Social Media News Release: An EXTRA Tool, Not A Replacement

It’s been over 18 months since Todd Defren released his template for a new news release format and over that time the a healthy debate has raged over the idea.

Recently, Maggie Fox’s crew over at the Social Media Group released Digital Snippets, their own take on the format, re-invigorating the debate.

I love that the social media news release seems to be gaining traction. I love the flexibility, the multimedia content, and the way it forces writers to cut out the crap. I evangelize the format at every opportunity.

Still, a few months ago I wrote about how we needed to find a middle ground with the social media news release. In my eyes, the new format isn’t a panacea – it should add to our toolkit rather than replacing the 100 year-old press release.

My concerns in that post:

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.

My thinking has evolved a little since then, but my fundamental concerns remain.

It seemed to me that a lot of people agreed.

However, I’ve heard rumbles about organizations using it to replace the old format, and started to wonder if maybe I was behind the times. Maybe I missed an evolution in thinking since then.

So, as I have a habit of doing nowadays, I asked my friends on Twitter:

“Social media news release: a replacement to the traditional release or an addition to the toolkit? I say the latter. You?”

The responses reassured me, and I was particularly happy to see Todd chime in:

Addition, Not Replacement

The social media news release isn’t yet a replacement for the traditional format. It’s a valuable addition to our toolkit which we can use as appropriate.

That said, a couple of sub-themes emerged here:

  • We need to write better news releases.
    • Todd and Brian Solis say it well in the post Todd linked to above: “A crappy press release is still a crappy press release regardless of multimedia or social bling.”
  • Social media is growing but “traditional media” is still the mainstream. Sometimes the old format is more appropriate to communicate with them.

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4 Responses toSocial Media News Release: An EXTRA Tool, Not A Replacement

  • Thanks for continuing the discussion. I’m really happy to see this getting picked up again.

    I’ve always been a little confused by the traditional vs. SMR debate. Both should begin with a well-written, spin-free narrative. You can stop there for a traditional release, or you can add social media elements to produce an SMR.

    I wouldn’t say that we’re dropping the traditional release and replacing it with the SMR. The SMR is just traditional_release++.

    With PRX Builder, we actually offer several templates, including a “traditional” release template. You can change the format of your release from traditional to SMR with a click on a dropdown menu.

    I’ll concede that a traditional release might have different language if it’s specifically geared toward the press, but that’s probably not the best approach either since so many non-journalists are already reading traditional releases.

  • Just fyi to DJLitten and anyone else who wants to know — we do teach the SMR at the University of Georgia; Maggie Fox is video guest lecturing in a couple of weeks to one of my classes. And I’m sure other schools are teaching it, too.

  • Auburn University, Oklahoma State University, and Washington State University also teach SMR fundamentals.

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