While the idea of two way communication terrifies some old-school PR execs, the revolution of social media has others salivating at the idea of engaging bloggers, consumers and press in a genuine conversation about company news. With many bloggers now exceeding some mainstream media outlets in terms of audience reach and influence, public relations flaks are scrambling to learn how to play by the "new rules" to ensure good coverage for their clients. Enter the social media news release.
The Social Media News Release is designed to encourage a shift from traditional press releases to a more customized information delivery approach in the online environment. The idea is for industry professionals to develop a new format for the online press release. One that does a better job of speaking to media, bloggers and consumers by offering up information in a variety of formats. The social media news release would move beyond the standard text pitch to include embedded audio, video and graphics along with a relevant news bites, quotes and other information. The pitches would allow for blog style comments to be attached to them so readers could engage the company in conversation about announcements.
As a blogger that receives pitches on a daily basis at multiple sites, I can't tell you how much I would welcome a change to this new format. While a consensus on exactly what makes up a social media news release has not yet been reached, (and may never be) UK firm webitpr has embraced the template offered up by SHIFT Communications last year and has launched a variation as part of a new social media news release service.
Here's the promo video from webitpr for their new "Real Wire" offering:
Here's an image of the template put together by SHIFT Communications:
Notice how different it is from the standard style, content heavy "story" used for traditional press releases. The new social media news release (SMNR) aims to avoid telling a pre-packaged story in favor of delivering relevant content in a variety of formats so journalists and bloggers can put together their own coverage with the content that best fits their delivery mode.
webitpr's Stephen Davies talks about the launch at PRBlogger.
We've been working hard over here at webitpr towers. So much so that we're the first UK (possibly European) company and first wire service to launch a version of the Social Media News Release. And what a good version it is too if I don't mind saying so myself. First off, kudos to the original SMNR template developed by Todd Defren at SHIFT Communications which he/they kindly released out into the ether (better known as the blogosphere) just over a year ago with no copyright notice at all. Todd's just referenced us in his most recent blog post.
Each SMNR we distribute will credit the SHIFT template btw.
We've tried to adhere to all of it's original specifications and during this current beta phase we've received feedback from the man himself along with Brian Solis who knows more than most on social media and the concept of the SMNR.
Stephen's post also includes a link to a SMNR they sent out on the service launch to demonstrate the new features:
This particular SMNR is purely to demonstrate all of the features we've incorporated. Guess who the topic of the story involves? That's right. Me. So for the time being forget about the content (and try to ignore my ugly mug) and concentrate on the features - there's everything in there that's specified in the original template and more. We have:
- Core facts
- Contact details
- Video (with the option to use social networking video a la YouTube)
- RSS feeds
- Comments (which can be turned on or off)
- Social bookmarking
- Blog reactions (from Technorati)
- Related links
- Related coverage
In looking at the SMNR template from SHIFT Communications and the resulting SMNR release from webitpr, I'm struck by the value of several parts of the release.
First, I'm a huge fan of the new layout. Traditional press release often include several paragraphs of facts, quotes and content delivered article style. This means the person on the receiving end has to read the entire release and pull out the relevant data. Online copywriters have long touted the need for "scannable content" that allows readers to focus in on exactly what's relevant to them. Why PR flaks didn't pick up on the need for a format shift sooner is beyond me.
This new layout allows me to quickly scan a talking points style list of facts and data or jump straight to the quote section if I simply need to pull one of those out for a post or article.
Including images with a press release is nothing new, but throwing YouTube hosted videos and mp3 files is almost unheard of. This new addition will go a long way toward helping companies receive more (and better) coverage than a standard text based press release. Podcasters (or traditional radio news) will easily be able to pull sound clips into their productions without taking the time to track down and interview the relevant person. Bloggers will be able to pull video into their post to provide even more information to their readers, just as I have with this post.
It's obvious that not all types of media need to be included with every release and not every outlet covering the story will use all of the included multimedia. Nonetheless, the inclusion of a content in a variety of formats will help make inroads with bloggers and reporters that prefer to gather (and deliver) their information via more than one medium.
Relevant Coverage Links
As a blogger, one of the first things I do before writing a story is to head over to Technorati or Google News to see what other writers are covering the issue and what angle they are using in their coverage. By including the "relevant coverage" feed from Technorati, the SMNR allows a writer to quickly scan existing coverage without the release team making constant updates to the SMNR.
Tags, RSS feed links, quick access to social bookmarking sites and related links all combine to add even more relevant data to bloggers and reporters.
My like of the SMNR goes beyond the simple convenience of the multi-media content approach. Companies that take the time to put together this style of press release demonstrate to writers and bloggers that they understand the need to deliver relevant data. In other words, it shows a willingness to work WITH writers to build good content instead of simply talking AT them in the hopes of getting coverage.
Sending out a press release takes mere moments these days and most of the press releases I receive reflect that type of time investment. The new SMNR will obviously require more of a time investment on the part of the PR team building the pitch, but I have a hunch the payoff will be well worth the investment.
What's it Cost?
The SMNR "blogit" release from webitpr isn't cheap. It will run companies around $1000US. That's enough to send most small businesses running for the hills.
That said, SHIFT Communication's social media news release template has been graciously handed over to the public. That means it wouldn't be difficult for even small businesses to set up a page on their web site that hosts the appropriate files and to send out a SMNR via email that references those files. This will take more time than sending via an existing release service, but until SMNR release services become more affordable, it's the best bet for small business.
(Hat tip to Marshall Sponder.)
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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