Social Media Killed the Press Release Star

A New Year is upon us and I think I’ll start off the New Year with a rededication to the Social Media Release (SMR), the Social Media Club, and why the hell all of this will matter to marketing, communications and PR professionals this year.

The truth is that somewhere along the way, a few of those who “got it” embraced it as their own, those who are just now learning about it are “not getting” it, and a few of us, are tirelessly working to get everyone up to speed for the betterment of traditional and social media press releases.

Let’s face it. Basically, press releases are lame. The existing intention, the process, content, distribution, the metrics…it all continues to earn a black eye on the face of 21st century PR. Honestly, most press releases SUCK!

About 10 years ago, search engine optimization (SEO) came along and several smart PR and Web marketers fine-tuned the content of a release for it to index in Yahoo and Google all to improve a company’s ranking in search engines. In 2006, this art has only been streamlined. When combined with the science of paid and free wire distribution, press releases can now serve the purpose of announcing news to journalists and bloggers, and when written like an article itself, can now start to appeal to consumers directly.

Ah yes, remember, in 2006, 50% of IT professionals reported getting their news and information from press releases on the web over traditional publications.

In 2006, we also saw the explosion of social media and peer to peer influence. It too represented a “smarter” opportunity to distribute information, and more importantly, become part of the conversation. Nowadays it’s less about word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and more about word of “mouse.” Yes it’s the clicks and links that count, not so much the grapevine.

There’s still much to learn on this front, but as of now, small agencies and independent contractors continue to lead the way, while big agencies unfortunately screw the pooch in the public spotlight with highly visible and discussed attempts to fool, capitalize on, or manipulate the market – read Walmart Flogs, StoryCrafter, Acer Ferrari incident, etc. While some credit Edelman with paving a path, when you do so with such awful and vengeful publicity, I start to wonder whether they’re helping or tainting the opportunity for social media and new PR.

And while we’re on the subject of new PR, let’s talk about the SMR aka hrelease aka social media press release.

Now, more often than not, I’m starting to hear things such as “social media is no mo” and “do journalists really need a social media press release?”

Oh, and my personal favorite, “I’ve not found a single one who likes the idea of bullet-point news facts. All it does is increase the amount of work they need to do.”

Oh and there’s also, “I can’t see the vast majority of journalists on trade press, regional press etc ever being interested in anything but a release that is as close as possible to what they want to publish.”

Hey guys, let’s remember….it’s not about the people who don’t want it; it’s about the people who do!

For you comfort-zone marketers, here’s the bottomline. Go ahead and write traditional press releases, but do so with meaningful content. Keep it short and get rid of the adjectives, the first, the best, the paradigm-shifts, trend-setting verbiage, 14 quotes, world-famous, etc., and get right down to the meat of it. Reporters aren’t reading brochures, they’re looking for news, and if you were ever any good at PR or marketing, you’d realize that hyperbole does not give your release a better shot at coverage. When you master that…then try writing a traditional release specifically for search engines (this is an entirely different discussion, but for the more advanced reader, I want to clearly separate the opportunity for standard, SEO and social media press releases).

Then when you’re all set, try a social media release along side of the traditional version. Distribute both through channels that make sense to the various markets – decide which is better for bloggers, journalists, and customers (they’re readers too). Whether comprised of bullets or a condensed summary, get it out there. Remember, press releases aren’t just for journalists anymore
This is why I’m re-dedicating myself to social media and the social media press release.

It’s not about the journalists that claim social media releases make their job harder or the PR flacks that hide behind these questions and debates to avoid evolution. It’s about serving different audiences using the tools that reach them.

For those new to the discussion of SMPRs (SMRs) and social media marketing, here’s a summary of key events in 2006:

- The press release celebrated its 100th anniversary.

- Tom Foremski called for the death of the press release and sparks a firestorm of support and criticism – mostly support. The interesting thing here, is that technically he isn’t calling for an SMR, he’s asking for PR people to be less “spintastic” and more informative and direct.

- Todd Defren offers a creative solution for the social media age in response to Foremski’s post.

- Chris Heuer has the vision to form the Social Media Club as well as a group dedicated to creating a standard for Social Media Releases aka hRelease. SMC flourishes across the country.

- Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Tom Foremski, and I host The NMR podcast which chronicles the development of SMPRs.

- Auburn University’s Robert French teaches PR students how to prepare for the realworld of social media and PR

- The value and legitimacy of the blogosphere is challenged by traditional media.

- Robert Scoble shows the potential for corporate video blogging, which I say will become the new video news release in the social media age.

- Jeremiah Owyang leads a culture shift at Hitachi to join the social media revolution and then joins PodTech to do the same for other companies. His efforts lay the foundation for defining metrics Corporate America of new marketing and PR opportunities through Social Media

- Heuer and the Social Media Club host “From Social Media to Corporate Media” to help companies reach their markets directly using new social media tools. Scoble and Lisa Stone keynote

- To help the masses understand the potential for SMRs, I develop a guide/template that explains the meaning, benefits and value and “how to” write them – without the need for automated tools. There’s even a step by step tutorial that also explains “why” social media releases matter. Part I, Part II, Part III

- Some PR’s enjoy direct success within target communities using SMRs.
Here are some examples: Spiral Frog, the SMPR “how to” template, Weblo.com, among others

- PR professionals start to question the need for an alternative to the traditional press release

- General media claim that there is no need for a social media release

- Factiva hosts a social media roundtable to determine how best to track influence in SMPR and new PR.

- Wire services announce Social Media capabilities, but many drop support for comments and none support Technorati – although in 2007, PRNewswire announced support for a new Technorati button in order to track conversations around a release. Although, we all drove this one, this one, truth is that you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for the ability to get news into the conversation.

- Chris Heuer presents the official SMR format at the recent Society for New Communications Research event in Boston

- Heuer also introduces a blog dedicated to the evolution of the SMR standard.

- Shannon Whitley introduced PRx, a walkthrough solution for generating SMRs

- Edelman introduces StoryCrafter, an automated tool for creating SMRs based on the Social Media Club’s list of key elements for a social media release. This sparked a whirlwind of conversations and opinions as it wasn’t as much evolutionary as it was unimpressive.

– Brian Oberkirch says, “The social media news release is an attempt by communication firms to ward off strategy decay” and completes the thought full circle with “I suggest we focus our collective efforts on hRelease.” – which is pretty much right on with what Chris Heuer and I have been saying all along. Think less about the “new release” and more about the “social media” elements to spark conversations in the community.

– Mike Manuel also added his poignant thoughts, “If, however, we’re not all working toward this same goal, and instead get caught up with using proprietary formats and tools to posture and advance competitive agendas, then, sadly, the Social Media Press Release will die, die, die, quickly.”

– Phil Gomes replies with support for a standard while asking the community not to flame Edelman for the creation of their own tool, while claiming he wasn’t invited to participate in the standard for SMRs.

- Buzzlogic launches at DemoFall, offering the ability to truly track conversations and influence.

- Defren posts on the state of SMNRs

To this day, I’m often asked, will SMPRs replace traditional PRs? The answer is no. In fact, many new media PR practitioners write and distribute both, or a fusion of the two. There’s still much to learn – and much to teach. Either way, it’s time to board the train (clue train that is) and reach journalists, bloggers and customers in more meaningful ways. Start practicing. Start expanding your toolsets. Start participating. Engage or die!

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  • Chris Heuer

    Really great summation Brian – wish I had more time to engage on this now – lets talk about this more on Thursday night!

  • PR-Guy

    Brilliant summation, Brian, as well as some good points for the skeptics.

  • Brian Solis

    Hey guys, thanks for the positive feedback. I really appreciate it..we’re all in this together.

  • philgomes

    …while claiming he wasn’t invited to participate in the standard for SMRs.

    Not in any meaningful way, anyway.

    Part of the problem is that, between a Google Group, Yahoo Group, a wiki, and the SMC web page, there doesn’t appear to be any canonical place to go online in order to follow any of these developments.

    Frankly, outside-looking-in, the effort appears quite disorganized.

    I plan to be at the LA meeting of Social Media Club and I look forward to working with that group. I feel I have quite a bit to offer these efforts.

    But, then again, I have a boss and he needs to know that I’m spending my time on a serious standards effort.

    Help me make my case.

  • Brian Solis

    Hey Phil, yes I’ll do my part to help you make the case, and make sure you’re invited in a meaningful way.

    I’m in this for a legitimate standard, otherwise I could have easily run with my own thing…

    Re: SMC in L.A. – they’re lucky to have you!

  • Fatih Çamcı

    “Social Media Killed the Press Release Star”

    to be added

  • free ps3

    Thanks for the nice post!

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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