I’ve been intrigued by the social media news release since Todd Defren posted his first template in 2006. SMRs are versatile tools, especially for reaching consumer audiences. They incorporate audio, video and still photo components along with story information. And they allow for comments and bookmarking, making them truly interactive.
But there’s a downside to SMRs. Those audio, video and photo components — done professionally — don’t come cheap. And with budget cutting all the rage these days, who can afford such a labor-intensive news vehicle? There’s also the question of “How much is too much?” when it comes to communicating a story.
But what if you already have the audio and video in your archives? And what if you have really sharp interns already researching the story for an internal campaign?
That’s how Kent State seniors Justin Metz and Amanda Hayes came to post their first professional SMR earlier this semester. Interns for Goodyear Global Communications, Justin and Amanda were assigned to an internal communication project called “Celebrating 111 Years of Innovation.” It was a campaign to boost employee pride in a company that, along with the auto industry, has seen tough times of late.
“The story has zero news value on its own,” Justin said. “Without the old photos and videos from the archive, no one would have cared.” And what an archive. Stored in the vaults at Goodyear are old TV commercials, training films, and all sorts of photos and artifacts, some dating back a century or more. A veritable mother lode of content, but not a great story hook. I mean, who celebrates a 111th birthday?
Justin had learned his way around the PitchEngine SMR platform last summer in my Media Relations & Publicity class. He tutored, Amanda, who needed about 45 minutes to get up to speed.
“We rolled out the internal project in August,” Amanda said. “But we didn’t have much hope for traditional news coverage because we produced so much information,” Amanda said. “But we found so many cool photos, videos and information, and we wanted to share that part of Goodyear’s history in an interactive way.”
The pair produced a traditional news release (featuring just 11 of the 111 innovations), but it was hardly a man-bites-dog story. But maybe the greatest accomplishment by these interns was selling the idea to Goodyear’s PR brass.
“The company had never produced an interactive release,” Amanda said, “Our supervisors told us they’d rather us try it with a soft news story than a major event. The 111 Innovations story was perfect because it could be accompanied by lots of photos, videos and links.”
While the SMR added one more experience to Goodyear’s growing social-media activities, the metrics are soft to nonexistant. The release earned 2,000+ visits in its first week, but a server problem triggered a reset the counter, so a good bit of the data were lost.
So did the SMR increase tire sales? “Probably not,” Justin said. “But it did remind a lot of people that Goodyear has a rich history, and any company that’s been around for 111 years must be doing something right.” And that was an extension of what Goodyear was trying to achieve internally. In the end, all were happy campers.
Like so many tools in social media, the SMR offers real promise in reaching and engaging wider audiences, and in using a news tool to extend beyond news media. PR professionals know how to do this whereas the marketing types often do not.
While I’m proud of our students’ performance on the project, part of the lesson well all must learn is the need for more precise measures in our communication tools. And we’ll have to do that work if we hope to turn the SMR into a mainstream tool for PR. But here in my corner of higher education, we’re having a great time with the experiment. We learn from what works, and we learn from what doesn’t.
But you know, as an old tire and automotive PR guy who launched his career in Akron, then Detroit, the SMR is like a walk down memory lane.
Special thanks to Jason Kintzler for allowing out classes to use PitchEngine. The system is easy to use and easy on PR budgets. A simple 30-day SMR posting is free.