What is a Social Media Release? (PodCamp)

Although I wasn't able to attend PodCamp Toronto this year, I've been doing my best to catch up on some of what went on there. One of those sessions was a live recording of Inside PR, and I just got a chance to listen to it today. During the course of that recording, one of the audience members told Inside PR that she had recently listened to a webcast where the moderator asked the panel of PR pros what a a Social Media Press Release was, and that they couldn't answer (the fact that a panel of apparent PR professionals couldn't explain what a SMR was is another blog post altogether...).

Fortunately, the Inside PR guys were able to answer the question for her, and I really like their answers.

David Jones made the point of saying that the Social Media Press Release (though I prefer the simpler term Social Media Release) is really just "an online, electronic press kit" and that "it is a place to put multimedia content around your client's traditional, static, text press release."

"It is just an easy place to point people to get content," he adds. This is similiar to what Martin Waxman says when he notes that the Social Media Release isn't a magic bullet - just because you've created a release with multimedia content around doesn't mean it will result in coverage for your client. It is a part of  a strategy (see #4 on Mitch Joel's list of ways to pitch a writer), but only one part and not the whole thing.

I would also like to add to Terry Fallis' point about breaking out and seperating the quotes in the release. It does make it easier for people to quickly see what is being said and by whom, but I think it is only a stylistic choice. Seperating the quotes can be dones just as easily in a traditional news release, and it all comes down to what the writer thinks the best way to tell the story is.

If I remember correctly, some of the early thoughts on styling a SMR called for breaking out the quotes and providing the information in point form. Again, they are both just stylistic choices.

On a related note, I'm impressed with the quality of the live-recordings of Inside PR. The audience participation also really adds to it, and I think the team should look for more chances to do these.


The 4M Theory of Social Media Releases

Over the past few months, I've given a lot of thought to Social Media Releases. They are a great tool, but only if used correctly. In the few years that they've been out, there have been a lot of different types and styles, successes and failures, but no real agreed-upon strategy for how to use them. I think it is time we should start thinking about how exactly to use them, and less about the actual form they should take. My recommended strategy for a course of action when including a Social Media Release in a communications campaign includes four points: Monitoring, Message, Media, and Media Relations. 1.) Monitoring: Paying attention to what is being said about your brand or organization has always been recommended as a first step. As has been said before, social media is a conversation. Just as you would wait until your turn to speak in a real-world conversation, and then say something relevant, you should do the same in an online conversation. Monitoring will help you ensure the timing, nature and relevancy of your message.

2.) Message: This is what the core of the release is. It is why you are making an announcement. It is what you are hoping your audience of bloggers and the online community will care about enough to engage with. As April Dunford recently wrote in the blog post entitled "A Skeptic's Guide To Social Media Press Releases":

"You need to answer the question "Why is this interesting right now?"  What is it about your announcement that makes it important information to share right now?  If you can make your news relevant to a broader audience than experts in your space, you are well on your way to spectacularness."

If you can't think of a reason why your announcement would be interesting to anyone, you're probably not going to get a lot of media attention.

3.) Media: One of the coolest things about a Social Media Release is that you can include photos, audio and video to accompany the text of the release. However, this doesn't mean that  a JPEG of the CEO's head and a television commerical uploaded to YouTube constitute great multimedia content. Instead, you should think about your target audience and what might appeal to them. If it is a product launch, including images of the product in use and with a plain, white background would probably be beneficial to bloggers that might use them. Similarly, including a short video of the product in use might do wonders (but keep it short).

My thought is that a Social Media Release should provide value to the intended audience. The text portion should provide value in that it is informing them about something new. The accompanying media should either reinforce this value, or provide value on their own. One of the reasons I believe that the video CNW Group produced with Mark McKay got picked up online (here and here, for starters) is because it provided educational value by teaching people what a Social Media Release was. Similarly, April Dunford mentions in her post that she also provided a white-paper that showed other companies how they could start a green program in their organization.

4.) Media Relations: Contacting journalists has always been a part of traditional public relations, and it should continue to be a part of public relations in the blogging age.  Just because the audience you are trying to reach is online and you might never see them in real life does not mean that you can simply blast them with email. In fact, a huge part of the Social Media Release is the social aspect, and the fact that it is able to connect you and your news with so many people. Research and follow blogs that are relevant to your news - just as you might have different traditional media contacts for different types of news, you will probably want to reach out to different bloggers as well.

5.) Monitoring: As with any communications plan, monitoring success and following up where necessary are an important part. In the case of a campaign involving a  Social Media Release, monitoring should include not just checking to see where it got picked up and how it was used. I included Monitoring as both first and last on the list because it marks the beginning of a new communications cycle. I hardly think that the Social Media Release is the only tool for communicators to reach an online audience, but I do think it is a good one. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or criticisms of my "4M Theory" I'd be happy to hear them.


(As with all of my posts on BlogCampaigning, this reflects my own personal thoughts and opinions. These may not necessarily be the same as those held by my employer, CNW Group).


If you're involved in PR and social media you've probably heard people talking about social media releases, social media news releases or even social media press releases and the accompanying acronyms. In the olden days, journalists were called 'the press' (an example of synechdoche) because the primary form of media was the newspaper, which was printed on

If Google trends is anything to go by, the majority of people still think that those releases that go out on the wire are called 'Press Releases.'

However, most modern-day communicators will probably agree that this is an antiquated term, and that we should be calling these 'News Releases' or 'Media Releases' instead.

So, that gets rid of the term 'Social Media Press Release' and its ugly acronym "SMPR."

We're now left with Social Media Release and Social Media News Release, and I'm going to argue that the former is better than the latter.

I'm fine with calling a traditional release a News Release or a Media Release, and I think you'll agree with me that calling it a Media News Release or a News Media Release is a little bit redundant (and referring to it as just a 'release' sounds odd unless you're talking to people from the industry).

So why do we need to refer to PR's hottest new tool as a Social Media News Release? Yes, it has a bunch of fancy Web 2.0 features that enable it to be easily shared. That aspect is covered by adding "Social" to the front of 'Media Release.'

I'd actually be happy with either Social News Release or Social Media Release, but I think that the latter sounds better.

So, can we agree to standardize the name as Social Media Release?


image courtesy of vivid tangerine on flickr

The Social Media Release

Normally I refrain from writing about what I'm doing at work.* Today, however, I'm going to share the Multi Media News Release that I helped develop to launch Access CNW, my company's new, online client portal. (One of the main reasons that I haven't been blogging lately is because I've spent so much time with this).

Have a look at the release here. I'm pretty proud of it, but it couldn't have been done without the help of the talented people I work with.

I'm not going to launch this into a discussion of the pros and cons of Multi Media Releases, Social Media Releases and their ilk.

Instead, I'll direct you to some thoughts about what other people have to say about them:

Michael O'Connor Clarke has made a couple of great posts about Social Media News Releases over the past few weeks. Read the first one here and the second one here. (Note - My employer, CNW Group, is a client of Michael's and I often work with him).

Todd Defren, perhaps the founding father of the Social Media News Release, obviously has a lot to say. Start by having a look at his ancient (by social media standards) post about a template for the Social Media News Release, then jump ahead in time to his recent comparison of social media services offered by various newswire companies (we'll forgive him for forgetting CNW Group, since its Canadian).

And also see what Brian Solis has to say about the Social Media Release in Action. His "Definitive Guide To Social Media Releases" is also a good read, but mostly for the idea that SMNRs are just one tool and a way to complement a story rather than the be-all and end-all.

And lastly, I recommend checking out Collin Douma's entertaining presentation at PodCamp Toronto about the Social Media Release.


*This is a personal blog, and it is something I work on outside of the time I put in with my employer, CNW Group. As is stated on our disclosure page, all of the writing on this blog represents the thoughts and opinions of the individual author, and does not reflect the opinions or our respective employers of organizations.

Interweb in any language

 Well, they've done it. Those crazy party animals down at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN to their friends, I CAN'T to their enemies) are finally letting people test out their new system of top domain names in 11 different international scripts. At first, this doesn't sound like terribly exciting news. "People around the world from already use the internet, and they can just type the English," you might be tempted to say.

The problem is that a lot of people might not be very familiar with the Roman (Latin?) character set.* After living in Japan for a year, I can sympathize with how annoying it is to have to try and put your language into the character set of another.

At first this whole thing probably doesn't seem like very big news, but I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about it in the  years to come. And to be honest, I'm a little surprised that this didn't get more widely reported on the ol' inter-blog. Too bad because if the ICANN announcement had broken down the information into point form, it would have been a pretty good example of one of those 'Social Media News Relase'-things that have been all the rage these days.


News Doesn't Matter...

...Only the medium in which it was conveyed matters. Or at least that is the impression I get after reading a recent post by Dave Armano about how he used Twitter to report some teenagers heroically saving an old woman's life. Technorati reports that Armano's Twitterophilic post has 13 links to it (at the time of this posting), while the actual news site first reporting the incident only has 2 posts linking to it .

Similarly, Cisco recently issued a Social Media News Release. Both Shel Holtz and Todd Defren were quick to jump on the story, both with posts exclaiming how great Cisco is for having done this.

As Holtz points out, if you've got the material (text, quotes, images, website, video), it really isn't very hard to create or understand a Social Media News Release. "Why people are opposed to this simply baffles me," wrote he wrote on his post.

Todd Defren writes that he doesn't "want the Social Media News Release to be special anymore" and I couldn't agree more.

Part of the reason I'm so in favor of his statement is because I'm sick of hearing about how great these new communications platforms are. While Defren devoted one little quote to what the Cisco release was actually announcing, Holtz didn't mention their news at all (embedding the video, but only to show how easy it is).

As Marshall McLuhan once so famously wrote, "the medium is the message."

In the case of the current communications industry, it seems that the message is to blog, to twitter, to facebook, and to use social media in every way possible in order to continue discussing social media.

Just like studying McLuhan back in school, the whole thing is starting to give me a headache.