Press releases treated as part of content marketing will be inherently social2013-01-22
SHIFT Communications’ release of an updated Social Media Press Release template—first introduced in 2006—more fully weaves social media into the release with a focus on making it as easy as possible to share its various elements.
While the first template and the version 1.5 follow-up both sparked a considerable amount of attention, the new 2.0 version caused barely a whisper. When we chatted about it briefly on our podcast, For Immediate Release, Neville Hobson remarked that interest has waned considerably and that nobody much talks about the concept any more.
At some levels, it’s disappointing. Despite the objections raised by many to the original concept, there’s huge value in adapting the traditional press release for social media. Study after study shows journalists like them and that they earn more pickup than traditional releases alone. But despite some very real attempts to institutionalize it, the Social Media Press Release never gained much steam. Meanwhile, the tsunami of truly awful traditional releases continues unabated.
But there is hope.
The idea behind the Social Media News Release is simple. It’s not about the release itself being social, but rather making the content useful to people engaged in social media so they can easily share it and incorporate it into their own blogs and other channels. To a great extent, that’s also the goal of content marketing, which unlike the Social Media Press Release has, is on a roll. But when viewing lists of content that fits in a content strategy, you hardly ever see the lowly press release get so much as a footnote.
The press release, when executed well, conveys genuine company news of interest to a variety of audiences, from investors to customers to specialized audiences. The principles are equally simple. Content needs to be relevant, interesting, useful or entertaining to the audience. It needs to be discoverable by the people who would be interested in it. People who find it interesting will amplify its reach by sharing it and talking about it, so it needs to engage them. It should support organizational goals. It should cumulatively drive customer action.
If we start to think of the press release as a component of our content marketing efforts, odds are we’ll embrace these principles by routinely incorporating social media elements to the release. We’ll also focus on anybody who would be interested, not just the press and influential bloggers for whom press releases are most often crafted. (That’s why we opted to call it the Social Media News Release when trying to create more enthusiasm for the idea.)
To some extent, some organizations are already doing this without feeling tied to a template. ING, for instance, used the PressDoc service to issue a release that adheres to several of the Social Media Press Release’s conventions. A bulleted list summarizes the key news components of the release so readers don’t have to try to tease the news out of excessively flowery narrative. It provides links to multimedia, including a Slideshare presentation and an infographic available from Flickr for download or copying. (The infographic is licensed under Creative Commons, making it easier for readers to add to their own posts.) Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn share buttons are prominent.
Other companies take a different approach. When McKinsey & Company released a major study on the impact of social software, the firm used a landing page dedicated to the report that serves as a Social Media Press Release without actually being one. On the page are links to download various versions of the report: an executive summary or the full report in PDF format, along with versions for the Kindle and the iPad. Downloads are also available to provide specific insights for market sectors, such as consumer packaged goods, financial services and advanced manufacturing. There’s a chart free for the taking, downloadable audio, and two videos. And, of course, you’ll find a scannable summary of the study’s key findings.
Oddly, the ability to share the content is tucked away along with icons for printing and emailing the page. But it gets very close to the idea of marrying content marketing principles with the traditional press release’s goal of sharing company news.
And it got plenty of attention when it was released last July.
If you have embraced content marketing, it’s time to add the press release to the tools you employ as part of the effort. SHIFT’s template is an excellent guideline, but it’s not a requirement as long as you treat the news release the way you would any other part of your content efforts. That applies to both the traditional release—still a requirement for many companies and for several categories of news—and the web-based social version.