Success with Social Media Releases

IStock_000002807197XSmallApril Dunford is Director of Business Development at Nortel. She heads up marketing for Nortel’s Incubation Program, responsible for bringing new products to market.  She’s a savvy marketer and blogger.

And despite her former skepticism, April is now also a huge fan of Social Media Releases.  (Yea, I am back on that kick.)

April recently detailed some amazing results for her first Social Media Releases… 

The first one – which she admitted was a not very newsworthy release about Nortel’s corporate green policy – led to “more press interviews than I’ve done in the past two years.  I was on national television.  I did a video for  The Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times (etc.) all did stories with us in addition to the dozens of bloggers and online news sources who picked up the story and linked to our video – Spectacular!”

It’s not uncommon for corporations “try out” an SMR with a minor news announcement, just to see how things go.  April’s first SMR got uncommonly good results because she and her colleagues did an uncommonly good job of adding relevant tags, storyline angles and multimedia content.

Buoyed by the first SMR’s success, April’s second social media release was more ambitious: it was used to announce a new product.  “We put together a new blog and included the link and feed to the blog in the release.  We shot a video interview with the product architect and had some video of the prototype of the product.  We created a Flickr site and posted screen shots of the product.”

“Again, the results (of the SMR) were spectacular.  In the community of bloggers and online news sources focused in our product space, there were dozens of articles and a lot of discussion about the product.  I was on TV twice, and the architect of the product also did national television.  BusinessWeek did a podcast with our CTO on the subject, I did interviews with 4 newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, we got several inquiries from analysts, our blog was getting 100 uniques a day in the first week and we got invited to speak at a couple of conferences.” 

I was also in correspondence today with Beth Harte, a marketing blogger who has also been experimenting with Social Media Releases.  She recently sent a BIG announcement over BusinessWire in traditional format, and a MINOR announcement out, SMR-style, via PRWeb.  According to Beth’s subsequent Google Analytics performance review, the minor news SMR generated 1,330 hits/inbound links, while the big traditional news release netted just 243.

“Moving forward I will only use SMRs,” says Beth.

Convinced, yet?  Maybe just a little bit?

I’ve always said that the adoption of the Social Media Release would be a long slog.  But I’ve also often said that its Web-friendly, social nature will put the SMR on “the right side of history.”  Experiences like Beth and April’s are further evidence that change is a’foot.

P.S. – April did not provide links to her SMRs in her original post.  I’ve asked her for the links and will update the post when/if she gets back to me.

P.P.S. – Please note my “radical suggestions” for SMRs before you run off and spend a million dollars on a slew of new SMRs!


Posted on: November 5, 2008 at 11:45 am By Todd Defren
14 Responses to “Success with Social Media Releases”


  • Hemchandra Shetty says:

    Dear Todd,

    Excellent updates, SMR will be an effective tool for all the PR professionals across the world, In India we too have started using it….great goings leads to great happenings…

    I could be reached on

  • Jeremiah says:

    The case study value seems suspect here. Specifically of note: “minor news SMR generated 1,330 hits/inbound links, while the big traditional news release netted just 243″… There is surely a hit to link ratio of value that is far less than 1:1; why combine them unless you’re trying to pad an argument?

  • Jamie Giller says:


    Wanted to share that your SMR is on CNN Money!


  • Great to know about Ms. Harte’s success with PRWEb. What I really want to see though, is data about the results of one press release distributed through multiple channels. Does such a thing exist?

  • Allan says:

    Seeing as how there are a ton of “social media” destinations or properties, how does one go about managing a good press release into these networks? I think the good old fashioned grunt work still has to be done by a good PR professional who can figure out which network has the right audience demographics and characteristics receptive to the specific message. Social media releases into social networks probably take a life of their own as well. I can only imagine the challenges of tracking what audience’s reactions will be.

  • @Todd Thanks so much for the post and the link. I don’t blog on behalf of Nortel so I didn’t post the links to the actual releases. If you are interested I can talk to our folks on this end and see if anyone has any objections to sharing those.

    @Mike I’ve worked at startups as well as larger companies and I agree that it is easier to get the attention of folks like BusinessWeek and Forbes than it is at a smaller company. A fairer comparison would be to look at the performance of those releases to other more conventional releases we did around the same time. The fact is we saw much better uptake on those releases. For example, we have a great relationship with CTV but the TV spots we did related to those releases were the only ones we did with them last summer. Would we have gotten the same response if we had taken the same topics and done a traditional press release? Who knows? All I know is that the response we did get makes me a social media release convert.

  • @Beth (and others) -

    I don’t want to get into a micro-point/counterpoint.

    I guess what I am mostly saying is that one test is not at all statistically accurate because there are way too many variables. The variables were: SMNR yes/no, Wire service A/B, content A/B, timing A/B, etc. There were so many differences in the two examples, I just don’t see how an anecdotal example “proves” anything. They are interesting case studies. But I think it is pretty rash to draw comprehensive conclusions from a couple case studies.

    Is the SMNR something people should TRY? Sure. Do I like using the SMNR features on my own website? Of course! Have I taken aspects of the SMNR template (bullet points) and used them in all of our releases? Yes! I just still have not seen any actual reliable DATA that proves the SMNR on the wire is worth the extra investment.

  • Danny Brown says:

    Great debate (as always!).

    As anyone that knows me and my agency, I’m a huge fan of both search engine optimized press releases and SMR’s. I think that, used together as an overall PR strategy, they offer a powerful tool in getting your news across.

    @ Beth – I will admit to being a little confused with your release example that Todd used (the PRWeb one). This looks like a standard release with added PDF file and URL en – you could get this with the $140 (PDF) or $200 (PDF & URL) distribution option. So I’m not sure whether I would class this as a social media release, or a search engine optimized release – I’d probably go for the latter? Great results either way, though.

    I agree that unless you’re already having thousands of web user traffic coming to your site regularly, solely posting a SMR on your own site would lose any effectiveness. Having a separate sub-page as a newsroom, by all means, but still use other distribution methods.

    Of course, interconnecting all versions of releases would be equally beneficial.

  • Todd Defren says:

    @Mike & @Beth – You’re both right. No – really. You make good points. I tend to agree more with Mike, believe it or not, because I like the SMR to primarily exist at the corporate site. I advise clients to use traditional wires to direct readers to the SMR versions at homepage. But again, you are both right in your own way.

    @Chris and @Alison – Thank you. I am blushing.

  • @MikeVolpe Not a good argument about Nortel being the exception because they’re large.

    While we do have releases on pitchengine from brands like Microsoft, Red Cross, Carl’s Jr., The Economist, etc., 90% of our 1000+ brands on pitchengine are small brands…social media offers more for them than big brands, IMO. They see the value of investing in content, not distribution. And I must reiterate, it doesn’t cost anything to build and send quality SMRs:)

  • Beth Harte says:

    @ToddDefren, thanks for adding my experience to your post with such short notice, it’s much appreciated!

    @MikeVolpe, here’s where we disagree, my friend. First, the SMR was definitely more effective, in my experience, because of the ability to have it optimized for search (search plays a big part here), two because I could add elements to it and three, because it was shareable/savable via the embedded Web 2.0 tools.

    One data point that wasn’t included in Todd’s post was that the brochure that was attached to the SMR was downloaded over 350+ times for the new hire release. I could never have gotten that from a standard release, nor, would I venture to guess, that any traffic driven to the site to download it that much.

    As well, a typical Business Wire release is well over $950 per release while the PRWeb release is just $360. That’s a great cost savings to get a better viral bang (and yes, they have basically the same targets).

    Second, depending on the industry, customers and potential prospects DO care about product news…especially if it’s a product that helps that particular company keep its uptime levels at 99.999% (IT speak, sorry); a new hire won’t help them in that area.

    As for a new hire being newsworthy, granted I am sure a lot of headhunters, potential employers and lots of folks outside the target checked out the release. That’s a variable that makes these two releases apples and oranges.

    Third, sorry, but I just don’t see where having a release with RSS or embedded Web 2.0 sharing/saving tools would work as well on a site as having something go over the wire and shared virtually.

    Have an SM release on a site would only work if you have tens of thousands of people coming to your site and taking the effort to share or save the release…and I just don’t think the average site has that much traffic or that the business person or media person is there yet.

    But I am open to see you point of view on all of this…I am sure Todd won’t mind a debate on his blog. LOL! ;-)

  • I don’t want to be Mr. Skeptic, but I’m not sure two anecdotal examples provide proof of something. (I am normally a pretty positive guy… I think.)

    For the first example, I think that 99% of marketers do not play the game Nortel plays. They are a huge public company and people are actually paid to read their press releases (analysts, financial types, media) because if you miss a story about Nortel you get fired. So of course adding some flair to your press release (that everyone already reads) will enhance it, and the “going green” topic is HUGE these days so I’m surprised people are surprised Nortel got coverage for that topic. I think the results would be quite different if a 25 person company made the same announcement, even using a SMNR.

    For the second example, (BTW, I am a huge fan/friend of Beth) I actually think the hiring example is a much more interesting story than a new product. No one cares about your products (ask Seth Godin or David Meerman Scott) but there are tons of blogs and websites that talk just about people being hired and fired (and offering that data to salespeople to start to spam you and cold call you to sell you stuff for your new job).

    To be clear, I am a HUGE FAN of using SMNR on your own website, I just have not yet seen real comprehensive data that shows the performance is worth the cost of sending them on the wire. (And I am a data junkie.)

  • Alison Dwyer says:

    We have to manage the publicity for an innovation and creative thinking week involving four universities, one college and one foundation. The week has numerous events, workshops, speakers and ultimately messages.

    The only way we could think of managing the needs of the journalists was to create a social media newsroom which goes live tomorrow.

    If it had not been for your nagging backed-up with constructive support there is no way our little Manchester-based (UK) agency would have dared to go down this route. Cheers, you really have helped us be brave.

  • Chris Kovac says:

    Great article (as always) Todd. Our agency has been sending out all news releases in the SMR format (thanks again for pioneering SMRs) with significant success. Our internal staff is seeing the value and articles like this will help facilitate that. Even our (more traditional) clients are jumping on board.

Show some social media love would ya?

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