Attention Traditional PR, Step Away from the Social Media Release – aka hRelease

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I came across a post that really smacked me in the face with a stinging sense of reality. You can’t help everyone grow; only those that realize they can. We just have to do a better job of reaching everyone else to help lay a more informative foundation for people to cause change.

Regarding the Social Media Release, it’s not social media. The Social Media Press Release still adheres to the antiquated notion that public relations means appealing to the public via mainstream media or to those in the “short tail”. With a Social Press Release, you may be using tools that facilitate social media (video links, podcasts, blog posts), but you’re not facilitating social media, you’re pitching the press.

The original post also produced a couple of very interesting comments, which only shows that our message is flying over the heads of the mainstream.

First, this has nothing to do with the “Short Tail.” It’s surprising because in the same article, there’s a link to Chris Anderson’s take on my posts talking about using social tools to run publicity without press releases. Basically using these ideas to run PR in the long tail. Unfortunatel though, traditional PR’s greatest fault is that it has yet to figure out how to do publicity in the long tail without demeaning everyone along the way.

The idea here is to spark conversations in the “Long Tail” and, social tools and a deep understanding of the wants and needs of the people you’re trying to reach, allow you to engage transparently. But make no mistake; do not attempt any of this as traditional PR. Otherwise you’ll get publicly skewered and rightly so.

The fact is that most PR people aren’t ready for social media or the idea of the hrelease, but those who are, will realize that it’s more micro than macro. From the post:
“Sending a press release (social or not) to a blogger is a total no-no so, as far as I’m concerned, the conversation is moot and I’m moving on.”Sending press releases without thinking about who they’re going to and applying that information to groups of people is a no no. The idea here is to create a new distribution format for bloggers or any content producers to place information in the hands of those who can in turn, use the social elements to share information with their peers, readers, etc.

From the comments:”The social media press release is just a p.r. stunt by a p.r. firm, IMHO.”Nope, it’s a reaction to Tom Foremski, former FT reporter and now blogger at Silicon Valley Watcher, to create a better tool for him to find the information he needs in a “new media” format, since blogs live off of new media content. In fact, his original post was called, “Die Press Release, DIE DIE DIE.” Since then, there have been scores of bloggers and reporters who have asked for the overhaul of the release.

From the comments:”If anything, it might be just a way to find something new to monetize or to a way to appear innovative. I’m actually concerned that it’s desperation.”

There’s no joking that press releases have extremely thin credibility with a lot of influential press. There is also no doubt that press releases have also found new life in search engines, reaching consumers directly. 51% of IT professionals report getting their news from releases in Yahoo and Google OVER traditional tech publications.

The idea behind an SMR is that you deconstruct the format, strip away the BS, hyperbole, and fake quotes, and build it back into a structure (hrelease) which can then be broadcast through RSS. This allows traditional reporters, bloggers and even consumers to subscribe and pull only the information they need, the way they want it – without paying $1,000 for a wire service that yields very little, except for SEO – public companies not included.

So, it’s more about technology and distribution and new media formats as opposed to trends and stunts.

In general, it’s getting tremendous publicity because it also calls for PR to stop acting like PR. You can’t be part of the conversation simply by writing releases, blasting them to targets, and placing them on wires. Nor can you say you’re part of the social media revolution, simply because you blog or read blogs. It’s much deeper than that…and it’s there for everyone so that we all learn, practice, and grow together.

I’ve experimented with several, and so far they’ve not only been received with accolades, they’ve sparked trackable threads of conversations (through embedded tags). They do not replace traditional releases however…well written releases will always have a place. Just as long as they inform and not persuade the reader.

Again, it’s micro, not macro. This doesn’t start with a blast. This starts with conversations.

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  • KP Frahm

    Hello, I just read your interesting post but now I’m blind. Could you switch to black on white or maybe add a button “readable version of this post”?

  • abf

    Brian, I came by after seeing that you had linked to my blog and I’m pretty astounded that you chose to be so entirely condescending to me in your post.

    “You can’t help everyone grow; only those that realize they can.”

    Wow.

    I chose to respond to your comment on my post and to attempt to engage you in a conversation with the very real belief that you would be willing to engage and, because you are committed to promoting the idea of the social media release, help me to see something that perhaps I wasn’t.

    “Our message is flying over the heads of the mainstream.”

    Wow.

    I’m not “the mainstream” of PR if that is what your comment means, Brian. I’ve met them, and they’re not me. ;)

    I am someone who works in a PR agency after spending a life working to promote democratic participation — either through independent media (social media before there was social media is how I like to think of it)or through political participation. I am intrigued by social media because I see it as an amazing opportunity to give a voice to those who may not previously have had a platform to be heard.

    The notion of a release just sounds like something the PR industry dreamed up to try to take advantage of social media tools without actually embracing that ideal.

    I ended my post (honestly) stating, “Tell me if I’m missing something.”

    And you did. And I appreciated it.

    But I don’t appreciate the fact that you have taken the “they just don’t get us” approach. It comes across as elitist and it shuts down conversation.

    You say in your post that there is an opportunity to “learn, practice, and grow together”. Please be willing to do your part to do so.

    Thank you.

  • Brian Solis

    Alison, first, I need to state that looking at your comments and re-reading my post, I can completely see where you’re coming from. I, by no means, am implying that “you” are mainstream PR or that you are among those that don’t get it. And, in no way am I trying to be condescending to you or anyone else for that matter – well except for those casting stones of course.

    The intent was that your post opened my eyes. The comments on your post did so even more. This is a culmination of one week of constant mud slinging between those who didn’t get it and those trying to introduce new ideas.

    I cited examples from your post and I also meant to use others….so this is by no means a reflection of you or your views. You opened up the dialog and I engaged. That’s where it should be.

    The only part I contest is “The notion of a release just sounds like something the PR industry dreamed up to try to take advantage of social media tools without actually embracing that ideal.”

    That’s a pretty quick assessment, which completely strips away something so much more significant and meaningful than you give credit for, yet this one statement rallied support. More importantly, this statement starts the conversation from a defensive angle, not a mutual, leveled discussion. And it’s statements like this that are making my job, and the job of those involved, very difficult. All it took was to read a few posts about its beginning for you to realize that there was something truly genuine behind it.

    The point of the article is that your original views made me rethink how I approach this…and fully believe that we all must “learn, practice, and grow together.”

  • Dominic

    “Since then, there have been scores of bloggers and reporters who have asked for the overhaul of the release.”

    Can you point me to some supporting info for this?

    Thanks.

  • abf

    The person who commented on my post, while brilliant and a friend of mine, is not someone who works in the public relations industry and is not someone who spends a great deal of time (I don’t believe) thinking about social media, so I too found her comments to be overly dismissive.

    I appreciate your response to my comment. When I said that the “social media release SOUNDS like something the PR industry dreamed up to try to take advantage of the tools without embracing the ideal,” I literally meant SOUNDS. It’s the name. It suggests old school release with bells and whistles. It’s not. You’ve clarified that for me.

    Please do remember to play think twice and always play nice. (I’ll do the same.) We’ll be in the same room together at some point some day (if we already haven’t been).

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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