Is social media changing the way you work? My job as a PR/online communications consultant has changed an awful lot since I started as an intern cutting articles out of a newspaper or transcribing entire electoral rolls into an Excel sheet. There are a metric ton of examples I could use (monitoring, who we reach out to, client based initiatives) but the biggest one is, I believe, the communications vehicle formerly known as the “press release”.
Evolution of the “New Media News Release”
100 years ago, back when the media was all print-based, press releases (named after the printing press) were sent to newspaper and magazine reporters as a way of pitching a story. As the “media” extended into broadcast (radio and later television) the press release became the “news release” to include the new media. Much beloved by PRs, the news release is equally hated by journalists who are constantly spammed with committee written corporate-ese. However, after a famous post by technology journalist Tom Foremski called “Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die!“, a number of the PR community saw how the traditional news release could be remastered for the social media age.
The “new” news release, (at my company, iStudio, we call it the Optimized News Release) is written in a pared down, spin-less fashion combined with a veritable smorgasbord of social media features. Ideally, the news is broken into an introductory paragraph followed by bullet points. A number of executive quotes are broken out in a stand alone section – a far cry from the frankenquotes found in today’s news releases.
Comments and trackbacks are enabled; there’s an RSS feed to subscribe to future releases; there’s video and a stream of tagged links from a social bookmarking service. Want to submit it to digg or save to your del.icio.us account? There’s a one click button. The release is tagged with Technorati and del.icio.us tags to make it easy to find. You can download images and all sorts of other content to put the story in perspective. The end result is a compelling web page that tells the story and the context that story is being told in.
As a bonus, the page is optimized for search and will, eventually, feature microformats to make it even easier for journalists/bloggers find exactly what you need.
Who it’s targeted to
Old releases were also, traditionally distributed over newswires such as Canadian News Wire (CNW) and as such were meant to be read by journalists and either written about or thrown away that day. The Internet means the discovery of documents is no longer linear. I can just as easily stumble upon a news release from yesterday as I can a news release from a month ago – which means any marketing collateral needs to be put into context.
With this in mind, the ONR has three audiences – journalists who need to get to the heart of the story quickly; bloggers who may find it interesting and who may want to write about it and anyone surfing the ‘net. Old news releases were written strictly with the journalist in mind but now, with the democratization of the media, anyone can write about anything.
Why it works
When “pitching” journalists (trying to get them to write about your client), PRs need to know that the old “shotgun” approach of spamming any journalist on your media list is dead. Journalists receive thousands of poorly written emails every day and the prospect of reading your 1000 words ain’t something they look forward to.
They’re busy and the news release doesn’t account for this. Instead of sending a 1000 words off the bat, PRs need to send something short, something succinct, something that gives the journalist all she needs to know about the story in hand along with a link to “find out more”. Previously the link would go to a page like this one which is pretty boring. Now you can send the journalist to a fully functional multimedia Internet page which shows not only the story, but how her readers are reacting to it, the buzz around the story and any relevant trends.
The new format works. The new media news release, optimized news release or whatever we want to call it fits the story into into the technology making it more relevant for today’s media landscape. It works for the journalist; works for the blogger and, because it’s interactive, works for the end user.
Want to find out more?
There’s plenty more reading to be done and if you follow these initial links, I’m sure you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. Otherwise, leave a comment and I’ll point you in the right direction.
Google group dedicated to the new media news release
Five principles of the remixed release
The working group to determine standards around the release
A proprietary tool developed outside of the working group
An arguement over what it should be called featuring Stowe Boyd and Shel Holtz