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
  • Quotes
  • Contact details
  • Images
  • Audio
  • 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.

The Layout

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.

Mixed Media

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.

Everything Else

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.

September 4, 2007

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.


The social media press release format is completely foreign to most journalists. It's a useful way to SEO and socialize press release content, but is by no means replacing traditional press release formats or methods of wire service distribution.

No arguments here Lee...I imagine we have a long way to go before mainstream journalists are accepting of anything outside the standard boilerplate.

I DO, however, think this idea is long overdue in terms of blog pitches. We've long lamented the fact that PR flaks try to "pitch" bloggers the same way they pitch traditional media. It doesn't work. Bloggers aren't trained journalists, they're people...looking for ideas to write about.

I would wager that companies that use this format for a blog-media push would see better results than those that try to utilize traditional press releases.

Mainstream media? Yeah, that's probably still a long ways off...

I think it's a great idea, I too have a site for any news youd liketo get out to the blogging community, And I'm allways looking for blogs to feature. http://blogcarnivals.blogspot.com

Hi Jennifer

Thanks for the links. You have pretty much summed up our position on the use of the SMNR so I won’t repeat your points. Suffice it to say that as a growing press release distribution company we haven’t invested the time and money building this platform because we think it will replace the traditional press release. We expect our core distribution service for traditional press releases to represent the vast majority of releases we send for the foreseeable future. We have done it because we want to give people a choice - where they are looking to engage with people like you who would like to receive content in this form they can. We also included the references in the video to Foremski’s post and Defren’s template so viewers would understand the background to the concept and help educate people and as you point out thanks to Todd’s generosity there is nothing stopping anyone doing this themselves if they can’t afford to use a service like ours.

On the price point I agree the service is quite expensive in $ terms and the current 2:1 exchange rate really doesn’t help. The standard pricing does actually start at the equivalent of $700, not $1000 though. In addition we do offer discounts to regular users of our services which can result in charges nearer the $400-$500 mark for the blogit5 service. It is also worth bearing in mind that unlike all other distribution companies that we know of we also proactively monitor all coverage of releases that we send (SMNR or traditional) across all online media for a period of time after the release is sent (5 days in the case of our blogit5 for instance) in addition to the Technorati feed. This is included in the cost. It is also distributed on your behalf to newswire sites, Google news and unlimited targeted trade and news online publications and our average coverage achieved per release we send (of all types) is around 35. Finally as more users hopefully adopt the service over the coming months the economies of scale will allow us to reduce these prices.

I’m sorry if this sounds like an advert, but I just wanted you to be aware of the service’s comprehensive nature and that we aren’t trying to price it out of everyone’s reach. If you want to read an independent “review” check out this post by Paull Young at Converseon - http://pages.citebite.com/g2i1k1x1j5aci.

Thanks again for the mention.


Jennifer, I really liked this article...and you bring up good points.

Remember at the end of the day, this is about relationships and the rest are just using the right tools for the job.

A social media press release isn't intended to replace a traditional release nor is it really designed to be specific to any group of journalists or bloggers per se. It's designed for "people" and to not only deliver media, facts and information, but to also facilitate conversations.

In my experiments, I've created SMRs that resemble blog posts rather than the bullets used in the Shift Template. I've had more link backs and "cut and pastes" which seem to have generated a lot more visibility and memes.

Now, mainstream media and new media can still benefit from a well-written traditional release. That's where it all starts. The use of media isn't new...All reporters and bloggers want is information and content, not hyperbole.

The difference now is that the SMR offers the ability to also be an aggregator of your own information to a wider array of influencers and decision makers.

There are some other things that you should also review...for example, SMRs don't cross the wire intact, nor do they socialize the content very well.

Take a look at these recent posts. They'll provide an in-depth background to help people learn where to start and how to jump in (the right way):


I agree with Lee Odden. When was the last time you saw a social media press release -- or any press release, for that matter -- getting a lot of Diggs? What may be more significant than the format of a press release is the fact that bloggers have become as influential journalists. And it is more important to engage bloggers as well as journalists in conversations, rather than add tags to a press release, or format it in new ways.


I don't use Digg much, so I'm not the best person to ask...but I never really thought the goal of a press release (or SMNR for that matter) was to get it on Digg.

The resulting coverage of the press release...sure, but the release itself?

I also never really looked at Digg as my "goal" when it came to social media campaigns. Sure, it's a component for some campaigns, but for the greatest majority of work I've done, it's simply not a targeted audience, so why worry about it?

The point I'm trying to make is not that sending the same old boring press release in a new format is the key to the future.

It's that companies that embrace the new approach of sharing data that has come with social media and then work to integrate those approaches into their pitches, will stand a far better chance of getting positive coverage from bloggers than those who rely on the same old tired pitches.

I guess I just don't understand the resistance? Why is it a bad thing for companies to work to offer up relevant data in more formats that are more easily digestible in conjunction with personalized pitches that launch conversation?

Hi Jennifer -
Sorry to jump in so incredibly late (usually I back off as soon as Brian Solis jumps in, since he's such an impassioned and articulate advocate).

Your article is great (and flattering, thanks!), and I'd be happy to chat with you if you ever have the time to do so live. Your post and the ensuing comments raise good questions that I'd be happy to help answer via a phone call, if you are interested. Just email me at tdefren@shiftcomm.com.

Thanks again!

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