Social Media Release Rage

"A couple of years ago the social media press release was all the rage", writes Mark Evans. He suggests that PR and marketing people believed, "the social media release would revolutionize everything". As someone who was on the front lines of the Social Media Press Release development for a couple of years, I have no idea what he is talking about.

I think that, yes, there was a little bit of excitement amongst a segment of social media nerds (myself included) about how the SMR was a nice update to the traditional news release, but I'd hardly call it a "rage".

Even now, with the Social Media Release business seemingly good for CNW Group (my former employer), Marketwire, Pitch Engine, and probably a lot of other companies, I'd still be hesitant to call it "raging". (In the comments on Mark's post, CNW's Amanda Laird does point out that the SMR is CNW's fastest growing product.)

As recently as last year at PodCamp, there was still confusion from people about what an SMR even was.

No one ever said the SMR would "revolutionize everything".* If I remember correctly, most of the talk was about how the SMR was part of the evolution of the traditional press release. It was a natural move. Today, most people would agree that online newsrooms that can incorporate multimedia elements are where this has evolved to. I tend to agree with that, but I'd even say that a news release with links to multimedia content follows that same evolution.

In the comments on his post, Mark adds "personally, I’ve found that many clients are using micro-sites or creating Web pages that include a press release, high-res photos and graphics and video instead of using a social media press release." If these micro-sites or web pages with news and multimedia content aren't SMRs or a close relative, then I don't know what they are. They certainly aren't radically different.

What I do agree with Mark about is that the important part of media relations is the social part—the relationships with reporters, the reaching out to known contacts.

I've always advocated this approach, and I'm happy to see that CNW continues to do so. (A single tear rolled down my cheek when I read that blog post.) In fact, this approach is even embedded in the name of this tool—it is called a SOCIAL media release for a reason.

Maybe I'm wrong about all this, though. Maybe I did miss the SMR party a few years ago. Maybe the PR world has given up on providing the media with compelling images, audio, and easily shareable video. Maybe everyone has gone back to plain-text news releases, delivered via fax and horseback.


*I was definitely pretty excited about the whole SMR thing when it first came out. If you can find evidence of me saying that it would "revolutionize" PR or news releases, I'll buy you dinner. If you can find evidence of anyone else saying it would "revolutionize" PR or news releases, I'll buy you a beer.

Have A Coffee And Learn About Social Media Releases

header-eng Starting next week, CNW Group will be hosting a series of coffee-break webinars every Wednesday at 3pm EST.

The topic of the first one will be Social Media Releases, and I'll be stepping up to the mic (handset? speakerphone?) to tell you everything I know.

There will be plenty of time for questions, but are there any you think I should specifically address?

I promise that I'll try and make it both informative and entertaining, so grab a coffee and log in from your desk. It'll be like hanging out with me for a few minutes, but you can count it as doing work.

CNW Group Coffee-Break Webinar Series


Study Shows HubSpot Is Ineffective At Evaluating Public Relations and Social Media

I'll admit, it wasn't a very scientific study (consisting of a survey group of only myself) but it makes for the same kind of sensationalistic headline that HubSpot  went with in a post that says "Study Shows Social Media Releases Are Less Effective Than Traditional Press Releases." In that blog post, author Rebecca Corliss tests the effectiveness of Social Media Releases compared to regular News Releases when both are distributed via major newswires.  I've got no problem with her methodology, in that the evaluated the effectiveness of the respective releases by the number of places they were syndicated.

However, I don't know what this proves.

I know that ranking highly on Search Engine Results Pages is important for organizations, and I know that getting a great deal of inbound links from different sources is a good way to achieve this.

But I also think that as soon as this becomes one of the primary goals of PR and news releases, the game is over. We'll be writing for search engine spiders, not people, and we'll be evaluating campaign successes by incoming links, not relationships and engagement.

The whole point of a news release isn't to blast it out to as many places as possible so that people see it.

That's called Advertising, not Public Relations.

The point of a news release has always been to provide a journalist with information that they can use to write a story.

The same is true with Social Media Releases. However, rather than just providing journalists with plain text to tell their story, the Social Media Release makes it easy for them to use all kinds of multimedia elements in their story.

I don't think that news releases aggregators such as the places Rebecca is getter her releases syndicated to are going to get a lot of eyeballs, nor are they eyeballs that do go there going to be particularly enthralled by the release there. Similiarly, I can't imagine that links from these aggregators are particularly valuable.

Admittedly, I don't know which syndication sites she's referring to so I don't know how many views those releases are getting, nor how valuable the link juice that they might pass on is.

However, I still feel that it is more important to focus on getting good, editorial coverage than it is to have your release regurgitated and repeated verbatim a thousand times across the web.

As I've often said, put the "social" into social media. Use the Social Media Release as a way to reach out to bloggers and online journalists in a personal way. Just blasting it out there and hoping it gets picked up is wasting everyone's time.

What do you think about Social Media Releases versus traditional news releases?

-Parker Mason

*Note: As per usual, posts on BlogCampaigning are based on my own personal thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, CNW Group or any of the other authors at BlogCampaigning.

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).

5 Gems from BlogCampaigning

Well, I've been tagged by Sharon in a great little meme first thrown out there by Collin Douma. The game is two come up with 5 great examples of social media use that our peers might not have noticed.

The rules are something like this:

  1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
  2. List five Social Media projects that deserve better exposure.
  3. Tag EIGHT {as many as you’d like} “Social Media / Digital Experts” at the end of your post and list their names.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.
  5. Tag your post “Five Gems” so we can search for all of these great examples.

I'm also going to go ahead an tack on what I think should be a 6th, rule, and that is that we should all tag our posts (and examples) as 5gems on Delicious so that they are easy to find later.

1. The CNW Group Social Media release announcing the CNW Group Social Media Release - Although a bit self-referrential, I think that this is an excellent case study in how a Social Media Release can be effectively used. People left comments, bloggers embedded the video on their site (due to it being educational, rather than advertorial in nature) and one site even used the CNW logo provided with the release. (disclosure: I work for CNW, and worked directly on this).

2. Journalist Source -While they aren't using social media directly besides having their homepage built on Wordpress and using a Twitter account, they are providing a great service to writers (I'm thinking bloggers here) that might not necessairly have the kind of resources needed to research a story on their own and source experts.

3. MySpace - Look, I know that a lot of people don't care about MySpace anymore because it is just full of retina-burning designs and emo kids. But ever since I started a music blog a few months ago, I've been all over MySpace. It's where the cool stuff happens: the creative kids are on MySpace, designinging their own pages, seeing what they can do within the constraints of the site and promoting themselves. The boring kids are on Facebook, installing applications and de-tagging drunken photos of themselves.

4. I Like Totally Love It -My Blogcampaigning co-author Jens told me about this site a little while ago, and it is definitely worth checking out. I don't really know how to describe it, but they are kind of a social-voting site for products and things that you want, or I guess, things that you, like, totally love.

5. Movember - Growing moustaches for charity...what a great idea, and they've really used the online space to build traction for this. I participated last year, but I can already tell that it has grown alot since then. (if anyone is doing it this year, let me know and I'll sponsor you!).

I'm tagging Chris Clarke, Martin Waxman, Jessica Ayers, Michael Allison and Alecia O'Brien.



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

#ALI Parker in Ottawa

Inspired by Mark Goren's "Get To Know Me" post introducing himself to people he has meet either in person or via Twitter at the Social Media For Government Conference happening right now in Capital City, Canada (can I call Ottawa that?). I am the Web Content Specialist for CNW Group, and I've been in involved in social media for over two years now, having started BlogCampaigning with Espen Skoland in August, 2006.

On Thursday morning, I'll be holding a workshop at this conference about the Social Media Release. As you might be aware, CNW Group just launched a version of the SMR. Part of my job involves educating both clients and CNW staff about the benefits of communicating using social media, and using the SMR in particular.

I'm in Ottawa until Friday evening, so feel free to get in touch with me if you want to catch up. I'm @parkernow on Twitter, or you can email me at Parker (at) blogcampaigning (dot) com. I'll also be attending Thursday evening's CPRS Ottawa event, so hopefully I'll see you there.


The CNW Social Media Release!

Yeah, after a few months of wicked hard work from a whole bunch of different people, the CNW Group Social Media Release has arrived! If you're not sure what a Social Media Release is, check out this video that CNW commissioned the amazing Mark McKay to do: If you didn't get it from the video, one of the solid points about the CNW SMR is that everything is embeddable. That's how I got the above video into this blog post.

But what's up with the little round face?

He is CNW SMR - the lines coming out of his mouth represent a message, while the ear represents the comments. Essentially, he's a conversationalist, just like the CNW SMR.

It is also one of the first SMRs to truly offer comments on the body of the release. I'm not sure that everyone will go for this sort of thing, but I think that it is a fantastic idea. If one person has a comment (negative or positive) about your organizations announcement, chances are others will as well. With comments, that one person (or more than one person) can voice their opinion directly on the release, and you as a PR pro can also respond directly on the release. The advantage of being able to have an official reply in an offical place is obvious. (Oh yeah, these comments are RSS enabled as well, meaning that if you want to keep up to the conversation via RSS, you can)

In order to give you social media enthusiasts a better idea of how sweet the CNW SMR is, Todd Defren graciously allowed me to adapt a chart he created a few months ago that aimed to "untangle the various SMR offerings" from major wire services.

What else is cool about the CNW SMR? Well, you should check it out here and see for yourself (or check here for more CNW SMRs). You can also follow @CNWGroupSMR on Twitter to be updated when we issue new Social Media Releases on behalf of our clients.

The whole CNW team was awesome to work with on this project. Product Manger Duane Bayley has done a fantastic job (and if you have any questions, hit him up on Twitter) of working with the design team on getting all the elements right. CNW's in-house graphic designer Kelly also did an amazing job of creating all those little face icons that you see on the release (I've also got a lot of respect for Kelly for being so patient with me and all my last minute suggestions).

I'd also like to give props to Mark McKay for making the kick-ass video above - he was truly a pleasure to work with. And thanks again to Todd Defren (and the SHIFT Communications crew) for letting us adapt their chart and Brian Solis for being a decent enough guy to provide us with both a quote and a photo for our SMR.

So what do you think? Is the CNW SMR the kind of thing you think you would use? Why or why not? Any thoughts on the topic that you can muster up would be greatly appreciated!

Feel free to comment on the release, email me directly (parker dot mason at newswire dot ca) or find me on Twitter.


Disclosure: if it wasn't already obvious, I work for CNW Group. However, this is a personal blog and the views expressed on it may not reflect those of CNW Group. Basically, I'm going to say what I want here, event if what I want to say has a lot to do with my work. Hey, it is my life and my blog. And Jens' blog. And to a lesser extent these days, Espen's blog. But you get the idea. Does anyone even read disclosure statements these days?

Social Media Release Workshop with Parker

Speaking Gig: Social Media For Government Just a quick heads-up that I'll be leading a workshop about Social Media Releases at the upcoming Social Media For Government conference taking place in Ottawa from September 15-18. From the program description of my workshop:

In this workshop, you will learn about one of the hottest topics in Public Relations (PR) today, the Social Media Release (SMR).

The Social Media Release is similar to the traditional news release in that its goal is to provide journalists with information with which they can craft their story. However, rather than being limited to text, the SMR incorporates multimedia elements. Photos, video and audio can all be included, as well as links to additional resources.

The "social" aspect of the release is the addition of a system allowing users to comment on it, as well as the ability to easily share the release and use or embed its multimedia components on blogs, websites and social networks. From being a static medium designed for one-to-many communications (from one point of origin to many possible readers), the SMR turns news releases into a kind of many-to-many communications tool – allowing people to interact with, comment on, share, and redistribute the content of the release. It can be an ideal way for government agencies to communicate with both professional and traditional journalists and new, citizen journalists like bloggers.

This workshop will consist of a brief overview where you will learn about the origins of the SMR and how it was originally used. We will walk through examples of the social media release that are available today, including examples of successful and unsuccessful uses of the SMR in communications campaigns.

In the second portion of the workshop, we will discuss the ideal types of media to include in an SMR. At this point, we will also discuss when it is or is not appropriate to use an SMR to communicate a message, or whether a traditional release or other methods will suffice. By the end of the session, you will take away an understanding of:

* How to use SMR's to maximize your communications – including examples of successful and unsuccessful uses of the SMR in communications campaigns * When it is appropriate to use a SMR * What you should include in a SMR to leverage the power of this communications tool * The Future of the SMR and how to begin using this new communications tool right away

Attend this session to learn why you need to integrate the use of SMR's into your government organisation now, and gain insight into the future of one of the most widespread topics in PR today.

As this will be an interactive workshop, participants are strongly encouraged to bring a laptop computer so that we can more easily explore and experiment with these online tools.

Although I do presentations in front of clients on behalf of CNW Group quite often, this will be my first time speaking at a conference. As an employee of a newswire, I have a very unique view of the Social Media Release and I'm looking forward to sharing what I know with a group of people who have paid to learn about it.

Thornley-Fallis' Bob LeDrew and the always-entertaining Colin McKay (from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner) will also be speaking at the conference. For more information about some of the other topics and to register, visit the conference website.