Social Media Release: Evolution

When I debuted the Social Media Release back in 2006, moreso than anything else, I intended to stress the concept of a TEMPLATE, i.e., “use what you like about it, change it however you like, discard the parts that don’t work for you.”  My intent was not to create the “final word” on Social Media Releases, but simply to get the conversation started…

In addition to its adoption by companies as large as Cisco and Ford and as small as Joe’s Pizza; in addition to its incremental embrace by the wire services; I was also really jazzed when guys I came to respect, like Shannon Whitley and Jason Kintzler, created services around the SMR template.  These guys had their own ideas about “what works and what doesn’t” and true-to-the-concept, tweaked the SMR template as they saw fit.

I had occasion to catch up with Jason recently, and his continued passion and success led me to ask him to draft a blog post re: the current state of the SMR.

Of course, Jason strongly believes that his approach is the most worthy, and he makes a strong case for PitchEngine below.  His guest post here does not represent an endorsement by me or by SHIFT Communications.

I’d be eager to hear your feedback.  Are you buying what he’s selling?

Here’s Jason:

SocialMediaPressReleaseI remember the day I discovered Todd Defren’s SMPR (Social Media Press Release) concept on this very blog back in 2007. Ironically, at the time, the high-tech, social concoction had to be downloaded as a pdf document – a file format we would later scoff at as “social media savvy” PR Pros. Nevertheless, it was revolutionary in nature.

At the time, I was knee-deep in development of my little pitch machine, but the name of his template stuck with me. I had already created this cool way for PR people to package up all their content – like an online press kit – but this gave it context and made it sharable. So, I dropped the “p” for “press” and called our kit the Social Media Release. From there, the SMR was no longer just a twinkle in papa Defren’s eye.

The SMR Grows Up
I’m not shy about proclaiming PitchEngine as a critical player in the adoption of the SMR. In fact, in less than two years, PitchEngine users created and shared more than 90-thousand of them. (More than all other services combined).

The reason? We made it about flexibility, function and social media. We didn’t try to retrofit the press release with social media glitter (ahem, wire services). Savvy PR pros understand it’s not about “share-buttons” – it’s about writing for your audience and connecting.  Simply put: The press release is NOT social. It’s this premise that built our core business and put us on the trajectory we’re on now. A path we think will reshape the industry in the process.

ImagesWhy PitchEngine? Why didn’t other platforms emerge and why can’t I just make an SMR on my blog? I think this was Todd’s orignal intention – sort of an open source template that people could go and build. But what got overlooked was search. We call it “Co-op SEO” and it’s the reason PitchEngine search authority grew so big, so fast. You can’t get authoritative back links to your website or your blog easily and you need them to drive your Page Rank within Google. But through PitchEngine, brands were able to get indexed well and almost immediately, which also provided valuable juice to their own domains.

This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and visit face-to-face with PR professionals from many industries. I’ve been encouraged by their level of understanding and enthusiasm for what’s happening. Most see through the marketing speak and grasp what makes content truly social. For example, pitching a journalist or blogger a story idea is one thing, but writing for them is another. If you’re still doing this, you’re wasting time. Which raises the bigger question: Why are we writing press releases? Is it driving our bottom line as a company, or simply justifying our position in the marketing process? In this new age of direct-to-consumer communication, does the press release have a place?

Die-Press-ReleasePitch: The SMR Evolved
Yes, Tom Foremski. Yes, Peter Shankman. The traditional press release is dead! At least, to us it is. I call it “word doc PR” and it’s as played-out as a Christmas carol in June.

Does your boss still require it? Just include it as an attachment if you have to. Or send it through a traditional service and embed a link to something much, much better. Whether you’re pitching a 3-billion dollar product to the world, or telling your neighbors there’s a garage sale on Tuesday, you have a story to tell. You should publish your own story, not rely on someone else to tell it for you. This defines the Pitch™, the new SMR.

The Social Media Release has evolved beyond the PR process. It’s now a “mobile” component to your brand’s story telling.

Unlike your website or blog, which is on an island, the Pitch travels around the web leaving people a window into your brand.

It spreads your net wider, enabling brands and businesses to:

  • Get found on search engines (via new SEO technology)
  • Integrate it with their website (via embedded newsroom, feeds)
  • Interact with their social networks where they can engage with friends, fans and followers directly

The content has to be conversational and engaging to the reader, who nowadays is probably not media. Brands like Carl’s Jr. realized this early on and have deployed PitchEngine for just about any pitch their 18-24 year-old demographic would enjoy reading or watching. (Like this one.)

The Country Music Association uses the newsroom functionality to keep their millions of fans apprised of every detail they feel “pitch worthy.” (Here’s their PitchEngine Newsroom).

It’s not just a shift away from the AP-format press release. It’s a shift away from the stuffy, old process entirely.

Imagine the ultimate story that would be written about you in your favorite magazine. Now, write it. Include all the assets the magazine would and then, publish it yourself. If it’s compelling, your consumers or potential customers will identify with it.  The goal is to drive sales, traffic, attendance, etc., It’s not to “gain eyeballs.” Those days are toast.

What if my boss still requires press releases?
They most likely will. But continually question their goal and then, just include it as an attachment if you have to. Or send it through a traditional service and embed a link to something much, much better and more engaging.

Whether you’re pitching a 3-billion dollar product to the world, or telling your neighbors there’s a garage sale on Tuesday, you have a story to tell. You should publish your own story, not rely on someone else to tell it for you. This defines the Pitch. There will be good ones, and there will be bad ones – we’re all about enabling you to pitch whatever it is you want to pitch in a concise, cool and more conversational way.

A People-Powered Future
As you can see, the Social Media Release has come a long way. No matter how you define it today, it shouldn’t be compared to a traditional press release. It takes creativity, good storytelling and a bit of ‘umph’ from your social networks to make it sing, but when it does, it’s like magic. (Really, just ask these people).

One of the biggest successes of the Social Media Release has been its ability to level the playing field for agencies, freelancers and entrepreneurs themselves. It used to be that spending lots of money equaled “exposure” but, that veil has dropped. Companies large and small are now able to get their word out with search engine optimized releases that are poised for viral uptake. In some cases, at no cost.

Easy-buttonThere isn’t an “easy-button” in PR anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but what used to be “simultaneous, push-button distribution” now sounds a lot like “spam.” Take some pride in your skills and show your clients why YOU are necessary. They will see passed the tools. How are you driving their business? If you’re not, they can probably tell their own story, better.

Authenticity isn’t just a buzzword for the new media age – it’s a reality. If you’re looking for templates, processes or metrics to do the work for you, you’re in trouble. There are simply too many scrappy freelancers, agencies and startups doing amazing work, and for peanuts compared to the rates once compiled from agencies by the hour. Dig deep and make sure this is where you want to be. If it is, you should be excited by what’s happening around you.

Posted on: September 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm By Todd Defren
14 Responses to “Social Media Release: Evolution”


  • Hannah Stern says:

    Thanks again for sharing a post that I can directly relate to. I was looking back on some of your older posts and found this one about social media releases. I’m an aspiring PR/Journalism student at the University of Kansas. We recently had a lecture talking about SMR and media kits. I think they are a great idea, the idea of a journalist being able to share links, images and further insight to the sender is a great way to get the message across. Just last year we were strictly taught how to do a traditional press release. I think that SMR are a much better way to connect with the audience you are trying to reach.

    I also think it’s great that you talk about creativity. I think it is so important to set yourself out from the rest, especially as a college student. It is very reassuring to know that we are being taught a skill that according to you is something that is going to really help us out in the future and has many possibilities.


  • So, let me start by saying I love Pitchengine. I use it for a number of my clients and we’ve had strong results. However, I don’t think the press release is dead. Just yesterday, I was working with a reporter who specifically asked me to email a release. He took that release and posted it verbatim on their website. It ended up being a great, quick hit for my client — all because we had a press release ready to go.

    While we’re all excited to leave “word doc PR” (to borrow Jason’s phrase) behind, some reporters still want/need that document in their hands. And, as long as reporters keep asking for the press release, it’s hard to declare it dead. That said, it’s important to know the audience and the ultimate goal. Sometimes a traditional press release just doesn’t make sense. Using Pitchengine to post the information in a public way where it can be easily shared is the smarter decision. But, not always. The PR person needs to know what they’re trying to accomplish, the reporter’s preferences (if they’re working with specific journalists), as well as the ultimate goal. Then, pick the tools accordingly.


    • Heather,
      I completely agree – pitch how your friends (or contacts) want to be pitched. It’s going to take some time, but I truly believe it will be more powerful and effective to pitch “people” not just “journalists” in the very near future.
      That’s really where I think the industry as a whole needs some work. Maybe it won’t be PR driven, instead a marketing initiative. Who knows. I guess time (a short amount these days) will tell!

      Thanks for flying the PitchEngine flag! You are a driving force in evolving the industry.

  • Nice post, I can see your passionate about the subject and your company. I don’t agree with your statement that “word doc PR” is dead, because journalists still like to have that attachment to copy/paste elements from and just have it. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a reality we need to work with. Services like PitchEngine will help getting rid of those attachments over time, but at the moment it’s not just something you need to do because your boss says so.

    I’m surprised that you think SEO is such an important USP for PitchEngine, interesting thought. Do you recommend clients to publish their releases on their own website as well? That’s where I see the issue that people might have, because they want to have the content to boost the SEO of their own (corporate) website.

    You also say the (old) press release isn’t something you can or want to turn into a SMR. I think you’re probably right, but don’t you think that most of your users create an old-fashioned press release first and paste it into PitchEngine later on? For most people the SMR is just an ‘enriched’ version of the regular press release they still produce.

    I see where you are coming from, but a lot of people just aren’t there yet.

    • Sébastien,
      You make some great points. It’s going to take time, I’m simply sharing my vision for where we want to take PitchEngine and our willing participants! As for the SEO question – we get it a lot. The critical reason to post the content on a site with “juice” like PitchEngine (or Facebook, Twitter, etc.,) is to provide authoritative back links to your own website. This will ultimately raise your authority, or at least help. The Google algorithm considers back links as important. Nothing wrong with posting press releases to your own site either, in fact we enable brands to embed a newsroom of their pitches onto their own domain!
      Thanks for the read and response!

  • Garious says:

    I can’t agree with you more when it comes to authenticity. It’s not anymore about comparing brand x with brand y these days. If you’re not real to your customers, you’ll definitely lose a big deal. Consumer these days are smarter than before and you simply don’t get them hooked with the usual marketing slug; you have to be more creative than that. What will engage people to your brand and become your very own band of brand advocates? That’s the next question, I guess.

  • Michelle says:

    So exciting to think about! So much teaching to do!

  • Rex says:

    As a former player in the SMPR-builder game, I gotta say: Jason, you’ve done a great job.

    I’m very glad to see Pitchengine, a new platform, on top of SMRs, rather than an old wire company. They just can’t keep up.

    It’s been a year now since my own product lost an important player and stagnated, but I’m still keeping an eye on developments in this realm. Excited to see where you’re going and what new features you’ll add. I just wish I could’ve given you some competition in the social media newsroom space. = P

  • Kudos to Jason for having the guts to go out on a limb and be an innovator. It’s one thing to recognize that there’s a problem in need of a solution – and I mean that with all due respect Todd – but it’s another thing entirely to devote your time, reputation and $ towards actually building the solution.

    One thing that bodes well for PitchEngine is that it’s established itself as a dedicated service to the PR industry. The technology behind PE may be great on its own, but ultimately it’s the level of attention and desire to continuously improve what they’ve got that will serve it best over the long-term.

    It’s tough to go up against the big wire services and their immense resource$. I’ve been impressed with how well PE has stuck it out and earned the respect of the industry in the process.


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