A Radical Suggestion for the Social Media Release

IStock_000005993838XSmallA radical suggestion for the Social Media Release: don’t put any Social Media Releases out over the wires. 

While I sincerely applaud how far the wire services have progressed in all-things-social, I am unconvinced that “distribution” is the Big Issue for Social Media Release adoption.  It’s not about distribution, it’s about empowerment and conversation. 

I recommend you put out a well-written “traditional” release over the wires, with a built-in link to the “social media version” at the company’s online newsroom.  Thus you can bypass the wire services’ outsized SMR fees without giving up on their distribution platform.

To do this, however, you first need to create a Social Media Newsroom, using a blogging engine. 

The social media version of the release, posted to a social media newsroom, can allow for everything from rippable multimedia (video, audio, graphics, etc.) to sphere-this to del.icio.us links to moderated comments.  Additionally, with each news item posted as a blog entry, you can aggregate all conversational elements about that news in one spot, via trackbacks and other social media tracking tools. 

This approach offers the added benefits of being a lot less expensive; maintaining full control of brand identity; and turns your newsroom’s “version” of the release into the truly official version. 

With so much potential activity happening around each release, it’s more likely that anyone who writes about your news online will link directly to the newsroom, versus linking to the heretofore “official” release that comes from the professional news wires.  This boosts SEO.  (In fact, you might also consider an AdWords campaign to drive additional web traffic directly to your most important news releases.)

Jeremiah_owyang-RodneyOnWidgetsPitfalls626.flvJeremiah Owyang’s recent post about how the Social Media aggregation and engagement prowess of FriendFeed is what the SMR should be, really hit home for me.  He’s spot-on in terms of what the SMR should do for companies, and he really drives many of the points I’ve been making for two years – though I’ve often been misunderstood.

However I respectfully disagree with Jeremiah that FriendFeed will enjoy widespread corporate adoption.  Given the relative “newness” of FriendFeed, one could suggest that the SMR (done right) offers a stepping stone to FF’s additional functionality, or (as Brian Solis suggests in the comments section of Jeremiah’s post), perhaps FF could complement an SMR.  We’ll see.

I can point to some amazing examples of Social Media Release experimentation.  Widespread adoption is a longer-term story.  But as I’ve said a million times, we’re talking about the “webificiation” and “socializiation” of the humble, 100–year old, text-based press release: if you believe in the Web; if you believe in Social Media, you can’t help but agree that the SMR is on the right side of history.

Posted on: June 11, 2008 at 7:50 am By Todd Defren
28 Responses to “A Radical Suggestion for the Social Media Release”


  • Katie says:

    The links no longer work.

  • Great article! I am following the strategy but uncertain about abandoning the wire services completely?

  • Thom Brodeur says:

    Not surprisingly, a post that’s generated a bit of “engaged conversation.” And, of course, representing one of those n’er-do-well wires; I feel the need to jump in head first into the shallow end of the pool.

    Make no mistake. Even we newswires understand that social media isn’t about “distribution.” And what we also understand is that perhaps even our peers and colleagues in the social media sphere have yet to fully appreciate is this. Newswires have a significant role to play here given we aid, abet, facilitate and move millions of news items on behalf of tens of thousands of companies, organizations and individuals to hundreds of thousands of journalists and influencers (traditional and “new media” alike) ultimately to billions of people every year. Sorry to state the obvious here, but exactly where do you all think a great many of the “conversations” we talk about in social media originate from? Well, some come from the work that, guess what?…newswires do.

    The truth is a lot of the fodder for blogs and bloggers, social networks and communities and citizen journalists comes from a fairly rich source pool that happens to include a reasonable amount of content from us. So, be nice. Ok? 

    I think, given all the posts about “excluding” newswires as participants and facilitators in the social media space, it would appear that we all need a reminder about what social media is. Social media is meant to INCLUDE all comers. Or is it? While I love that we lob words like “engage,” and “converse” and “dialogue with others” like so many grenades in a poorly done B movie from the 50s, suggesting that folks circumvent their closest allies and partners — their newswires — is irresponsible. Why do I say this?

    Remember, most ‘audiences’ (yes, I said it…’audiences’) for social media, are by and large NOT experts in the space. Recommending we just not ‘use the wire’ for helping them navigate their way through this maze when they’ve relied on us for a good 50+ years now to help them navigate countless other shifts in the communication landscape puts these folks at risk of doing many of the wrong things that we newswire types have already done in our quest to help our clients not stub their toes in this place where everything, and nothing are ‘defined’ all at once. Putting our clients at risk is something we’re simply not going to do…at least not on purpose.

    Clients pay for expertise, right?

    My guess? Most of the folks who have posted in this blog charge the very same people – newswire customers – various amounts for various services related to social media, among other things of course. Oddly, we’re not criticizing the costs to these folks for all the ‘consulting’ on social media some of us are doing. Yet, we continue to come back to “those darn newswires who just charge too much, and whose benefits just don’t seem to be ‘worth it’”. More than 300 Marketwire clients who have used the relatively cost effective SM 2.0 press release tools we’ve created for them over the past four months would argue differently, methinks.

    Why would we continue to harp on an industry that is truly doing what it can to help move the collective ‘forward’ here? Especially when we’ve sought out — from the get-go – counsel from the very “experts” in this field (Todd, Chris, Brian, Shannon…you know this is true) and countless participants in social media? We’ve admitted our mistakes when we’ve made them, and have squarely fallen on appropriate swords when appropriate, and taken our lumps when deserved. That’s not the point though is it? The point is we’re creating tools that ‘help’, and solutions that ‘work’. For those who wish to make use of our help.

    At the end of the day, here are the facts:

    SMNRs are here to stay.

    Newswires are here to stay.

    We’re all in this brave new world together. Some of us disagree about ‘membership’ to the club, but…so far, we’re “in it together” for “better or worse.”

    Disenfranchising the largest facilitator body (newswires) for getting these “conversations” started that all us SM types like to tout is… plainly put, a really bad idea.

    Thanks for giving us a forum to express our thoughts on these matters.

  • Shel Holtz says:

    One missing component from FriendFeed (among many) as a surrogate for the SMR is the tagging structure the working group is developing. While tagging is a behind-the-scenes dimension of the SMR, I still think it’s an important one.

  • @David On the comparison point I wasn’t trying to suggest this was apples with apples and in fact clearly one would need to do this exercise across a much larger sample to draw firm conclusions. The use of the different search criteria wasnt to manufacture extra results either (hence why I also included a link to the search for the title as a whole), but actually to make it more difficult for the release to rank highly by bringing other relevant coverage into play that had slightly different keyword emphasis.

    What I was trying to do was “illustrate”, hence my use of the word, the fact that SEO is not as simple as a discussion around traffic and that it isnt automatically the case that companies with lower traffic sites can’t consider hosting conversations for this reason.

    Of course a lot of the results are pickup, not surprising from a “respected service”, and I am not disputing that, as in fact are ours. As I said pickup is obviously hugely valuable and a key objective which we both share. This was about bringing some pertinent evidence to the table about Todd’s “radical” suggestion that SMNR’s have no place on a wire service, by showing that a different approach can work. After all not all companies have Disney’s marketing budget.

    Touche on the review point!:) We do indeed provide a similar service on the review front as you and (unfortunately) frequently pick up errors in client’s releases, in fact we just have 10 minutes ago. But we have missed that one (corrected now you will see). Typical and I am now rubbing my foot very hard having shot myself in it :) There but for the grace of God?

    Great discussion though I think and one that we need more of to advance the way that we all assist our clients to have valuable conversations in the online world.


  • @Adam – It’s clearly not an apples to apples comparison but one I’d still like to evaluate.
    The most obvious difference between the two is … Disney vs. Zac Goldsmith.

    My search of both headlines without quotes resulted in the following (very different from yours):
    541 results for the Sainsbury’s release.
    16,600 for the Disney release.

    The first result for Disney points to their newsroom, which is unusual but ideal. Many of the others point to the video we distributed to sharing sites like aol and revver. A lot of the other hits on the first few pages are {gasp} pickup. Some is automatic, most of it for this release is not. Second, many of these sites will begin purging this release after 30 days. Three of the versions we released will begin leapfrogging the aggregators. Often we are at the top of the first page … sometimes we’re not.

    One very important piece of this comparison is also the service you get when you distribute any press release through us … I’d like to believe we would have caught the misspelling of Sainsbury’s in the first paragraph.

  • Good points, Adam.

    And to be clear, I’m not saying that search results will be better on a larger site.

    However, if you create a rich, HTML version of your release on a newswire site, the benefits of the “reach” of the larger site (its readership, subscribers, and affiliates) offset the potential traffic loss to your own site.

    Ultimately, I’d like to see the same SMR posted on my site and the newswire site.

  • HEALTH WARNING – the links below to Google searches are clearly likely to change over time so apologies to anyone not reading this shortly after this comment is posted if you cant find what I reference.

    Traffic is not synonymous with SEO – or this great blog and the SHIFT website would not top the rankings for a google.com search for “social media news release” http://tinyurl.com/3ej9zl . To illustrate this consider these two recent releases below from the end of May, one using our platform where a client has opted (alternatively it can be hosted on our site) to host it on their own domain and a PRN MNR hosted on the much higher traffic prnewswire.com

    http://news.friction.tv/?ReleaseID=8770 – Zac Goldsmith Urges Boycott Against Sainsbury’s.
    Google results for this release for a search for “Zac Goldsmith Boycott Against Sainsburys” http://tinyurl.com/4komc2 show the release hosted on their domain at No.2 of 9,400 results. Behind the Independent.co.uk (Alexa rank 2,025) but ahead of coverage on Telegraph.co.uk (Alexa rank 560 with 18.6million unique visitors a month). Friction.tv however has an Alexa rank of 173,904. (A search for the exact title actually results in the release being ranked top http://tinyurl.com/4m32c9 ).

    http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/disney/33307/ – TO INFINITY AND BEYOND! DISNEY PARKS AND NASA SEND BUZZ LIGHTYEAR INTO SPACE Google results for this release for a search for the title of the release requires you to visit page 11 of the 5,450 results http://tinyurl.com/6exvwy to find the first reference to the release hosted on prnewswire.com and this is actually to the summary archive page not the actual release. Unless I have misunderstood in which case happy to have my ignorance pointed out to me.

    This is not to dispute that there is value in being hosted by a respected service such as PRN. Nor that coverage on respected 3rd party editorial and blog sites is very desirable and valuable. In fact that’s what we are all about helping clients to achieve. I merely point out that hosting the conversation AND reaping the SEO benefits for your organisation does not require you to have a top 5k Alexa ranked domain.

    Be great if some real SEO experts could chip in though as I am not claiming depth of expertise in this field.

    @ShannonP – To try and answer to your points a little the ITV example in my comment above was (still is in fact) ranked top of Google for “winter on ITV2″ and various other related terms and to date over 10,000 copies of the brochure hosted against it have been downloaded by interested visitors. The second release they sent http://socialnews.itv.com/?ReleaseID=8069 was the only mechanism by which they distributed the information about this schedule and so it must have been visited by journalists (and website stats show it was) or the Relevant Coverage shown couldnt have been written :)


  • Shannon Paul says:

    Honestly, the SMRs I have seen still don’t really solve a lot of the communication problems involved with getting a client’s message out.

    1. Most are still way too bogged down with text, only rather than reading like a news article, they’re lengthy sections of bullet points and blocks of bogged down quotes.

    2. Having a social media newsroom with a blogging engine is only useful if journalists and others who might cover your product actually take the time to visit. This part seems ambitious, but I can’t help but think that if you build it, they still won’t come.

    3. I don’t care how much Google juice you think you have or SEO/SMO robustness you think you need, somebody needs to be looking for this information first in order for it to matter either way.

    4. I still wonder how much of this HTML fabulousness gets lost in the spam filter. Even ours is so vigilant that I have to take the time to right click anything remotely fancy. It’s just as easy to hit delete.

    That said, I may be a complete loser, but I don’t really understand wires either. It seems like most of the stuff that gets posted on the wire just generates bogus clips to spam-blogs that too many agencies try to get their clients to pay for… that is, unless there is still a lot of old-fashioned e-mail and telephone follow up.

    I realize that it is entirely possible that I am missing the point entirely, but I would love some clarification on this last question: What’s so SOCIAL about the SMR?

    It seems to me that relationships still matter most. How does the SMR fit into relationship building?

  • @Brian, SMO for the most part is something that is supposed to happen organically … the vendor/communicator is supposed to enable it. Would then SMO be part of our arsenal or a best case scenario?

  • Brian Solis says:

    Everyone, there’s a major difference between SMO and SEO. Each still require a dedicated and complementary strategy.

  • I have to agree with David W. The Google Juice that you lose is small compared with the reach of a big newswire website.

    The focus should be on the SEO of the release, not the benefits that might be gained or lost for your own site.

    For example, do you want the “juice” from posting an article to your blog, or do you want the reach from posting your article to the Huffington Post?

    It makes sense to have an eye-appealing HTML document distributed by big newswires. The only problem in my mind is that it’s still too expensive (and shouldn’t be).

  • Humor me because I don’t get to do this very often. But I told you so in “Why Social Media Wire Releases Are Bogus” on January 17, 2007. I took a lot of flak for that. http://www.irwebreport.com/daily/2007/01/17/social-media-wire-releases-are-bogus/

  • Todd,

    With all do respect, you’ve got it all wrong and this is what’s the matter with the SMPR … an overall misunderstanding of how the wires work, how our products serve your and your client’s interests and how to integrate them with your client’s pre-existing world.

    First, the Multimedia News Release (that vehicle you chose to distribute the debut of the template of the SMPR with ;-) ) links prominently back to the Multimedia News Release. That page hosts the kitchen sink.

    Where the miscommunication and misuse of these vehicles and assets comes in is at the corporate level with the failure to link from their site to the MNR/SMPR. I can’t tell you how many clients (99%) that issue an MNR/SMPR do not link to it or even reference it in their newsroom. Let alone how many clients switch services on how pretty a traditional press release looks on the home page of a wire service. THIS IS THE PROBLEM.

    While creating a splash page that has all of the assets you have hosted on your company site is great, if it gets hosted on a site that gets over 2 million unique visitors a month it has a better chance of getting seen/picked up/going viral. And while the “platform can be mapped to an organisation’s own domain so they get the Google Juice,” it may not figure in google if their site gets minimal traffic and other links.

    Regarding budget: I’ve had conversations with a lot of people about this. Every client doesn’t have a 7 figure retainer. But every client probably spends a lot of money out of their marketing and advertising tills to pay for things that are very similar to, or would work perfectly with, and MNR/SMPR. It is up to the agency to find the budget and wrestle out of the hands of the people who don’t belong managing social media campaigns.

    I could go on … and maybe I should.


  • Brian Solis says:

    Todd, I’m glad your wrote something up as I would have loved to. But, now I don’t need to, because you’ve started a great conversation here.

    I really do not see FriendFeed usurping SMRs at all. They’re complementary. It’s just not the same process of consumption. In fact, the SMR would be one of the many assets that would appear in the aggregated BrandStream, but those who follow it, would do so for different reasons. If anything, it becomes the replacement for the typical RSS feed for stakeholders.

    Conversations, like all forms of aggregated content, can be hosted in FF or back at the source.

    This is the social web, conversations are everywhere…whereas the SMR is a catalyst for conversations around specific information and content.

  • Todd

    At the risk of being in advertising mode this is something we have tried to solve from day one with our SMNR service because as Michael so rightly points out a lot of organisations lack the budget, but also potentially the expertise to do this themselves. That’s why our platform can be mapped to an organisation’s own domain so they get the Google Juice and it is the organisation who hosts the conversation.

    ITV, Europe’s largest commercial broadcaster, is using this facility from us see:

    In addition, on suggestion from Constantin Basturea last year, users also have the facility to nominate and introduce a comments respondent/moderator so that anyone who chooses to comment knows that someone from the organisation is listening – its not a faceless web page, see: http://blogit.webitpr.com/?ReleaseID=8873

    We do send out a text version with a link back when we distribute but we also indicate to the recipient what additional content is available if they visit the page. The challenge of “the downstream blues” as you once described it is one that Shannon is right, needs to be solved. However the identity, SEO and conversational ones can be if the wire service is prepared, as we are, to take a back seat.


  • You’re kind to call it “thorough”, Todd. Most people I work with know by now that “long-winded” is a more accurate description :-)

    The GM Europe social media newsroom example is a good one to cite – I think what they’re doing is pretty much the state of the art in this space right now.

  • You’re kind to call it “thorough”, Todd. Most people I work with know by now that “long-winded” is a more accurate description :-)

    The GM Europe social media newsroom example is a good one to cite – I think what they’re doing is pretty much the state of the art in this space right now.

  • SMR distribution doesn’t have to be expensive. Wire services can distribute low-cost, HTML versions to selected distribution points (including the service’s own website).

    One of the mistakes that has been made is that services are still trying to host all of the content for these releases, including the high-res images and video (which *is* expensive), but it doesn’t have to work that way anymore.

    If customers stop trying to distribute SMRs over the wire, the wire services will eventually have to drop their prices, but by that time there will be so many alternatives that it won’t matter. Today, wire services need to help themselves by working to lower prices and make inexpensive HTML distributions happen. Otherwise, other technology will fill that gap.

  • Todd Defren says:

    @ChrisHeuer – First, thanks for the kind words about the “effin smart” people of SHIFT. It comes from running a TALENT AGENCY first, a PR FIRM second. I also appreciate your SMR comments, of course: you of all people are well aware of the struggles, and I am glad we see eye to eye on this one.

    @Jeremiah – For the record, I’ve got nothing against FriendFeed: it’s just that if getting Corporations to “webify” their releases has been this big of a struggle, educating them on the existence & benefits of FF seems to be a longer-term project! Also, the branding issue (i.e., making a FF “room” look official/branded) could be a dealbreaker for some old-skool marketeers.

    @MichaelO’ConnorClarke – Wow, thanks for the spot-on analysis. I am flattered that you took the time to be so thorough.

    @Marifer – GM Europe and Electrolux and NeatReceipts have social media newsrooms of various quality. There are more but I can’t think of ‘em off the top of my head. I honestly feel that I put the cart before the horse: in my mind, the SM Newsroom is more critical than the SMR itself! As for engines, WordPress works for me.

  • Marifer says:

    Hi Todd,

    Just wondering if you could share some examples of social media newsrooms that work. You mentioned in your post that it’s best to create a Social Media Newsroom using a blogging engine, which ones have you found to be the best for this purpose?


  • Todd: excellent thinking and you’re absolutely right, of course.

    There’s nothing particularly social about the act of distribution – no matter how one chooses to tweak it. Making a news release more social doesn’t mean spamming it out to more people via wire, via email distribution, or via ads in RSS feeds.

    It means opening up the format to encourage more interactivity, engagement, creative repurposing (aka “coverage”) and, yes, conversation.

    Hence, hosting SMRs on the firm’s own social media newsroom is precisely the right thing to do.

    If a well-crafted SMR can be considered an “opening statement” or conversation catalyst, you want to set yourselves up as a magnetic centre for that conversation, and encourage the juice to flow around your conversation starter as people add to, comment on, applaud, detract, or otherwise embellish and extend your statements.

    At the same time, much of this is still terra nova for professional communicators and their clients and companies alike – we see a lot of cautious exploration and experimentation, lots of hedging of bets. Issuing a traditional release that links off to a more social artifact makes awfully good sense right now. But for the moment, I think the wire-based SMR can still play a role for many clients, as a good middle ground.

    One of the challenges faced by many of the clients I’ve been dealing with is the extant gap between their Web operations and their communications function. The corporate and agency PR folk, quite often, just don’t have any sway over what happens to their Web, newsroom or much of the rest of their online activities for that matter.

    Yes, we all know that’s broken and wrong, but it is still very often the case. The frustrating reality is that they may not have the budget or ability to quickly change their existing newsroom into something more social. One of my favourite clients, as an example, is still fighting with their corporate Web marketing department to stop them posting news releases as PDFs (ack).

    Setting up a standalone, blog-based social media newsroom that links back to the corporate site is an option, for sure, but it’s far from ideal. To accrue the maximum benefit from any conversational karma and Googlejuice created, that newsroom ought to be a core part of the main site.

    This is can be a frustrating discussion to have. With any reasonably large corporation, there’s a good chance that the newsroom will be one of the most frequently-updated, content rich, and search engine-friendly parts of the site. Any right-thinking Webmaster would surely want to look at the newsroom as a great engine for driving link traffic and organic search results. Sadly, the discussion doesn’t always go that way.

    So for firms who don’t have social media newsrooms or who lack the budget or ability to change their existing newsroom in the short term – the wire-hosted SMR still makes good interim sense, as long as there are a lot of links to drive clickjuice back to the main corporate site.

    The comparison with FriendFeed is a good one, and I agree with your point that its “the Social Media aggregation and engagement prowess” is something any SMR provider should hope to emulate. I think we also agree that Jeremiah’s prediction (“…the Social Media Press Release, will reincarnate as Friendfeed”) is a bit of a stretch. The two things may aim to achieve similar goals, but they start from entirely different points of origin.

    One last, quick, fairly obvious observation – when we’re talking about “wire distribution” here, we are, of course, really talking about online “distribution” (i.e. posting) on the newswire service’s Web site. There ain’t an actual wire in the world that can handle much more than standard ANPA-formatted ASCII text right now, although things are certainly evolving apace in that world too.

    This seems like a pedantic distinction, perhaps, but I often find myself having to point out the difference between what an actual wire service does and what email/downstream Web distribution models are all about.

  • Reading the comments above, if price is a factor, then Friendfeed will have lower barriers to entry.

    It’s too early to tell on adoption, but I’m making a call on where things are headed.

  • Kyle says:

    I just went through this myself, preparing to use the wire to distribute a “SMNR”, but it was going to cost me $1K….um, we’re a start-up…no thanks. Instead I can cut that in half (even with an embedded video) and push folks to our blog, where our true social media news resides. I’ve been experimenting with several approaches over the last few months and will blog about results myself sometime soon.

    As for FriendFeed; I’m on record as simply not seeing the use in this aggregation. I certainly do not see it as robust enough for any sort of B2B approach, and overall it is not a part of my own social media usage. But that’s just me ;)

    Great post Todd!

  • Chris Heuer says:

    I really want to work with the wire services on this one, as they would be great partners (and indeed, many forward thinking professionals who work for them are GREAT people who have worked hard towards this) but I seem to be in agreement with you on this Todd. Send the regular release over the wires with a link back to a few of the places where conversation may be happening around the announcement/news. An SMR page, your blog and maybe a friendfeed room or delicious page.

    Was speaking with a very large company about friend feed yesterday, and convinced them to start there with a laissez faire approach. To just jump in and get the account names and room names lined up so they can admin them. Hopefully they will be doing that today before everyone reads this…

    See you soon. BTW, you have some really effin smart people who work for SHIFT – congrats!

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