I just don't get the Social Media Press Release

I’d like to believe that my current state of tiredness, due to an accumulated three week sleep debt, is the reason why I’m confused, but if I’m honest (which I do try to be), I’ve never been able to get my head around the social media press release (SMPR). Not in terms of who it is for, how it is distributed and how it differs from a social media press room.

I know the SMPR was initially inspired by Tom Foremski requesting the instant demise of the traditional press release in May 2006, subtly titled ‘Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die!

In the post, Foremski claimed:

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.)

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.

Which is fair enough comment. A lot of press releases contain way too much hyperbole or  unsupportable claims to be the world’s leading whatever. Much like our pitching to bloggers , press releases can stand more than a little improvement too. Foremski went on to make some suggested improvements, though mainly in terms of format when he really seemed most bothered about the poor standard of content. Shift Communications picked up and ran with this and lo, the social media press release was born.

I knowthis was all a while ago but SMPRs have been top of mind recently as I’ve been talking to a couple of suppliers about them, also Shift itself has been bigging up its platform over the past few days too and yet I’m still confused.

Who is it for? Not journalists surely? If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve been told that journos only like press release in plain text emails with no attachments, well then I’d have some pounds.  I realise this nugget of advice might only be relevant to UK journalists, but I really would rather stab myself in the eye with a spork than send out a multimedia heavy email without prior clearance to them.

It can’t be for bloggers. I’ve spoken to a fair few of them and they seem to like personalised emails with lots of links directing them to where they can find lots of relevant information or goodies.  I think it makes them feel more independent on sourcing the material themselves. Plus even with the vast amount of storage available for email accounts, who wants maa-hoosive attachments?

How do you distribute it?  This always puzzled me, but I always refrained from asking as I didn’t want to appear stupid, but it seems from the companies I’ve spoken recently that they send out a plain text version via various wires with links to where the SMPR is hosted online.  Which is what I suspected happened all along, and means that the SMPR is most likely still created by committee, edited by lawyers and sent out at great expense over the wires.  Actually make that greater expense as it seems a premium is charged for sending out SMPRS compared to your usual text version.

So to me it seems that an SMPR is a dedicated webpage, usually hosted on a third parties’ domain, where the the body of a press release is chunked down into easier-to-cut-and-paste segments and bullet points, with lots of easy to download images and videos, along with the usual plethora of social sharing/bookmarking buttons.

That’s not a better press release, that is a tricked up online newsroom or social media newsroom if you like, that’s taking potential traffic away from your site to someone elses, while you are paying them for the privilege.

Most unusually for me,  I’m sure I’m wrong on this, I’m sure I’m missing a trick so please, if you can, tell me how they differ.

0 thoughts on “I just don't get the Social Media Press Release

  1. Press Release. Not a blogger release. Not a social network user release.

    The whole concept of adding social media to something that is a chunk of highly controlled, designed by committee information baffles me. “Let’s socialmediaize a stapler next”.

    All these channels are different.

  2. Nice explanation of the SMPR. I wish you’d done this a few months ago as it would have saved me a lot of time trying to work it out:)
    For me, your third to last para sums it up perfectly. And while the SMPR is still a press release, it’s now in a format that [I believe] is more useful for journalists or anyone writing content online. But, as you say, it’s just a formatting change. If the content is still hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims about ‘end to end solutions that meet customers needs’ then it’s still not going to be useful, no matter how many links you put in.
    However, the format of the SMPR tends to lead people not to write waffley paragraphs. I think an SMPR is a step in the right direction but it doesn’t overcome rubbish content.

  3. @damien you’re right, again, not everything needs to be social mediaized, especially staplers – I’m with Milton on that one

    @Todd thanks for link but I’ve read that post and to me it seems to reinforce that an SMPR is actually an news room

    @Robin – thanks for you very kind comment and apologies for not writing it sooner! I’d like to agree but a few of the SMPRs I’ve seen have tended to included far more information than usual press release. Take a Ford SMPR as an example, not exactly the pithiest of paragraphs or indeed unspun of comments contained within.

  4. Kerry, I’m just going to put a response to some of your comments. I should also point out that the company I used to work for, webitpr, has its own SMNR (don’t like using P for ‘press’ as it implies it’s only for the press) platform and who now retain me as a consultant.

    “If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve been told that journos only like press release in plain text emails with no attachments, well then I’d have some pounds.”

    Thing is though, the email doesn’t go out with images, video, documents etc as an attachment. It goes out in an email with a headline, excerpt and link.

    “It can’t be for bloggers. I’ve spoken to a fair few of them and they seem to like personalised emails with lots of links directing them to where they can find lots of relevant information or goodies.”

    When there are supposedly 120 million bloggers you can’t make the general assumption on the preferred delivery mechanism of all of them. For example, webitpr sends out releases to over 1,000 bloggers who have opted in to their distribution list. Often it’s in the form of an SMNR as opposed to a standard online news release. They’re fine with it because not all bloggers want to have a “conversation” – they just want the content thank you very much.

    But even so, what’s to stop you sending a blogger a personal email with a link to an SMNR?

    Admittedly there needs to be more research into how bloggers (and journalists) prefer receiving content but I have no doubt that everyone isn’t the same. We’re all individuals here.

    “So to me it seems that an SMPR is a dedicated webpage.”

    Well yes, but what is a regular press release? It’s a Word doc. And before email it was a piece of paper. The platform is irrelevant because it’s all about the content. And IMHO the SMNR provides more context to a story by providing different content. Not to mention making this content easily shareable (using social media functions) and findable (through search engines).

    “…that’s taking potential traffic away from your site to someone elses, while you are paying them for the privilege.”

    Without sounding salesy here, webitpr’s SMNR has a domain mapping feature where you can tie the URL of the SMNR to the clients. E.g. http://socialnews.itv.com/?ReleaseID=9606

    Google it too – the ITV domain is visible in the search results:
    http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=itv+schedule&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

    I wonder how many people in the UK are searching using these keywords? Well, a lot actually because each SMNR is set up with Google Analytics so you can evaluate not only the coverage generated but the traffic data too. The more evaluation the better as far as I’m concerned – particularly in the current economic climate.

    My 2p

  5. Up to a point I’d agree with you. However, I still think SMPR’s do have a point and can be useful providing a little thought’s gone into it. As with so many media or social media-related things, people decide they like the sound of doing one without having any idea what it is they want to achieve by it.

    Again, it comes down to your audience. If it’s something that you’re targeting to, say, journalists who just want the plain text and basic info, then there’s no point.

    If, however, the release is either targeted at a more multimedia-type audience, or the content lends itself nicely to a SMPR, then go with it. It may even be worth while (although perhaps not often) to do both a SMPR and a traditional release. Both have their merits.

    Robin’s right, though. SMPR should encourage people to tighten up their writing. And it doesn’t matter how fancy the release is if the content is crap.

  6. @SteDavies – thanks for your 2p as I think you’ve answered my question, in a roundabout way.

    “Thing is though, the email doesn’t go out with images, video, documents etc as an attachment. It goes out in an email with a headline, excerpt and link.”

    So the SMNR goes out as a tradition press release would or email pitch, except where previously the link for find more information goes to where the SMNR is hosted, not the online press room.

    “When there are supposedly 120 million bloggers you can’t make the general assumption on the preferred delivery mechanism of all of them. For example, webitpr sends out releases to over 1,000 bloggers who have opted in to their distribution list. Often it’s in the form of an SMNR as opposed to a standard online news release. They’re fine with it because not all bloggers want to have a “conversation” – they just want the content thank you very much.”

    Fair point, that was a huge generalisation on my part.

    “But even so, what’s to stop you sending a blogger a personal email with a link to an SMNR?”

    Absolutely nothing but again that makes into a pitch with a link to a press room not a news release.

    “Well yes, but what is a regular press release? It’s a Word doc. And before email it was a piece of paper. The platform is irrelevant because it’s all about the content. And IMHO the SMNR provides more context to a story by providing different content. Not to mention making this content easily shareable (using social media functions) and findable (through search engines).”

    If the platform is irrelevant then so surely is the name? It’s stll a news release/online press room, just with more cotent and formatted differently? A decent news room should also be findable and have easy-to-share content.

    “…that’s taking potential traffic away from your site to someone elses, while you are paying them for the privilege.”

    Without sounding salesy here, webitpr’s SMNR has a domain mapping feature where you can tie the URL of the SMNR to the clients. E.g. http://socialnews.itv.com/?ReleaseID=9606

    Good point but I believe that costs extra, so you’re paying someone twice for the privilige of getting traffic that should be to your site, re-directed back to your site. Again why not host your own news room on your own site, which you can also install Google analytics on, am all for evaluation too.

  7. Me again,

    “If the platform is irrelevant then so surely is the name?”

    It’s entirely up to you what you want to call it but me personally I like to call it a social media news release because A. it doesn’t imply it’s only for the press and B. it reminds me that it has to contain actual news.

    “It’s stll a news release/online press room, just with more content and formatted differently? A decent news room should also be findable and have easy-to-share content.”

    Yes it’s still a news release but it has Social Media elements to it. Comments, inbound links, hyperlinks, social bookmarking capabilities, provision of social network videos (YouTube) etc.

    So if your newsroom has SM elements like these then, yes, I would call it a social media news room.

    Can you point me to a good example? The only good social media newsroom I can think of is by global company GM. Not many companies have the PR budget like it does.

    “Good point but I believe that costs extra, so you’re paying someone twice for the privilege of getting traffic that should be to your site, re-directed back to your site. Again why not host your own news room on your own site, which you can also install Google analytics on, am all for evaluation too.”

    Don’t disagree, you can completely bypass the SMNR suppliers and do it yourself. That’s if you’ve got a spare £20k (minimum) to build your own platform + all the updates it would require as new social media tools are introduced.

    And can you justify that cost if you’re only putting out one a month? Or, would it be much easier to justify a few hundred quid on someone else’s platform a month? Besides, with some services, distribution is included in the cost too so it’s not just the hosting your paying for – it’s their intellectual property too.

  8. Hello you again ..:-)

    “It’s entirely up to you what you want to call it but me personally I like to call it a social media news release because A. it doesn’t imply it’s only for the press and B. it reminds me that it has to contain actual news.”

    Actually I don’t think the name is irrelevant. One of the problems we face with the constant joy that is social media is a lack of shared language and therefore common grounds of understanding. Which is aptly being demonstrated in our current discussion methinks.

    “Yes it’s still a news release but it has Social Media elements to it. Comments, inbound links, hyperlinks, social bookmarking capabilities, provision of social network videos (YouTube) etc.
    So if your newsroom has SM elements like these then, yes, I would call it a social media news room.”

    But for the most part its not actually released, or distributed, it acts as a news room – why not concentrate on building a great newsroom, with all the SM bells and whistles, and spend the time and effort of creating SMP/NRs on honing your pitch for the contacts you care about?

    Some examples of rooms I like
    http://www.cnn.com/exchange/blogs/
    http://ycorpblog.com/
    http://offtherack.people.com/

    “Don’t disagree, you can completely bypass the SMNR suppliers and do it yourself. That’s if you’ve got a spare £20k (minimum) to build your own platform + all the updates it would require as new social media tools are introduced.”

    Think £20,000 is a tad excessive, the examples above are all based on wordpress and you could pull together a useful news room for minimal outlay – register a domain, some extra analytics and some wordpress credits for extra widigty goodness and jobs a good un. Oh you could also pay out for a better design too but there a lot of nice free themes available too.

    “And can you justify that cost if you’re only putting out one a month? Or, would it be much easier to justify a few hundred quid on someone else’s platform a month? Besides, with some services, distribution is included in the cost too so it’s not just the hosting your paying for – it’s their intellectual property too.”

    If it’s £20k then no, if it’s mainly an investment in time then yes. As for paying for distribution, I somewhat naively hope that social media will actually mean a move away from mass-distribution over the wires. News should be sold into your top contacts, those who not your top contacts but are interested can find all the content on the news room, which they can subscribe too – just as they would subscribe to wire distribution. The advantage of the former is that you have a better idea of who is using your content and how.

  9. As someone who’s been on both ends of this beast, I’d say that generally the social media press releases I have received have been dire.

    That’s a crying shame, since they could be excellent – a release that gives me links to photos, video, audio, blog posts etc… etc… would make a writer’s job so much easier and more pleasant.

    Instead, it seems that some agencies are charging a fortune to produce a dumbed down version of a press release and stick it on-line. That’s a major fail.

    And why put it on a separate domain? Surely that only serves to dilute the SEO of the website?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *