IABC Takes The Lead With The Social Media Release

The social media release has taken another step towards the mainstream.

In a move that caused a bit of an online stir this morning, IABC announced that it is taking a lead in the push to develop standards around the social media release. The organization issued both a social media release and a traditional release announcing the news.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the social media release, it’s a new format for news releases that takes advantage of the linking, multimedia and social media capabilities of the web to make news accessible to reporters, bloggers and the general public (crucially, it’s an additional news release format, not a replacement). Check out the Social Media Training Wiki for more information.

IABC Social Media ReleaseFor a summary of where the social media release stands and of today’s news, Shel Holtz wrote a very well thought-out post today. It’s worth checking out Todd Defren’s post for his thoughts too.

A Big Step Forward

When I first read today’s news, my initial reaction (posted on Twitter) was:

Hoping that this is a real step forward for the SMR and that IABC doesn’t swallow and forget it.

I really think this could be the former. This is a giant opportunity to really get some momentum going with the social media release. The evolution of this format has suffered because the working group members, in Defren’s words, “have day jobs.” With the weight of IABC behind the initiative, this is a chance to drive it forward.

Hopes For The Future

What do I hope will come out of IABC’s sponsorship?

1. A clear set of ‘standards’ that are open enough to be worked into different companies’ own social media products

The release is a little ambiguous on this. One hand it says:

This specification will ultimately result in a technical architecture for the social media release that can be built into a wide range of content creation and search tools, including blogging platforms, content management systems, and proprietary tools offered by wire services and public relations agencies.

However, it also says:

Many organizations have recently introduced their own versions, employing a variety of standards. IABC seeks to consolidate these disparate efforts and promote a common format for online news distribution.

I think IABC’s (and the existing working group’s) intent is right here – the first paragraph above is pretty clear. I think that any ‘standard’ format that is too prescriptive may lead to it being rejected by many companies.

2. Clear communication of what the social media release is and isn’t

I’m not just talking about whether you have comments or not on your release. As far as I’m concerned, a truly useful format would be flexible, just like a broader PR toolkit – you have your options for what you can include with the release, and you pick what’s appropriate.

I’m talking about where the release fits in a wider sense. I would speculate that 98% or more of executives have no idea what the social media release is about or why they should care. A larger working group backed by an industry-wide organization can help to come up with a useful ‘social media release 101’ definition that people widely accept and use to approach their bosses.

Alongside that, I’d love to see the group come up with a coherent, acceptable rationale for why this new format is needed (and wanted). This leads me to my third wish…

3. Metrics and case studies

I’ve written before about my frustration over the lack of case studies of social media successes. This is especially true in the case of social media releases. There are a few out there – Geoff Livingston has one on his site, for example. However, more are needed if we’re to convince (a) our colleagues and (b) our superiors/clients that this format is a valuable addition.

Alongside this, I’d love to see some research on what the demand is from the client side. If the release has three targets – reporters, bloggers, public – as today’s release states, it would be great to survey those to get some solid data to back up anecdotal calls for the release.

Realistic Expectations

Much of this is outside the stated scope of the working group. I acknowledge that the group will need to focus and prioritize if they want to achieve anything. It’s also true that we need to know what we want people to buy into before we start convincing people that they should.

However, it could be a big advantage to have hard data to support the working group taking the release in whatever direction they deem appropriate. I’d love to see some indication that the group’s scope can expand over time to address some of these critical components.

On a last note, following a great online conversation with some of the working group members today, one of them invited me to join the group. I was thrilled to accept the invitation, and I look forward to doing my small part to help drive this forward.

I’m thrilled by today’s announcement, and by the potential of getting involved and bringing another perspective to the table. Congratulations to Chris Heuer, Tom Foremski, Todd Defren, Shannon Whitley, Brian Solis and Shel Holtz for getting the social media release to this point.

What about you? What do you think of today’s announcement? Do you think it’s a good thing, or is the corporate sponsorship a hindrance?

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