R.I.P. Press Release? Part II

Is the press release dead? The answer, sadly, is no. Unequivocally, no.Die Press Release

Back in Jan. 31 I blogged Part I about the imminent death of the traditional press release and the advent of the (SMR) social media press release. The post was essentially a re-hash of old news so I was surprised by how many comments it generated and the dialogue it re-ignited on the New Media Release Google group. I promised Part II after some research. Belatedly, here it is.

Sadly, the traditional press release is still widely used, deeply diminishing in its effectiveness, a huge waste of client time and money, and a big source of tension and stress between PR and mainstream media (MSM). PR still relentlessly spams media with deeply vetted, one-way, homogenized, marginal news. Most press releases thankfully disappear from the radar nanoseconds after they are released, like useless info junk. The residue remains.

That we need an alternative to the traditional press release should be widely established by now (read Tom Foremski’s catalytic Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! that started this whole thing). What to replace it with is the question we struggle with.

First, let’s start with intent. What is the purpose of the SMR? What are we trying to achieve? There is divergence of opinion on this question. For me, the SMR, in its most useful permutation, should accomplish dual objectives.

1) present news in a form on the web that is most useful to journalists and bloggers, and can be found, archived, and tagged by search engines and social media engines.

2) present a useful, lasting web-based source of news for consumers or business constituents.

The Coke virtual thirst SMR issued by crayon 4/16/07 (graphic below) is a good example of social media elements that can be incorporated in the new “press release” enabled for the web.

Coke Virtual Thirst social media press release

The crayon Virtual Thirst SMR succeeds for bloggers and MSM. It does not serve as a useful landing page for consumers to be educated about Second Life, the virtual reality world where crayon is undertaking this promotion for Coke.

Shel Holtz, VP, New Marketing for crayon, told PRBlogNews that the intent of the Virtual Thirst SMR was “to make information about the competition more usable for online production. By parsing the elements of the release into clearly labeled segments, and by adding multimedia elements, tags, and other aspects of Web 2.0. Coca-Cola is making it easy for bloggers and online journalists to grab the elements they want and insert them wherever they want. It’s not the social media release itself that is social; it’s a tool for use within the social media space.”

Shift Communications SMR template is still the de facto open-source standard for elements that should comprise the SMR, and the crayon SMR for Coke may be the best example we have so far of a version of that template in action.

That said, it is distressing how few SMR’s there are to judge. The PR industry is in a collective state of denial that seems nearly impossible to penetrate. The traditional PR practices that feed the packaging and flogging of faux news in static form are very much alive.

PRNewswire and its ilk offer social media tagging and hosting for press releases but they do not address the core intent of the SMR, which involves a new way of thinking about, packaging, distributing, and building news stories. BusinessWire offers the least effective SMR services, and PRWeb press release newswire, which runs over Yahoo! with an avalanche of social media and search engine optimization (SEO) tags, may be the most robust.

Over the last few months I have traded dozens of emails with Shannon Whitley (thePRX Builder - free social media press release creation tool beauty of Gmail is that you can count and track the conversation) to try to get a handle on PRX Builder (SMR Creation Tool) , Feedcatcher, and the other SMR delivery platforms he is constantly working on. Progress on development of SMR building and tracking tools is slow because the industry simply is not jumping on board.

Neither Todd Defren of Shift or Shel Holtz of crayon could offer case studies of the effectiveness of SMR. How many elements of a SMR release are bloggers and reporters picking up? Are consumers and business partners finding the SMR useful? Instinctively and anecdotally we know that the SMR is necessary and beneficial. Now we have to prove it.

Comments

  1. Todd Defren says:

    Hi Mark -
    I am still collecting stories (of success and “failure”) with the SMNR. I won’t deny that they are too-few, at this point.

    But I also am not at all disheartened: we’re talking about EVOLUTION, not REVOLUTION, eh? The traditional press release is 100 years old. The SMNR is 1 year old. I still get scores of calls asking for information on “How do I fill in the blanks on your PDF template?!” These are early days.

    I can’t imagine that 99 years from now we’ll be using text-based releases vs. multimedia releases. The Web and its ever-larger, ever-more multimedia-savvy audiences won’t stand for the same-old stuff.

    Thanks for cheerleading!

  2. David Weiner, PR Newswire says:

    Mark,

    Thank you for following up on your initial post. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying but disagree with some as well.

    There are a lot more MNRs (PR Newswire and MultiVu’s version of the SMPR) than you probably think. We produce many everyday. Although most of them aren’t written in the bulleted format, they have most of the other vital components: photos, videos, related documents, links, social media bookmarking, tagging, etc.

    Busch Gardens used one last week: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/buschgardens/27855/

    Poke around the internet to see where it got picked up and how some of the content has been used. You’ll find some local traditional media pickup as well as roller-coaster enthusiast sites and blogs. The video was also delivered to several UGC video sites like metacafe and youtube as well (so far, it has gotten over 31,000 views on those two sites alone).

    Again, thanks for keeping this topic alive …

    Sincerely,
    David Weiner

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