Finding a happy medium between social media and traditional press releases

By Matter

“Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!”

That headline from Tom Foremski’s story in Silicon Valley Watcher in February of 2006 was my first introduction to social media press releases (SMPRs). It’s been three years since I came across that piece and I’m still not sure traditional news releases are completely dead.

With unlimited multimedia capabilities on the Web and an array of social networking and news-sharing tools available to us, it goes without saying that Foremski’s approach to SMPRs was on point. Readers want succinct, visually appealing and digestible, spin-free information. But what do editors want and, more importantly, what do they need?

Though PR professionals should always consider a press release’s intent and target audience before making any decisions about its message or format, I argue that you’ll get the most traction from a release that incorporates elements from both the traditional and social media approach.

Sure, there’s a time and a place for Foremski’s SMPR and the easy-to-follow template that Shift Communications created just months after his article appeared. There is enormous value in SMPRs that bullet information and offer approved quotes with an array of other social media and multimedia options. This is beneficial to the reporter or editor who wants to make the story his or her own, or the blogger who just wants to post snippets of the information with videos or podcasts that help tell the story.

But unless you’re merely pitching online editors and bloggers who live and die by social media, I don’t agree that bulleted information is the only way to go. Layoffs and hiring freezes have forced print and online journalists to wear many hats and juggle several roles. As such, PR professionals must consider these ever-changing duties and recognize that if we simply bullet information and put the onus of drafting the information on a time-strapped editor or reporter, we’re running the risk of our news being overlooked.

They key is to make the media’s life as easy as possible. As a former newspaper reporter and editor, I understand the importance of stories with a multimedia component. I also understand the need for well-written press releases that can be run verbatim when the news is important, but not worthy of a writer’s time.

By including a shorter, yet traditional, SEO-enhanced release and adding all the SMPR bells and whistles, we can enhance the opportunity for coverage and keep the media – and, most importantly, our clients – happy.