Social Media Releases – Everything You Ever Wanted to (or Should) Know

MBPro-illumination

The social media news release is rallying support. And more importantly, examples and discussions of usage are percolating throughout the blogsphere among PR practitioners and bloggers alike.

It’s no longer a matter of if, nor when, but now a matter of practice and evolution in order to determine success and failure.

As a recap, the Social Media Release has been pushed by many influencers, including Tom Foremski’s public outcry for the death of crappy press releases; Todd Defren who offered the first template and remains an authoritative champion; Chris Heuer who helped lead an effort to propose a standard for their construction and distribution; Stowe Boyd who reminds disingenuous, lazy or opportunistic PR people that they’re not invited to participate in Social Media (and rightfully so); Shel Holtz who hosted the original NMRcast, and continues to demonstrate the value of new releases; Shannon Whitley’s work to help PR “get it;” and the many others who continue to carry the flag forward.

I joined Heuer from the onset of the Working Group and have since spent most of my free time defending the reasons for their existence in blog posts and at conferences while also practicing what I preach.

Instead of being a spectator however (like many of the critics out there), I’ve been a player on the field helping to define the opportunities, landscape, best practices, and also, when to use restraint.

The social media release, aka SMR, aka social media press release, aka new media release, aka hrelease, is not a miracle pill to cure the ills of poorly written press releases. It is merely a tool that is most effective when combined with a strategic arsenal of relevant company blog posts, traditional releases, relationships, and an emerging category of press releases that tell a story (written by people for people using SEO to reach them).

What? There’s more than one way to tell a story?

YES! Why be so foolish to believe that one message matters to all who read it? Nowadays, different markets require information specifically tailored for them, and not one tool works across the spectrum.

Defining SMRs

Social media releases are designed to get the conversation going, providing readers with the ability to disseminate information and multimedia, bookmark and share the content, and in turn, spark threads. They also serve a purpose of providing new media influencers with the information they need, in one package, in order to write a full story, their way – without having to carve out the BS of a traditional release or pitch.

But just because it sounds cool, doesn’t mean PR should start folding new media releases into their day-to-day PR toolkit. And just because Social Media is a popular “buzz word” these days doesn’t mean that PR should even participate.

Why? Because we’re still battling the “used car sales” reputation that the industry has rightfully earned for itself by selling rather than talking, spinning rather than explaining, blasting instead of focusing, and most importantly, not understanding the venues, publications, blogs, sites, etc. or who they reach, before spamming them.

Social media is about respect, engagement, and transparency – critical traits that most PR is guilty of not practicing or embracing.

The only way to evaluate the potential for new media releases is to first participate in the communities you find interesting, and not as a PR person, but as a genuine enthusiast. This is the first step that will separate the PR people of today versus the communications professionals of tomorrow.

New media releases aren’t only written for journalists or bloggers. They can have the same impact with people they’re written to engage, appealing to an entirely new generation of influencers.

Clarifying Social Media Releases

While the SMR represents an exciting mechanism to socialize news, let’s recap what the Social Media Release is not…

It does not fix what’s wrong with most press releases nor is it designed to replace them

It’s not exclusively for journalists or bloggers

It was not created for PR to create new value for itself (that goes for social media in general)

Social Media Releases advertised by wire services are not true SMRs and neither are the multimedia releases they offer (although they do have value)

Even though a great template exists, SMRs can take many forms and include a variety of content plus social tools.

SMRs are not about BULLSHIT or SPIN or controlling the message.

New media releases represent the opportunity to share news in way that reaches people with the information that matters to them, in the ways that they use to digest and in turn share with others through text, links, images, video, bookmarks, tags, etc., while also giving them the ability interact with you directly or indirectly.

SMR Style Alternatives

While we’re familiar with the benefits of the existing template, there are other options for those looking to engage progressively without having to fully embrace an entirely new format – yet.

One option is to write a concise, compelling release as if it was the story you’d want to read in the press. You should also include new media elements, such as integrated resource links, video, images, etc. (and lite social elements such as del. icio .us and Digg ). This will enjoy greater success with journalists and readers in general and will most l
ikely cost no more than what you already d
o today in terms of official wire distribution. Plus, it will carry valuable SEO benefits.

Another option (or in addition to) releases is to create a dedicated blog-like platform for distributing information in a way that’s designed to reach journalists, bloggers, and customers. Blog platforms, by nature, are already socially-enabled, and feature integrated comments, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, trackbacks, tags, etc. It shouldn’t resemble a press release, nor a traditional blog, but it should provide what’s new in a conversational, informative and resourceful format – with disclosures of course.

This does require an entirely new approach, but unlike traditional releases, these new approaches can engage readers in a way never before possible. But first, you have to know what you’re talking about and why it matters to those you’re trying to reach.

I guarantee you this, by just thinking about what you want to say, what you should say, distilling it in a way that matters to the people who read it, and provide links, resources, and other forms of relevant media to help tell the story, you will have greater traction with reporters, bloggers, and customers, regardless of the tools you use.

Recent Discussions and Examples of SMRs in the Field

Shel Holtz’s new media agency, Crayon, recently led a social media campaign for Coca Cola’s Virtual Coke program. Todd Defren covered it here. You can see the press release below (click on the pictures to enlarge them).

Coca Cola Virtual Thirst Social Media News Release by Crayon

Coca Cola Virtual Thirst Social Media News Release by Crayon

Deep Jive Interests hosted a very relevant discussion on how SMRs and Social Media Newsrooms could have helped Adobe with its recent Flex announcement. Read it here.

Social Media, What’s Next?

Social Media doesn’t just impact press releases or conversations (blog comments, forums, Twitters, etc.) It is also enabling smart, social media aware people to embrace the world of video.

Active social networks such as YouTube, Veoh, GoFish, etc., provide a new broadcast channel that drives popularity and encourages sharing of clever and meaningful videos. Social media/video-savvy marketers can now also reach people in ways never before possible. It represents the VNR (video news release) Redux.

Stay tuned for my next post, “Social Media Killed the VNR Star.”

Relevant Social Media Release Discussions on PR2.0

How To an Write SMR Template (and what it looks like on the wire)

Social Media Killed the Press Release Star

How to Write a Social Media Press Release, Why, and What It All Means

How to Write a Social Media Press Release – Part II

Enough Already: Getting the Social Media Release All Wrong

Don’t Kill the Press Release, Shoot the Messenger

PR in the Long Tail

The Evolution of Social Media Press Release Distribution and Technorati Tags

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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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