PR industry: Still grasping for a clue

Mark Glaser has a post up at the PBS Media Shift blog about the “social media press release” and how it is still a work in progress. He has a good recap of how it started a couple of years ago, how some forward-thinking PR practitioners and agencies came up with the idea of an SMPR — and he also describes how some firms still either don’t use them or consider a single HTML link to be the equivalent of a social-media press release. And I thought the traditional media business was slow to change.

Let’s forget all the blather about “social media,” shall we? If you are in any way trying to reach an online audience of journalists and/or customers and your press release has no links in it, then you = FAIL. If you have a single link to your PR agency’s website, or a single link to the company’s website, then you = FAIL. Links are the lifeblood of the Web — if you do not have them, and lots of them, then your press release is dead on arrival. At best, you force the person reading it to cut and paste terms into search engines and wander around looking for things. If you want some more reasons why your press releases fail, there are some good ones here.

This is not rocket surgery. Put links to relevant information in there; add multimedia content if you have it, with either embedded images or links to them. Better still, create a blog post that has all of these things in it and is tagged properly, and people will find it. Whether you follow the structure here or not is up to you (some people believe starting with the facts and not the spin or “hook” is the wrong way to go, but that’s debatable). Just put some damn links in there, and quit hoping that a boatload of overused adjectives will somehow sell the thing for you.

27 thoughts on “PR industry: Still grasping for a clue

  1. He seemed to show some apprehension that PR people are sometimes able to bypass bloggers or journalists all together, but I really have no problem with this if the PR release really is a worthy piece of news. I mean, what's the major difference between a press release and a company blog? Nothing, really? So what's so bad about directly linking to a press release?

    • Good point, Simon. I don't much see the difference either, really.
      I've read lots of blog posts (and news stories, for that matter) that
      just read like a rewritten press release — I don't see why a
      well-written press release shouldn't get just as much prominence.

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  4. As one of the “forward-thinking PR practitioners and agencies (that) came up with the idea of an SMPR” (thanks!) I can say only one thing to this post, Mathew:

    AMEN!

    Thank you for your advocacy and blunt talk. 😉

    p.s. – FWIW I track reactions to the SMPR at http://del.icio.us/SHIFT.Communications. Check out tags like SHIFTtemplate and SocialMediaRelease, if interested.

  5. The idea of making a real blog post is more what I favor. REAL content that is also PR. Serves TWO purposes. It provides information to the press and the organic traffic of people approaching it from their interest validates it as newsworthy.

    -M

    • I would agree with you there, Mike. Doing that can pretty quickly
      tell you whether what you're writing about is of interest to anyone.

  6. Mat, good post. As a PR guy and blog nut, I like the SMPR in theory. I've used them before and they're fine. But I've also sent emails to guys like you to pitch stories and used links to del.icio.us pages and youtube pages that have been set up expressly to make it easy for bloggers/media to find what they need to do the story.

    Use your blog if you have a blog, use an SMPR if you've got the time/money, re-do your corporate online newsroom and include embed codes for pics and video, etc., or just do what you suggest and use links in an e-mail.

    This isn't that hard. Learn news judgment, be a resource, don't waste journos time. After all, you can put lipstick on a pig…but it's still a pig.

    BTW, I always thought I invented the witty mis-use of “rocket surgery.”

    • I think you're right, David — there are lots of tools, and provided they serve to connect journalists or readers or bloggers or customers to something, then I think that's great, whether it's a blog page or delicious links or a YouTube video, or all three put together.

      As for the rocket surgery thing, I promise not to file a claim against you for trademark infringement if you promise not to do likewise 🙂

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  8. We first used the SMPR over two years ago. But you are right – it hasn't caught on and it's a shame. I see two aspects of the SMPR that are important: making it is more useful for any “media” (traditional or non-traditional journalists) to use. That means adding links and multimedia whenever possible. We should be trying to make content as easy as possible to use and that means content formats – text plus video plus pictures. The other is the “social” part or the conversation surrounding content. I wish more clients were ready for this. But they don't have to enable a comment flow in their online media room to make the SMPR useful.

    As for spin vs. facts? I say – tell me why this is important and relevant then give me the facts and content types to run with. But you are the journalist. What makes sense to you?

    • Thanks for the comment, John. I like a paragraph or so summing up
      what the point of the release is, and then some facts. More or less
      the same way someone would write a news story.

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