B2B PR: New Uses for Press Releases

I wrote recently about my beef with the social media release.  I since had a conversation with Todd Defren, who invented the social media release, and while Todd didn’t get me to be a convert to the release, he did open my eyes about changing the way press releases are viewed. First off a little background courtesy of Todd. The social media release came of age in 2006 when wire services like PR newswire didn’t include multimedia components in releases. And releases in general weren’t search-engine-friendly or interactive.  They were, however, boring…boring…boring. (more about that in a moment). So Todd to his credit invented a release that was SEO-friendly, contained multimedia and used bullets rather than narrative to try to address the “unreadability” issue. That was yesterday.  Today traditional news services include many of the elements of the social media release – in fact it’s been coopted by those services. Via a wire service you can do a traditional release with many of the bells and whistles of a social media release, including multimedia, the ability to share on social media, hyperlinks and other features to make a release interactive.  So where do we go from here?  Todd suggests going back to the future by using a traditional release – yes, you heard that right — and including links back to a social media newsroom.   “Your traditional release on the wire services points to a sexy release on a website,” says Defren. His reason?  “There’s a challenge when you put releases over a wire service for downstream news outlets like MSNBC.com or Yahoo news to take content in any form other than straight ASCII.  A social media media release that looks beautiful looks like crap when it goes downstream.”  There is also a cost savings by not paying for multi edia add-ons with a wire service. An alternative is to use a service like PitchEngine which make it exceptionally easy to create and distribute social-media releases, adding multimedia, SEO features and hyperlinks without charge to a traditional release. PR Web is another cost-effective way to get a release into social media. For our clients, we typically send a traditional release over a wire service like Business Wire and propagate a release in social media using PitchEnge.  Meanwhile, back on your website, you can pull out all the stops, adding multimedia, trackbacks, comments and make  your website a hub for connectivity. Companies like Cisco and Ford are doing just that.  Only one thing. Much of the engagement seems to be happening off the reservation on sites like Facebook. Cisco, for example, integrates all its social media activities on Facebook where its fans can comment on its activities. In fact, Cisco was recently recognized by B2B Magazine for “Best Use of Facebook.”   Which brings me back to the press release.  While a good PR professional can decrease the boring quotient of a press release, no matter how a release is configured and no matter how talented the writer, the release is still meant to convey facts, not engage. In our age of conversation, you also need to interact with your prospects/customers. Social media be it a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account is the natural forum to do that.  So don't put such a heavy burden on a press release. It's just one part of your PR tool kit. Used in conjunction with social media, it can be a powerful force for getting your story told.Wendy Marx, B2B PR and Marketing Specialist, Marx Communications

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