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What Ever Happened to the Social Media Press Release?

A couple of years ago, the social media press release was all the rage. No longer would companies send tree-killing press kits to reporter, or issue boring press releases with canned quotes from senior executives that no one ever used.

Instead, the social media press release would revolutionize everything by providing reporters and bloggers with an engaging, interactive and user-friendly to get information, audio clips, photos and videos – everything that a time-strapped reporter or blogger needed to do their jobs, while giving companies a way to really tell their stories.

As important, it was also seen as a way for PR firms to charge clients premium fees because, after all, there’s a lot more work to prepare a social media press release compared with a 400-word text-only press release.

For whatever reason, the social media press release has little traction. Sure, they are still around but it’s not like companies are demanding they be created. Most of my clients don’t ask for them, and I don’t tell because the effort required to create one doesn’t seem worth it given most reporters and bloggers don’t bother reading press releases – regardless of whether they’re a social media or “old” version.

In fact, I would argue that relationships and pitches are far more important than social media press releases, and, as a result, this is what PR practitioners and companies should focus on. When you’re reaching out to a reporter or blogger, it’s the two or three introductory paragraphs in an e-mail that play a crucial role in whether they will be intrigued or hit the delete button. If you can capture their attention, they might read the press release to get some more information but in most cases, a reporter or blogger will call or e-mail you to get more information or set up an interview.

In theory, I love the idea of the social media press release but in practice it hasn’t been a home run.

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  • http://Www.davejones.ca David Jones

    Expensive to do, limited value. I like the idea of a social media newsroom better. The Ontario government has one and we’ve built a few for clients. Much more cost effective and useful in the long run.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike

      David, you hit *around* a very important point, without hitting it squarely.

      The Social Media Release is an optimized bullet. One use, one target, hit or miss.

      The Social Media Newsroom is the barrel that you use to attract the fish for later shooting. (and since they are the fish that want to be there, they don’t really mind.)

      It doesn’t take a great deal more effort to make the Newsroom, and after a little while the audience you build keeps coming to you for more, where the Release has already expired its utility.

    • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

      Social Media Press Release is basically a one-page microsite with the press release in short, easily digestible format (which it should be anyway), and links to associated supplementary content.

      Why is it so expensive? It seems like it should just be a part of how corporate websites are built anyway.

  • http://www.gatewaybizdev.com ElizabethL

    We still write press releases for our clients but in addition to sending them to the papers we also publish them onto online press release sites. I think there’s still a need for the press release, companies cannot lose their professionalism.

  • http://deepjiveinterests.com Tony Hung

    Perhaps what you’re saying is that creating an interest and developing a relationship with is more important than any existing mutlimedia structure that will allow a self-serve philosophy.

  • http://www.carakeithley.com Cara Keithley

    Having photos, video, and audio clips on your website for the press to grab seems to be a much more efficient way to do this. Originally, we thought we had to ship everything in a pretty little package. Now, we’re starting to realize we can just include a link to a website containing the content and this works just as well if not better.

    I focus on the relationships first…having extra content to offer reporters is just a bonus and has definitely offered us essentially free ads. Several reporters have grabbed our videos and pictures for use with their stories.

  • http://blog.holtz.com Shel Holtz

    The reason the social media news release hasn’t gained traction isn’t that clients aren’t interested in it — it’s that they’ve never heard of it. When I meet with clients — and when I give presentations to communicators — the social media release remains a revelation to them.

    Awareness of the concept remains confined to a small circle of social media advocates. The evidence suggests they work when they’re implemented — a couple of studies have looked at the social media release from different angles. One showed that the social media release produced better coverage than a traditional release.

    But if clients and communicators don’t know what a social media release is, you won’t see much implementation. Either the working group behind the social media release needs to implement an awareness campaign or growth will remain incremental and organic.

    • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

      Shel,

      I’m surprised that awareness is still an issue given how long the social media press release has been around. Personally, I’ve found that many clients are using micro-sites or creating Web pages that include a press release, high-res photos and graphics and video instead of using a social media press release.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Mark

  • http://www.businesswire.com Monika Maeckle

    Thank you, Mark, for pointing out what has been obvious to those of us in the press release biz for years. The press release continues to evolve and many of the ideas suggested at the time of its ‘debut” were already being incorporated by press release services at that time, Business Wire included. We continue to promote best practices through outreach and educational webinars. Hyperlinks, robust formatting, multimedia, keywords in headlines–all are part of the best practice. Just as movies evolved from silent movies to talkies to color motion pictures and now to HD, press releases don’t stand still. And in the end, it’s still about good content, well written/presented, appropriately distributed.

  • http://www.theprdoc.com Jim Bowman

    Adding to what Shel said, the low level of client awareness doesn’t surprise me. Many big agencies still don’t consider SEO copywriting a core skill and have few people on hand who know how to produce optimized releases, so it’s no wonder they don’t recommend them.

    An exec at one leading firm said, in essence, “when clients start asking for it, then we’ll do something about it.” Specialty firms and consultants have a much better grasp of the situation.

  • http://pitchengine.com Jason Kintzler

    disclosure: I’m the founder of PitchEngine.com

    Hi Mark,
    I was actually quite surprised by your post. We’ve been enabling companies to create multimedia rich, social media releases for a little over a year now. To date, 50,000 SMRs have been published using our platform. On average, 300 releases are published per day as compared to about 700-900 a day by the wire services.

    It’s just a matter of time before the traditional methods are outdone by the next-generation of communicators. Don’t confuse the pitch with the press release. A good pitch and good content are still trumped by a good relationship. The SMR only helps makes the info and asset exchange much easier for everyone involved.

    Thanks for bringing up the history of the SMR. I suggest giving PitchEngine a try! :)
    Best,
    Jason Kintzler
    Founder at PitchEngine
    @jasonkintzler

    • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

      Jason,

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve actually used PitchEngine in the past – it’s the only social media press release service that I know, which suggests you’ve done a great job of getting the word out. The question is whether PitchEngine is an anomaly, and one of the only games in town. If so, that would say a lot of about the overall market.

      Mark

  • PRJack

    Ultimately if the goal of the ‘release’ – in whatever form it takes – is to garner interest and coverage the most critical thing will always be the relationship. Through that comes the knowledge of what any given writer/journalist gives a ‘poop’ about. So no matter how ‘fancy’ a SMR may be, it, like all other efforts, is limited not by what it provides, but by the relationship built between ‘sender’ and ‘target’.

    But here’s another ‘wrinkle’ to all of this. The idea of an SMR is not new, only the name is. Clients and agencies have been doing what equates to the same thing for years. Quite simply, a well built ‘virtual’ or ‘online press room’ acts in the same way in that information (release, background, etc) and images/videos were made available to those who wanted to access it. And better still, a full release didn’t need to be sent out to those who didn’t want all the clutter, only a two line note saying new info had been posted along with a very quick summation of what was being announced could be sent out.

    I think the real reason that neither the former nor the latter really became ingrained as PR tools is quite simply that in both cases the PR folks had to abdicate a certain amount of control. If the media were getting all the info they needed then the PRs wouldn’t be able to follow up – and in what continues to be the main means of measurement, they didn’t know where the coverage would appear. Following up with a journo to provide additional info and to ‘build’ a story is also part of the relationship build.

  • http://www.marketwireblog.com Nick Shin

    Disclosure: I am the SEM and Social Media Specialist @Marketwire (news distribution company).

    Hi Mark,
    I want to commend you for a well written, highly thought provoking post on the social media release and its relevancy. The post was great, but the comments are just as good.

    You nailed it on the head by stating, “I would argue that relationships and pitches are far more important than social media press releases.” There’s nothing to argue here except that it’s fact. Without relationships, you become irrelevant.

    There were a few replies to which I wanted to comment:
    From Ike – “The Social Media Release is an optimized bullet. One use, one target, hit or miss.” – I couldn’t disagree more. The point of a social media release is so that the release can be actively shared and for the release to live on social networking sites as well as search engines. It’s a viable method of distributing news and companies have used it very effectively. A great example is Cisco’s social media release (Marketwire client) that got picked up by Mashable and countless other media outlets.

    Cisco social media release (via Marketwire distribution) – http://bit.ly/9ZUXYl
    Mashable picked up Cisco’s social media release (via Marketwire distribution) – http://bit.ly/bThqOz

    From Jeremy – “Social Media Press Release is basically a one-page microsite with the press release in short, easily digestible format (which it should be anyway)” – This is well said. I would actually change this to a broader statement in that many consider a well-optimized “news/press release” to be a one-page microsite itself.

    From Jim Bowman – “Many big agencies still don’t consider SEO copywriting a core skill and have few people on hand who know how to produce optimized releases…” – Can truer words be said? Many people who write news/press releases still need help with SEO copywriting or they simply do not understand how important an optimized release is.

    It boils down to relationships, relevant content, easily digestible information, and reaching your targeted audience.

    That came out to be way too long…but that’s how passionate I/Marketwire is about the SMR!

    Nick (@shinng)
    @marketwire – http://www.twitter.com/marketwire
    http://www.marketwire.com

  • http://steveseager.typepad.com/ Steve

    I’m with Jason on this one. Plus, something no-one has mentioned yet; when an SMR is part of a keyword based strategy it’s great for organic SEO! ;)

  • http://www.pr-squared.com Todd Defren

    I agree with everyone else’s comments.

    No – that is not me being snarky nor dodging the question.

    There is plenty of “good” things to say about the SMR concept — and plenty of “not-there-yet” and even plenty of “better ideas,” such as the Social Media Newsroom (which I also talked about early on, and admitted that it was a more impt concept than the SMR, i.e. I put the cart before the horse: http://www.pr-squared.com/2007/02/the_social_media_newsroom_temp.html).

    Honestly I don’t care one bit about the SMR because the concept is on the right side of history. Won’t matter what you call it, or whether I get any credit. “News” is becoming increasingly shareable, dialogue-worthy and remixable — that was always the end goal for the SMR concept, and there’s no arguing with the trajectory.

  • http://www.peoplemakinggood.com Nicole Ravlin

    Interesting post, Mark.

    I think that many PR people are trying to figure out how best to distribute the SMR, and then how to “sell” their client on it. Before they emailed, faxed or physically delivered (in some form) the release. Understanding how to get an SMR in the right media outlet’s hands is sometimes a challenge, though once practiced, I think more publicists will find that it is more efficient. In addition, the ability to use rich media may be highly underrated.

    We have had great success using the SMR to support our pitch efforts at PMG.

  • http://www.pressitt.com Andy Merchant

    Hi Mark,

    I’m not sure if you have heard of Pressitt which is a free UK-based social media news release creation and publishing site. We have just put together a white paper entitled: ‘Has the Social Media News Release (SMNR) finally come of age?’ with some interesting findings. http://pressitt.com/blog/site-development/has-the-social-media-news-release-come-of-age/

    The feedback that we have received to date is that SMNR awareness is still lower than we would like it to be, but when we put the concept in front of a blogger or journalist it is well received due to the release’s digestible, asset assisted format and the useful starting point that it provides for further research.

  • http://blog.newswire.ca Amanda Laird

    Hi Mark,

    As you know, I’m with CNW’s (Canada Newswire) communications team. Interesting post, and interesting conversation in the comments.

    As it turns out, CNW’s Social Media Release (which we have offered since August 2008) is one of our fastest growing products. It hasn’t, nor was it intended to, replaced traditional news releases. Like social media, SMR’s and its purpose have evolved over time. Our clients use SMRs as part of an overall communications plan.

    I wrote a series of blog posts on this just a couple of weeks ago: http://blog.newswire.ca/wordpress-mu/2010/03/17/are-social-media-releases-worth-it/ and http://blog.newswire.ca/wordpress-mu/2010/03/23/are-social-media-releases-worth-it-part-ii/.

    While comments and easy sharing make it “social,” what has proven to be the most valuable part of this tool is its ability to house multimedia assets. From my blog post:

    “The media are desperate for it, bloggers insist upon it and communicators are being pressured to create more of it. As the newswire evolves, we’ll find new ways to share your multimedia assets with your online audience. But for now, the SMR is an excellent addition to the communicator’s toolkit.”

    Cheers,

    Amanda

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  • http://www.ioninteractive.com Kristina

    I think it really is a shame that more people don’t use it, because I love it. PitchEngine is such a fantastic solution; they way they lay out the social media release makes it so easy for bloggers to grab just want they want/need without having to sort through a couple paragraphs of text in an e-mail.

  • http://www.123people.nl/blog Remco Janssen

    Disclosure: I’m the PR-strategist for 123people in the Netherlands.

    In the Netherlands the social media release has been in a – well – mediocre – hype kind of state sicnce summer 2009. I as a ‘serial’ blogger love the way it enables me to rapidly right a insightful post on the topic at hand, though.

    What I have witnessed though is that a lot of PR-agency use the SMR as the holy grail. Which it is not. It is merely a tool to help bloggers and web editors (Dutch ‘offline’ journalists don’t understand the concept at all) in a sociable manner to write valuable content. It gives us, the PR-pro, the opportunity to interact with the blogosphere. Personal pitching is key.

    As I have learnt with the introduction of 123people in the Netherlands, was that Pressdoc has a very easy to use tool. It probably looks a bit like PitchEngine. In Belgium they have a tool called Prezly, made by BoonDoggle. The releases worked well with the key influencers in the Dutch blogoscene, creating great backlinks and benefiting our SEO. And, of course, people started talking about us. Some bloggers even blogged about us without me having to pitch them! (That usely happens in the NL only when you screw up…)

    I did a small internal in powerpoint to convince my collegues to use it too.

    The costs for PressDoc, btw, are only ten dollars a piece. Not worth hiring an agency that charges hundreds of dollars for a wordpress-template…

    Ciao, Remco

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  • http://www.prunderground.com Alex Miranda

    Disclosure: I am the man behind PRUnderground.

    I will make this short and simple. We all have our opinions about which is better and what works best. I think it depends on your needs. I run http://www.prunderground.com. we are a social media news release distributor. Unlike Pitch Engine, which to me is outstanding, we take a different approach. I will give you an example. Let’s say you came to us and submitted a press release – Like all other SMNR’s we include videos, photos, social bookmarks…etc..Here is where we take it to a different level. So you submit the release and there is no video, picture, Twitter, Facebook, RSS or YouTube account listed on the press release, We research every single press release for these missing components and add them to your release. Then we take it even further. We analyze your website and give you recommendations as to what you could do to drive more traffic to your website. We go beyond the press release. If you use wordpress, we will recommend needed plug-ins. If your missing title tags or even a site map we will show you how to implement it. We even go as far as doing it for you…All for $29.95 the cost of the press release. So you ask…Well then why are you under the radar/ the answer is simple..The clients we have are very happy with our personalized service and I don’t care what company you are…If you grow too big…the service is not the same. This also debunks the myth that all social media news releases are expensive..or the other I have heard…You all use the same template….We don’t…Check us out read our reviews and testimonials and you will see there are those that are different and go above and beyond to get the word out for their clients.
    You can also read this blog post which has links to testimonials and reviews http://bit.ly/cu88PX

    Alex Miranda
    PRUnderground.com

  • http://www.ingagenetworks.com/mediaroom Kathy Saenz

    As a former journalist myself, I totally agree with this article and many of the comments. I work for a technology company and we use a media room, including news articles, press releases, videos, and newsletters to promote our stories. Provides an easy link to interact and help a reporter learn more about our company:http://www.ingagenetworks.com/mediaroom.

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  • http://www.pressreleasereviews.com/ Best press release s

    Social media along with press releases strategies are quantifiable to a great extent when compared to other marketing strategies which cannot deliver exact results or offer no parameters of their success.

  • http://www.wictekbroadband.com Jesse Collins

    I think all forms of press release distribution can help a company. As a business owner, I was unaware of the social media press release companies out in cyber world. Social networking is huge so i don’t see why a company would not submit to a social press release service.