Filed under: PR 101, Social Media | Tags: chris heuer, fathom seo, jeremy pepper, pr newswire, public relations, shel holtz, SHIFT, smnr, smr, social media news release, social media release, todd defren
I’ve been speaking up on Twitter about my concerns around Social Media Releases (SMRs). I’ve apparently been flapping my gums enough to get the attention of PR Newswire, a representative of which called me yesterday to find out why I’ve been so negative. I know that social media expands far beyond marketing but in this blog I’m focusing on my concerns with SMRs further enabling sub-par PR skills.
“The Social Media Release is intended to make it easier on people to identify and share the most important pieces of information with others around the globe while adding their own valuable perspective and/or editorial. It also takes full advantage of HTML, multimedia and the network effects enabled by the Internet by using structured data via the Microformat, which ultimately increases its findability by interested parties – which is ultimately the driving purpose of public relations and the press release specifically.”
Let’s hone in on the implication that ruffles my former PR girl feathers the most: Increasing the findability of press releases is the ultimate purpose of PR. I could’ve sworn the ultimate driving purpose of PR was to fuel company visibility and credibility with support of third-party validation, which in turn drives revenue.
Press releases, SMRs or otherwise, are sales tools and information vehicles for customers, partners and shareholders. They are not a primary driver for bringing news to the media and achieving balanced coverage. If an SMR is discovered out on the Web, even if it includes comments from third-party sources or trackbacks to blogs that support it, it is still covered in marketing slime. Can it really be any more of a trusted resource than a regular old press release?
Heuer, Jeremy Pepper, Shel Holtz and Todd Defren (the credited developer of the first SMR) had a large Twitter discussion a while back on where the SMR fits in the PR landscape. I agreed most strongly with Pepper on what is also my biggest concern: there is no substitute for good relationship building and written communications. I don’t care if the medium is an SMR or an email or a carrier pigeon or some futuristic Jetson-esque device. What helps drive good news is a) solid content and b) trusted relationships and there is no “tool” that replaces it — my friend and well-known tech journalist Ryan Naraine agrees. He’s said before that he does not care how the news is delivered, just give him good content and don’t waste his time.
The proponents of the SMR say that they never intended it to be a replacement for good PR skills and I trust them on that one. These are seasoned guys. I worry more about the less-than-stellar or junior PR folks using it as yet another cop-out for poor writing or lackluster communication skills. And if their perception might be that the sole objective of PR is to increase “findability” of marketing collateral, we’ve got problems.
Less dangerous to me is the social media newsroom, which I believe was also fathered by SHIFT Communications. I tend to like the simple and clean approach that Fathom SEO is using (the company recently released a WordPress template for such). The social media newsroom seems to accomplish what I think most companies who have a broad blogosphere presence would want, from linking to multimedia and social networking pages to integrating commentary. But if you have a fully functional social media newsroom, and a handle on truly top notch PR strategy, do you need the SMR?
In the end, regardless of what I blather here, I’m still trying to find the answer to one simple question: “Does anyone have any metrics to suggest the proven success of an SMR in *any* arena?” Especially considering their cost. I’ve asked this on Twitter on and off for about a month now and no one has yet to provide a case study.
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