Don’t Kill the Press Release, Shoot the Messenger

shootMessenger

Taking a step back from the highly publicized and globally viewed online game show series, “Get It or Don’t Get It,” I am still shaking my head wondering at what point the communications industry stopped paying attention to the need for evolution.

Millions of bloggers (not to mention journalists) use traditional releases to write stories everyday. Customers read SEO press releases in Yahoo and Google to make decisions.

The idea behind the new media release is to improve the foundation, content, and relevance of information and distribute it in a way that allows journalists, bloggers and even “people” to read, use, and share the information – in concert with other forms of media.

When PR takes the time to “get it” and engage with people on their terms, they’ll realize the need to restructure the information they wish to share in a way that doesn’t insult the intelligence of those who read it. Only at that point can they effectively evaluate whether that news should be socialized through new media.

PR/Marketing types are resisting the inevitable need to “engage or die” and instead, attack the spirit and the vision which will forge a place for a new level of PR in a socialized economy.

I’m here to help people who genuinely want to stop insulting those they try to reach and actually start meaningful conversations – every step of the way.

It seems that those who get it, are actually a new breed of PR professional – sharing more in common with online and SEO marketers and Media 2.0 voices than traditional PR.

I support the hrelease, new media releases and the idea of social tools that enable “socializing,” including press releases, in order to help well-written stories spark conversations among people.

To be clear, I do not support PR’s foolish and unprofessional attempts to hijack “social media” viewing it only as a trend to help boost their visibility and revenue – without the slightest concern or understanding of how people share information.

Let’s not forget, that traditional press releases have a place. But to quote Jeremy Pepper, “I think it’s a band-aid for the bigger problem: most junior PR people cannot write.”

Indeed Pepper. The fact that any company would allow important corporate message to be written by junior PR people is a spine tingling reality that should scare us all to hell. How the “F” are we supposed to take that model directly to the people? We can’t.

Yes, it all starts with great writing…but more importantly, have an idea of what it is you’re representing in a way that demonstrates expertise, conviction and a real world understanding of how that product/service benefits the people you’re talking to.

Again, let’s not forget, the majority of PR ‘un’ professionals out there aren’t even reading these posts. That’s a big part of the problem.

To help, I’ve included ten principles (I’m sure there are more) that serve as the foundation for new media releases:

1. Elevate the message.

2. Inform not persuade.

3. Write with balance.

4. Include traditional and new media.

5. Be informative.

6. Provide resources.

7. Use available tech to open-up dialogue.

8. Listen.

9. Converse.

10. Learn.

There are still millions of people that enjoy receiving information in a one-to-one nature. But at the end of the day, nothing beats relationships. Now we just need to genuinely engage in one-to-one and one-to-many, or order to incite the many-to-many conversations that will impact the bottom line.

I guess the moral of the story is to be the person you wish to reach – regardless of the technology you use to get there, i.e. release, blog post, comments, etc.

“It’s not about the people who don’t want it; it’s about the people who do.”

Tracking the latest conversations:

Todd Defren continues to forge ahead with his new Social Media Press Room
Shannon Whitley at PRX Builder also continues to help PR jump into SMRs
Education PR
Mark Rose, PR Blog News
digTrends
Chris Heuer on why it’s called Social Media – Social Media Club
PR BlogJots
Leading Edge

Vaza (it’s in German)
Point Being
SiliconValleyWatcher
PRSquared
Web Strategy by Jeremiah
World CAD Access
Murphy’s Law
Funny Rabbits
Custom Scoops
Phil Gomes
PR2.0 – PR Without PR
Tech PR Gems
Just Engine
The Long Tail
Weblogsky
Spin Influencer
POP PR Jots
Neville Hobson
Common Sense PR

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  • Ryan Clark Holiday

    Great article, as usual. I enjoy the fact that your site isn’t about frills or cheesy Web 2.0 design–just quality content.

    I had the very problem you’re talking about in this entry w/ Edelman last week. I think you hit the nail on the head, Press Releases are for people whose content can’t sell itself.

    Here’s my writeup. http://rch.rudiusmedia.com/archives/2007/02/the_epitome_of_lazy_pr.phtml

  • Brian Solis

    Thanks Ryan, I really appreciate it. I read your post…you’re exactly right! It’s the difference between a shotgun and a sniper rifle. Plus, it couldn’t hurt to just apologize in that case. Keep up the good fight!

  • Ana Yoerg

    Good points!! Here’s another resource with tips on release writing for a modern audience. CMS Wire’s Angela Natividad just published Top Five Tips For a Great Press Release.

    Rather than reading like a series of traditional PR do’s and don’ts, she points out a few key do-not-forgets, like synchronizing your website to the release and knowing your audience: "Respect their intelligence and they’ll respect yours," she writes. "Be brief. Be relevant. Drop the hyperbole."

    It’s a brief, relevant, hyperbole-free article, useful for anyone from first-time entrepreneurs to longtime PR professionals.

  • Irina Hutu

    I hope you still reply to posts these old. I was doing some research today on the future of press releases- I'm an intern in a small PR office in the UK- so I still read a lot, research my steps and ask for second opinions. It was very interesting to read your posts on SEO releases and SMPRs, amazed when I saw how old they are 2006-2007!!! (erm…that's before I even decided to study PR). We clearly don't do SMPRS, and I don't believe I'll have any success in suggesting them, but there are other things that got me thinking, so I have a question. Do you believe your suggestions for changing the traditional press release (or simply writing honest good ones) apply to all types and sizes of companies? I generally agree with them and I am all for writing smart and respecting the audience, but I wonder if it is that easy or there is also a context and environment to consider. What I mean, in our small office we often write press releases for small companies, that are not always newsworthy and are usually picked up by specialised literature or small local newspapers. Even if I believe we have good writers, you sometimes just have to put a spin on it because that is what local newspaper want and will publish: cheesy stories (talk about insulting intelligence). Although they are out there for everyone, it's the kind of material general readers tend to find dull, unless there is something sensational about it.
    So what is it then, a case of old fashioned bad PR or knowing who you are dealing with?

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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