Finding The Middle Ground With Social Media News Releases

Todd Defren at SHIFT Communications posted last week about "The End Of The Social Media Release." He’s tired of the format being ‘special’ and wants to see it become the norm.

I’m not sure this is an ideal goal.

social_media_template I love the social media release format. In our technology-driven world, pumping out release after old-fashioned release onto the wire just doesn’t meet the needs of the media. The media aren’t our audience, but more often than not they’re our conduit. For our messages to be heard we need to work with the media, not against it.

The idea of the social media news release has been around for over a year now, and people are catching-on. For the uninitiated, here are the basic ideas behind it, courtesy of Edelman:

The social media news release is a next-generation news release that combines traditional and emerging forms of communications. By incorporating social media features such as hyperlinks, social bookmarking, multimedia, comment and trackback, among others, the social media news release serves as a bridge between traditional and emerging communications tools.

This format helps the reader by breaking down the release into well defined sections. This is critical – it doesn’t force people to work to deconstruct the release to find the key message.

However, I respectfully disagree with Todd that the social media release should be the ‘standard operating procedure’ for communicators.

My issue is that, even with the remarkable flexibility of the new format, it still keeps to the one-size-fits-all approach to communications.

First and foremost, communicators need to think about their audience. However, we also need to think about how we’re going to get the message to that audience, and that means segmenting the media.

There’s a big difference between the larger media outlets and smaller, community-based media.

The social media release is a great idea for the larger outlets where the reporter is always going to break down the story and look at it from all angles. However, smaller community papers simply don’t have the resources needed to do this. We frequently see releases published almost verbatim by these outlets.

If we were to stop issuing traditional releases for community-based stories, I’m willing to bet we’d see a drop in coverage in local media.

I think we need a middle ground – one that Cisco, who Todd mentions in his piece, seem to have found. They provide a traditional release in addition to the new format.

Now, a (misplaced) concern I’ve heard about the new format is the time it takes to pull all the resources together – worry that we’d have to start producing video for each release, or do a photo shoot for each release. This isn’t true – the beauty of this format is its flexibility, which allows any appropriate content to slot in on a case-by-case basis. However, if we were to start producing both release formats, it would be excessive.

We need to start looking at the social media release as another tool in our toolbox, not as a panacea.

We should replace the traditional release in some cases – the mainstream stories where you expect major outlets to pay attention. For those cases, the old way is outdated and obstructive. For purely local announcements, however, I think the traditional release still has value.

Bottom line: one-size-fits-all doesn’t work.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.