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Industry Opinion: Is The Social Media Press Release Here To Stay?

The world of public relations is a constantly changing part of everyday business, but one aspect that is still relatively new is the “social media press release” (SMR).
I interviewed Peter Block, Vice President at NATIONAL Public Relations, Nick Cowling, VP and General Manager at Optimum and Sharon Lassman, Director, Communications at Score Media.

PR In Canada – What are your overall thoughts on the social media press release?

Peter – Ultimately any form of communication comes down to the story and do you have a good story to tell. The social media news release provides additional ways of illustrating a story or piece of news. We are noticing more traffic on SMRs then on traditional releases housed online, which could indicate more consumer traction, though SMRs also lend themselves better than traditional releases online.

Nick – I think the SMR is necessary evil given the massive fragmentation of ‘media’ and the fact that traditional media are relying more often on social media to find stories and garner public opinion quickly.  Having said that, I think there’s a lot of room for evolution and improvement for the SMR, which will likely see in 2-3 years.

Sharon – As anyone in the PR industry knows, the press release is evolving quickly.  Just a few years ago, a traditional release was one of the best ways of communicating a company’s message to media, consumers, shareholders, the industry or anyone interested in an organization’s news.  Today, people expect something different – and rightfully so.  Why shouldn’t they get to experience news?  Why shouldn’t they get to hear about it, see it, touch it or feel it?  Why shouldn’t they get the opportunity to be a part of the conversation?

PR In Canada – Does it help the public relations professionals tell the story?

Peter – Social media in general and social media releases in particular are a natural fit for public relations practitioners. Our role has always been to try to inform or influence discussions that are taking place. Unlike advertising, we have never been able to “control” the message. To have any impact, we need to identify the right medium/journalist/perspective so that the reporter takes note. The social media release allows for the compilation of relevant information to inform a number of different conversations using one tool.

SEO increases significantly with the use of a social media release, so in that regard it certainly helps us tell the story.

Nick – I do believe the SMR helps tells the story much more than the traditional release. While the inclusion of audio/visual is not new to PR, the SMR brings it all together in one place, for all to see, and does it a much more reasonable cost.

Sharon – Social media releases offer a way for organizations to interact with their audience like never before.  Recently at theScore, we issued a release about some of our most popular talent – The Basketball Jones – and embedded a video within that release.  The video helped us tell our story in a more interactive way and as a result, we received a ton of great feedback about it.

PR In Canada – Have you noticed that journalist (bloggers) embrace it?
Peter – Yes, but we continue to use both traditional releases and social media releases, so we cannot categorically state one is preferred over the other. A video component is key on an SMR, and we tend to use video news releases on as many as possible. We see an increase in the number of online outlets that post these videos (online news sites, blogs) now that we are using SMRs as a distribution channel.

On the whole, the SMR is probably a more consumer friendly tool.

Nick – Bloggers have readily accepted the SMR, but I think there’s a more indirect benefit with the traditional media. Media relations with traditional media still need to be pitched voice to voice. The quantity of news releases posted on-line and direct email pitches is so high that it’s impossible to cut through with one tool alone.   The key success factor for any PR campaign is the value of storytelling. If the story is well done and told using the right channels, it will be passed on (through traditional media and online).

Sharon – Yes.  The more you can give them at their fingertips, the better.  They’re busy and they’re being bombarded with news by the minute so the more you can do to engage them at the get-go, the better.  We all like interacting with something new, something different, something entertaining and they’re no different.

One other point to consider is that they now can choose what news they want (and don’t want!) to receive.  If you give journalists something interesting, they’ll come back for more.   They’ll follow you on Twitter, they’ll be receptive to your calls and emails and they’ll be engaged.  If not, they’ll tune you out.

PR In Canada – Has your company used it? Any results you’d like to share?
Peter – Yes, we have used them a lot with a variety of clients and had great success. The metrics with some suppliers allow you to see time spent on the release, which is a valuable detail.

Nick – Yes we’ve used SMRs, particularly if the audience consumes a higher average of online news. Younger, urban and specifically segmented audiences (i.e., Moms) can be a great audience to reach with an SMR.  We’ve had great success for some campaigns, but in every instance, SMR has been but one tool used to make the campaign successful.

Sharon – See above.

PR In Canada – Do you see it replacing the “standard press release”?
Peter – Perhaps, but not anytime soon. “Hard news” is probably still better delivered with a traditional news release in much the same way that traditional media continues to hold a certain authority that is not the same with most online media.

Nick – At this stage, it doesn’t replace the standard release, but it has become a better tool for some audiences. The traditional release will continue to be used to reach traditional media and the requirement of  public disclosure. I do think the SNRs will continue to take share in the distribution business, but I think its needs to go to the next level to really become the primary tool for communications campaigns in the future.

Sharon – I do.  I think there’ll always be a place for the content within traditional news releases but I do feel that the PR industry will need to keep up with the evolving media landscape.  Most of us now have the means to make our news more interesting and we need to dedicate more time and resources to making our news more tangible and interactive.  We need to be inviting feedback.  We need to be giving people an opportunity to “share” our news (through Twitter or Facebook, for example) and we need to be brainstorming more ways to make our news jump off the page.