The social media press release is a rather new concept, but worth the attention of even the most conservative PR experts and firms.
Although recently released – in May 2006 – the social media press release is successful. The first SMPR creator is SHIFT Communications, an independent PR company with offices in Boston and San Francisco, US. Todd Defren of SHIFT created the first SMPR layout as a reaction to Tom Foremski’s wave-making blog post “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!”. Don’t take the title ad litteram. What Tom means makes sense if you read the blog; specifically his comments on what a press release should contain and look like:
Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful.
Provide a brief description of what the announcement is, but leave the spin to the journalists. The journalists are going to go with their own spin on the story anyway, so why bother? Keep it straightforward rather than spintastic.
Provide a page of quotes from the CEO or other C-level execs.
Provide a page of quotes from customers, if applicable.
Provide a page of quotes from analysts, if applicable.
Provide financial information in many different formats.
Provide many links inside the press release copy, and also provide a whole page of relevant links to other news stories or reference sources.
And tag everything so that I can pre-assemble my stories.
So Tom’s ideas led to what PR history will later call the “new press release era”, the “virtual press release revolution” or simply (as some already do) the social media press release – hRelease. I believe these are all pretty relevant expressions that put in plain words the importance of the SMPR.
Social Press Releases – What Makes Them so Great?
Social press releases are particularly important for online marketers and all the online public relations experts and firms. The SMPR is not a trend. It’s a tool. It is not there to replace or kill the traditional press release it is there to improve upon it. It’s not an appendage to a traditional press release layout, but includes parts of the traditional press release formatted in a more comprehensible, simpler and ready to use manner. Why?
Despite the popular misconception, some bloggers do care and do publish comments in their blogs if and when they consider a press release newsworthy. For them, and the rest of the online media, it is really important that companies and public relations professionals send out press releases in an adjusted format.
Joe Beaulaurier of PRWeb On the Importance of SMPR
To give a deeper insight on the importance of the new social press release, I interviewed Joe Beaulaurier of PRWeb – the strongest press release distribution service on the Web!
And this is what he has to say:
PRWeb has been using social media elements with our release format long before the SHIFT template came out. When we first encountered the SHIFT template, we compared it to what we had been doing. We saw that nearly everything was covered by PRWeb’s current tools and features and in some cases we went beyond their template. We were pleased to say, “Wow, these guys get it.”
ML: Do you support other SMPR formats as well?
JB: Maybe I’m not paying as much attention as I should but I don’t think there are SMPR “formats” to speak of. A social media press release (SMPR) is made up of elements which enable easy repurposing by social media sites. The format in which this is done may vary by industry, purpose and intended audience. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to compile an SMPR. It has to be distributed or launched online properly. When launched properly, as is done at PRWeb, it really gets its legs. That still seems to be a challenge for others in our space.
ML: Does PRWeb consider blogs important PR channels? Why?
JB: Given the population’s increasing use of the Internet to search for relevant information and browse topics of interest, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Where else can you get unmitigated and immediate reaction to your news release message or announcement? In early 2006, PRWeb pioneered using Trackbacks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TrackBack) within press releases to enable PRWeb customers to monitor the reaction and even participate in the online conversations in the blogosphere that results from their releases.
ML: Rumors are that Google devaluates press releases. Is this true, and if so should that be one of the worries of online PR execs.?
JB:A poorly thought out press release and press release campaign can do more harm than good with regards to search engine ranking. This is often the result of “link spamming” and duplicate releases. Link spamming happens when placing too many links within the copy and is seen as a negative by search engines. Releasing similar or duplicate releases is also going to be treated negatively by search engines. Both of these problems are resolved by setting a goal of using fresh relevant newsworthy content when planning online press releases. Only use a link once every hundred words or so and don’t repeat yourself with press releases. This is another area where PRWeb has a responsibility to police releases and counsel our customers so they gain the most advantage from our service and not inadvertently produce content that will be negatively received on the Internet.
There are different PR tools online. Some are over-exploited (article submission directories, press release distribution services) while others are still (paradoxically for many professionals, but not for spammers) virgin territories. Such as podcasts, blogs, vblogs, RSS, tags, forums, social bookmarking, to mention just a few. The new SMPR offers content for all these channels, making the work of online journalists and bloggers much easier. And here is what Joe Beaulaurier has to say about spam, particularly about spam blogs:
Spam blogs (splogs) are already doing their thing as a result of RSS distribution which makes it easy for them to repurpose release content anonymously however they want. Tag spam is another area of concern but that can be policed. For instance, at PRWeb our editors review each press release and compare the content to the tags used to ensure relevance. We have a responsibility as the distribution point to ensure our clients get the most benefit from these tools and not place themselves in a negative position through misuse.
A Longer Conclusion
The virtual realities and publicizing possibilities go way beyond the traditional media patterns. Online a press release needs to be optimized for good search exposure, clearly structured and be able to offer information in a compact, unambiguous format. Often online press releases contain links to related content (videos, blogs, pdf documents, logos, etc) and those links have poorly formatted anchor texts or simply go unnoticed by the journalists and bloggers because of an improper placement within the content of the press release. In the new SMPR these links have a clear place and structure, as you can see in the new layout.
This new press release format simplifies the work of both PR experts and journalist. But, as a PR you should not expect this release to perform wonders. Unless the story is really newsworthy journalists and bloggers are not going to pay any attention to it. SMPRs are just a new format and do not represent a tool that enforces a story into the news. As per traditional press releases you should focus on what is really important; answer the basic journalist questions, and supplement the story with ready-to-use declarations from the CEOs and other business representatives, relevant documents and other data. This is what the new SMPR puts in your hands, a tool that enables the journalist to get to the heart of the story, fast.
In conclusion the way we do public relations is changing. If we don’t adapt to these changes we are going to waste important publicizing channels. Not taking advantage of the modern PR tools means spending more on classic tools that are not always adequate for the needs of our clients and the realities of modern communication.