as “a secure door into our editorial system, to let you issue and manage your own news materials.” Essentially, it’s a portal-based service that lets you issue do online what you used to have to do via email and phone.

One big difference between CNW and its rivals (Marketwire, PR Newswire, Businesswire) is that CNW remains resolutely focused on the ‘traditional’ wire services, and this is apparent in their new service.

CNW takes pains to explain that their service (as before) “includes formatting your news into a style that can be easily and accurately interpreted by the technology employed within Canadian newsrooms and trading terminals.” They also still shy away from feature-laden services like Marketwire’s Social Media 2.0 (I hate that name).

Does It Work?

Access CNW screenshotHaving used the application, I’m happy to say that Access CNW is extremely easy to use. The site walks you through seven simple steps to create a news release:

  1. Sender information
  2. Company information
  3. Language
  4. Distribution lists
  5. Timing control
  6. Content
  7. Finalization

All of these steps are simple and there’s a comprehensive tutorial if you do need help. Some of the most useful features:

  • Detailed management of your news release distribution lists
  • Detailed control of timing
  • Ability to set up news releases in advance, for times when the content comes through last-minute
  • Take care of regulatory filings in Canada or US automatically
  • Upload photos to go along with your release

Nothing ground-breaking here. And this is the one area where I think Access CNW falls a little short. It’s nothing new.

Is This It?

I was left wondering, “is this it,” in two ways.

  1. This stuff isn’t rocket science. It’s nice that the service is available online, but that’s all CNW has done – put existing processes online. There’s nothing new in terms of service offereings. Yes, CNW has shifted a lot of control to the customer, but they’re all things that were available before – it’s just the delivery mechanism that’s changed. Also remember that by doing this they’ve lowered their costs by getting the customer to do much of the set-up work. It’s all very “web 1.0.” I wonder whether CNW made a conscious decision to focus on its traditional market and ignore the bright shiny toys that other wires are playing with, or if the company is behind and playing catch-up. I would be very disappointed if the answer is the former. That would be a huge missed opportunity. However, even if it’s the latter, it means they’re still playing catch-up as their social media offerings continue to lag behind.
  2. Secondly, some of the online offering could still be improved. For example, you still need to upload news releases as a word document. It surprises me that you still can’t enter the content directly.There is another side to this – letting people upload word files, which most releases are drafted in, does remove an extra step for customers. Still, it feels… old fashioned.

A Good Step Forward

Don’t get me wrong – this is a cool application, and a good move for CNW. It makes issuing a news release quick and easy. It removes mystery from the process, which is fantastic. I applaud them for this – Access CNW is a great step forward. It’s also great to see CNW begin to interact with the blogosphere as they have with me recently.

These are all good signs. Still, I find myself waiting for the next chapter. I hope it comes soon, because the rest of the world isn’t waiting for them.

Update: Did I mention that these folks keep impressing me? Not long after posting this, I got a response from CNW. Here’s the bulk of it:

…I would like to point out that we aren’t just playing catch up – we’ve been offering Multi Media News Releases for years, and these are fully customizable. While they have primarily been used by our clients wanting to provide broadcast and print media with high-quality audio, video and images, some of our clients have found a great deal of success in the blogosphere using this format. For example – this release by Nintendo got picked up by some of the major game blogs, arguably a better audience than print media.

Last year, we also advertised on a number of prominent PR blogs in Canada. David Jones’ PR Works was one of those blogs, and he wrote about it here.

While we have focused on the traditional market, we certainly aren’t ignoring the world of social media and all that it can do to help our clients get their message out. To paraphrase something I think you wrote (I believe in a comment on Michael OCC’s blog), social media is just one of the tools available in the PR toolbox. At CNW, we are confident that we have the traditional tools and the newer tools, Everything you need to get the job done.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.