If you’re not a regular reader of the PR blogs, there’s a good chance you missed the birth of the Social Media Release (SMR). I was too busy, and maybe too self-absorbed, to chime in when the news was breaking. But since we’ll all be talking about it next year, I figured we could use a primer. And yes, this will be on the test.
Talk of this new type of news release arose last February with Tom Foremski’s now infamous post, “Die, Press Release, Die Die, Die!” Tom (who used this artwork in his post) insisted that the old release format just doesn’t work in a wired world. He offered some suggestions for a new approach, and a few PR pioneers took it from there.
Tom was harsh in his criticism of press releases, and I think we had it coming:
Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on…
Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists.
This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.
Todd Defren, PR blogger and principal with Shift Communications, was the first to propose a model SMR (seen below). You can download his pdf at the Shift website. Todd’s effort was followed by the much-ballyhooed “Story Crafter” template from Edelman, and news of it came to us via SMR.
What’s different about the social media release?
- SMRs cede more control to your audience. Users pick and choose the facts that matter to them, shaping the story to fit the needs of their audiences. It makes the art of lead writing less important, but it forces us to focus on the newsworthy messages and deliver them in different ways. The bulleted-text format of the SMR gives users a buffet of goodies versus the prepackaged meal of old.
- MSRs offer a range of storytelling tools. You can integrate digital audio, video, photography, infographics and more. You can embed links that take users to more and richer information. You also can insert tags and RSS feed options. In short, it’s all about choice — theirs, not ours. How Web 2.0 can you get?
- SMPRs engage everyone, not just the media. PR pros have known for a long while that online press rooms aren’t just for the press. But too often, those press room don’t reflect this new and broader audience. They’re just, well, news. With audio, video and visual components, SMRs can better serve the non-journalist readers and maybe expand on their numbers.
Aside: As one who spends a fair amount of time in online news rooms, I’m surprised at how few of them bother to edit releases to suit online reading preferences. I’m also puzzled by how few use embedded links. Do we fear that readers will click away from our message and never return? Or are we just lazy? If we hope to connect with online readers, and SMR is a step toward that, we need a more open model.
Expect the SMR to make the oldline flacks a bit nervous. Why, I’m not sure. If anything, the SMR promises to enhance our relationships with media, online and otherwise, by offering more and better tools for storytelling. Some are sure to worry about control of the message — control we never had in the first place.
The new SMR has drawn plenty of critics, some concerned that spin doctors and shils will use the tool to innundate social media with their drivel. I’m worried about that, too. Folks in our business are prone to excess.
That’s enough about the SMR for today. If those initial links or Defren’s model pique your interest, here’s more:
Burghardt Tenderich looks forward to the death of the press release.
Lee Odden sees SMR as a great fit for marketers.
Todd Andrik says that SMR’s added elements will enhance coverage.
Bob Geller suggests a lot more than a new-format news release.
Steve Rubel demos StoryCrafter in a short video.
Robert French puts the new PRX Builder plug-in (for SMRs) for a test.
To follow or join the discussion of SMR development: