Saturday, January 27, 2007

social media press release: moot

We hosted the Social Media Club DC in our offices this week and yours truly facilitated the conversation, which ranged from, "What is social media?" to "What do you tell your clients to do?" to a geek fest of "Have you tried this cool tool?"

We never got around to talking about the Social Media Press Release, but because I thought we would, I managed to come up with a viewpoint about it, whereas before I had not bothered (you'll see why soon enough).

Here's my viewpoint:

It's not social media.


Because a Social Media Press Release still adheres to the antiquated notion that public relations means appealing to the public via mainstream media or to those in the "short tail". With a Social Press Release, you may be using tools that facilitate social media (video links, podcasts, blog posts), but you're not facilitating social media, you're pitching the press. Sending a press release (social or not) to a blogger is a total no-no so, as far as I'm concerned, the conversation is moot and I'm moving on.

So there.

Tell me if I'm missing something.

Chris Anderson wrote about the Social Media Press Release earlier this week.


kristen said...

The social media press release is just a p.r. stunt by a p.r. firm, IMHO. But it seems to have worked, because everyone's always talking about it!

abf said...

I don't think it's a PR stunt. If anything, it might be just a way to find something new to monetize or to a way to appear innovative. I'm actually concerned that it's desperation. But, really, I'm being honest when I ask, "am I missing something?"

Brian Solis said...

Hey everyone, this coversation is so much bigger than box you're trying to stuff it in.

The fact is that most PR people aren't ready for social media or the idea of the hrelease, but those who are will realize that it's more micro than macro.

"Sending a press release (social or not) to a blogger is a total no-no so, as far as I'm concerned, the conversation is moot and I'm moving on."

Sending press releases without thinking about who they're going to and applying that information to groups of people is a no no. The idea of create a new distribution format for bloggers or any content producers placing information in the hands of those who can in turn, use the social elements to share information with their peers, readers, etc.

"The social media press release is just a p.r. stunt by a p.r. firm, IMHO."

Nope, it's a reaction to Tom Foremski, former FT reporter and now blogger at Silion Valley Watcher, to create a better tool for him to find the information he needs in a "new media" format, since blogs live off of new media content. In fact, his original post was called, "Die Press Release, DIE DIE DIE." Since then, there have been scores of bloggers and reporters who have asked for the overhaul of the release.

"If anything, it might be just a way to find something new to monetize or to a way to appear innovative. I'm actually concerned that it's desperation."

There's no joking that press releases have extremely thin credibility with a lot of influential press. There is also no doubt that press releases have also found new life in search engines, reaching consumers directly. 51% of IT professionals report getting their news from releases in Yahoo and Google OVER traditional tech publications.

The idea behind an SMR is that you deconstruct the format, strip away the BS, hyperbole, and fake quotes, and build it back into a structure (hrelease) which can then be broadcast through RSS allowing traditional reporters, bloggers and even consumers to subscribe and pull only the information they need, the way they want it - without paying $1,000 for a wire service that yields very little, except for SEO - public companies not included.

So, it's more about technology and distribution and new media formats as opposed to trends and stunts. In general, it's getting so much publicity because it also calls for PR to stop acting like PR.

You can't be part of the conversation simply by writing releases, blasting them to targets, and placing them on wires. Nor can you say you're part of the social media revolution, simply because you blog or read blogs. It's much deeper than that...and it's there for everyone so that we all learn, practice, and grow together.

I've experimented with several, and so far they've not only been received with accolades, they've sparked trackable threads of conversations (through embedded tags). They do not replace traditional releases however...well written releases will always have a place. Just as long as they inform and not persuade the reader.

kristen said...

Well... you still have to do some sort of broadcast or blast to let people know the press release exists, right? This is the part of the process that seems unchanged to me. Optimizing it with RSS feeds and Technorati tags may not get it discovered by the right people -- unless your feeds are already being aggregated by the right people.

So I'm still trying to figure out how this brand-new-template is anything other than a facelift.

Brian Solis said...

Hey Kristen, it's more micro than macro. This is all about one-off relations. At least in a perfect world anyway. Some might take this and create an SEO/SEM version to plop into Google/Yahoo in a formal similar to what PR Newswire is up to.

The target is different than traditional press releases, so there isn't a blast or broadcast initially. It's less of a facelift and more of a new branch of engagement. You still have to do things the way you do them today, with the addition of new outreach.

Would it help if we talked about this? Maybe, it would help if the Workgroup went through the steps in a podcast series to explain everything from why to creation to distribution?

Qui said...

In the end it won't matter if it's not meaningful.

I linked to this post from my blog during yesterday's brain dump on the plight of social media and its impact on the PR industry.

Alison, great blog!

Qui said...

I should also add, Brian, you make a good point that the SMR is a tool, a vehicle (and I linked to you, too). Foremski's request was fulfilled, but to what end?

It's a discouraging time - all audiences are an audience of one and there's no guarantee of effective WOM or PR, no matter how great the tool. Not saying we should all pack up and go home, but I do think new approaches will have to stretch us far beyond any top-down "release" out there. I'm thrilled that such smart people are working on this issue.

abf said...

Hey, Brian, thanks for coming by and for filling us in a little bit more. He's where my hurdle is: the press release -- whether it's old school or a social media release -- is impersonal. Effective engagement in the realm of social media is highly personal, or at least personalized. I look at what I have seen as far as social media releases and all I can think of is old school press release with bells and whistles. It comes across as old media using the TOOLS of social media as opposed to acknowledging what makes social media different: long tail, democratic personalized participation. Does that make sense?

Brian Solis said...

You're right. There will always be those who exploit the tools that we work to create. Fixed content has no relevance in the long tail as it's comprised of various groups of people with different needs. The most effective SMRs will never be recognized as they could conceivably be perceived as genuine conversations or the start of new dialog.

Also, I responded to your clarify that I wasn't fixing my sights on you. I enjoy the ability to talk with people where we can both learn from the conversation....and I respect that.

kristen said...

I agree with both Qui and Alison. Bells & whistles... frustrating time.

I guess what confuses me about the "social media release" is that if it's not getting blasted, then how is it a press release? It seems to me to be more of a blog post. It's static and it stays in one place unless you push it out of the nest via some sort of proactive distribution (as you say, Brian, some may plop it in an SEO service...)

If you're a big company and people are already coming to your site/blog/feed, I can see the function of a semi-formal announcement in an informal and modern context.

But if you're a small business (in the long tail) and nobody's coming to your company blog yet, then I'm not sure how this helps any. That's all I meant.

As a small business, I could write something that looks nothing like a press release, and use all the same techniques -- tags, a podcast, anchor tags, an RSS feed, etc. -- and have about the same chance of generating buzz.