Social Media Release Must Evolve to Replace Press Release

    by Ian Capstick
    April 23, 2010
    The social media newsroom operated by First Direct, a financial services company

    It’s been nearly four years since the birth of the social media release, and the terminology and abilities of this tool are evolving alongside social media itself.

    This fast-paced evolution means many communicators are finding it tough to choose which tool best fits their needs. Sometimes, this wealth of options can lead PR pros to stick with the classic news release, while others advocate for more direct or social ways of distributing news. Others are simply refashioning news releases into so-called “social” products. It seems there’s still work to be done in making the social media release a new standard in public relations.

    Honestly, most PR pros despise press releases -- they tend to be overwritten, overwrought and rarely as newsworthy as the name implies." - Tod Defren

    Below is a look at the current state of the social media release, and a special audio report that discusses its place in the PR universe.


    Where did it all start?

    As MediaShift’s Mark Glaser reported in 2008, influential Silicon Valley journalist and blogger Tom Foremski’s now famous blog post was the spark that led to the creation of the social media release.

    His post certainly hit a nerve, likely because he didn’t simply trash the age old press release. He deconstructed it and suggested a reconstruction that would work for his sensibilities.

    At the time, in 2006, the basic structure and intent of a media release hadn’t really changed since Ivy Lee penned the first press release for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906. Foremski’s post was the “shot heard around the wire-service industry,” as one distribution insider described it (after requesting anonymity). It certainly resonated with Tod Defren, who cites the Foremski screed as his inspiration for creating the template for the “social media release.”


    Choosing the right Social Media Release

    Defren is a PR veteran and new communications trailblazer. A principal at Shift Communications, whose portfolio of clients includes Club Med, Quiznos, Yelp, Novell and Wells Fargo, he is cited regularly as the “creator” of the social media release. Some have suggested this innovation heralds the end of the traditional release.

    “Honestly, most PR pros despise press releases — they tend to be overwritten, overwrought and rarely as newsworthy as the name implies,” Defren wrote in an email. “I saw Tom’s post as an opportunity to re-invent the format, at a time when social media was looking likely to upset many other media apple carts.”

    A social media release can be broadly defined as a single page of web content designed to enable the content to be removed and used on blogs, wikis and other social channels. In practice, social media releases (SMRs) feature multiple embedded links (a YouTube video, Flickr slideshow, SlideShare presentation etc.) and blocks of text similar to those found in traditional releases (spokesperson quotes, boilerplate and contact information). Here are a few examples of social media release services:


    Martin Waxman said that when new clients come to him looking for traditional media releases, he steers them in an another direction.

    “[If] all they want us to do is issue a release — and usually the word ‘buzz’ is also mentioned — we ask them what their objectives are and often suggest other communications options, including social media,” said Waxman, president of Palette Public Relations, a boutique Canadian agency serving clients such as Yuk Yuk’s, Tide, Olay and Head & Shoulders.

    “I think that smart communicators will look at their objectives and consider all the tools — traditional and social — when they’re developing a PR plan, and then strategically select the ones that are most appropriate for the audience you’re trying to engage,” Waxman said. “One of the most exciting things about PR is that we now have many more channels in which to tell our stories. But we need to listen and get to know the influencers, customize our approach, talk in plain English and build relationships. That’s the key.”

    Social Media Newsroom

    Waxman is keen on the social media release, as well as its close cousin, the “social media newsroom.”

    “I do think that social media releases are the heir apparent to the traditional news release, if I can throw in a monarchy metaphor,” he said. “Personally, I like to go one step further and encourage organizations to create a social media newsroom with all the information, visuals, video, background materials, story ideas and contact easily accessible and searchable.”

    Defren agreed with Waxman’s assessment, citing a follow-up post written a few months after the introduction of the social media release, he calls the “social media newsroom” his “true and lasting innovation.” Here’s what he outlined via email:

    I put the cart before the horse. Within a social media newsroom, the company can house all the multimedia assets, including pointers to external sites, in one easy-to-find place. The problem with outsourcing all of that content to third party sites is that you lose the thread of conversation that rightfully belongs on the corporate site. Why should you, as a marketer, surrender all the SEO benefits of having most of your content on your own website, for people to visit and link back to?

    Social media newsrooms are more comprehensive than their cousin, the social media release. They allow an organization to host all of their social media releases, contact


    information and links to social channels in one place. This in turn allows the organization to leverage the search engine optimization value of the news being released. Defren’s company created the first ever social media newsroom, which can be found here. Others quickly followed suit.

    PitchEngine.com, a social media release provider, recently lowered their agency pricing on their social media newsroom product to encourage more brands and groups to adopt their system.

    Go In-Depth on Social Media Releases

    To get more in-depth about the social media release, I conducted a special audio interview with Fleishman-Hillard senior vice president David Bradfield and Mark Blevis, an associate vice president at the same firm. You can listen to our discussion below:

    We spoke about how communicators can choose a the right tools for the job, and how best to approach social media releases with clients. We also talked about the three major choices in social media release distribution: Using a web application or service, paying a wire service, or creating a self-hosted “social media newsroom.”

    When asked the ubiquitous question “Is the media press release dead?” Waxman summed it up best.

    “If you read Clay Shirky’s book ‘Here Comes Everybody,’ it’s clear we’re in the midst of a communications revolution and no one really knows how it will turn out,” he said. “That’s a long way of saying I don’t think the news release is dead. It’s still a useful communications tool. But that’s what it is: A device that helps tell a story. Will releases evolve? Absolutely. And hopefully social media will help rid them of corporate-speak and just plain bad writing.”

    Ian Capstick is a progressive media consultant. He worked for a decade in Canadian politics supporting some of Canada’s most charismatic leaders. He is passionate about creating social change through communications. Ian appears weekly on CBC TV’s Power & Politics, weekly radio panels, and is regularly quoted online and off about the evolution of public relations in a connected world. He describes his small communications firm, MediaStyle.ca, as a blog with a consulting arm.

    Tagged: pr press release public relations social media social media newsroom social media release

    13 responses to “Social Media Release Must Evolve to Replace Press Release”

    1. I’ve been following the move toward the Social Media Release only for about the past 6 months, but I was an instant supporter. The reality, though, is that companies like the one I work for still get a lot of value out of “press releases”. At least one of the players (PRWeb) offers sort of a hybrid.

      For the time being, that approach seems to be working. At least the release gets Tweeted at your discretion, contains backlinks to your own site, and you can optimize the SEO value of images and links. There is also the option to put video and attach other files.

      Not meaning to sound like an ad for one particular company; that’s just who we happen to use. If it was reasonable to think that people would actually “find” the release on our own site, that would be great; however, when your company is in a narrow niche like ours, finding a readership for that sort of thing is unlikely. Plus, I believe that if you self-host the SM Release, you will not get “backlink” SEO value from search engines the way you would from a 3rd-party site.

      But I ramble. The bottom line is that I totally agree that the “Press Release” needs to evolve, and the sooner the better! I’ll be doing my part to help.

    2. There are blog posts…and then there are blog posts. And for me – someone who started her career as a traditional journalist and who then jumped over the fence into PR and Marketing (and working with the newswires – full disclosure as I’m currently EVP of Marketing/Media Relations/Editorial Operations for Marketwire) – Ian’s post here does a great job in furthering the discussion of the Social Media Press Release: past, present, and future. From my days as a reporter receiving 400-word text releases from Public Relations professionals, to my days writing press releases myself that added maybe an image to the text, to my days working with clients to incorporate SEO into press releases, to my most recent days working with press releases that are more similar to mini-website pages with interactive content that engages a multitude of audiences and invites participation, and that leverages the power of the Internet to amplify messages even further…Phew! Really, this HAS been quite an evolution that I believe is still just in its beginning phases. And I must confess that I am proud to have been at Marketwire in February of 2008 when we were the first disclosure newswire service to launch a Social Media Press Release. Proud, not only because – following more than a year of market research working with clients, social networking experts, SEO and online marketing experts, members of the media (both traditional and new media), and countless more knowledgeable folks – we succeeded in actually doing so, but proud because it meant we were able to offer communicators yet another choice in tools to be used, another opportunity – even in its simplest sense – to help advance the way the world communicates. And with so much talk about the press release being dead…about traditional newspapers being dead…even about books being dead (and, yes, while I own a Kindle, nothing for me can beat the tangible elements (especially the smell) of an old-fashioned hardcover book), I don’t believe any one of them is dead; I believe they’re just morphing into what they were meant to be. It’s wonderful to be so much alive during this time, and it’s exciting for all of us to be so much a part of breathing new life into something that makes us most human: our ability to communicate.

    3. Thanks for choosing a press release for the Social Media Roadmap webinar series I did with Marketwire as your example of the social media press release.
      I’ve been involved in the evolution of press releases since we started to optimize releases for search back in 2004. I was at the meeting in Palo Alto in 2006 when Todd Defren first showed his template for a social media press release at the inaugural meeting of Social Media Club. And I totally agree with him that a social media newsroom is the next logical step in this PR evolution. (Disclosure: I am the co-developer of the PRESSfeed newsroom and I’ve been working on this for the last five years.).

      Every company should be able to host their own social media releases and all their social content on their own domain, as well as distribute it through their own RSS feed and put it out on a wire service that ‘gets’ it. ( more disclosure: I am a Marketwire client and do educational webinars with them for their clients.)

      As Todd’s initial template suggested, a social media newsroom should offer much more than just links to your social media content.

      It should have RSS feeds, an image and video library and embed codes that make it easy for journalists and bloggers to easily find and use your content. And it should be dead simple for a PR person to use.

      We just donated a social media newsroom to The Society for New Communication Research. (of which I am a Snr Fellow and Advisory Board Member) You can see it at http://news.sncr.org.

      We unveiled it last week at the SNCR Fellow’s luncheon in San Mateo. These folk are thought leaders in the field and they were very enthusiastic about this new format.

      It is indeed an exciting time to be in PR. The press release is not dead, it is simply changing to keep up with changes in the media.

      Every PR plan has media relations as part of the strategy. Social media is now part of that.

      To provide your news content most effectively in that medium you need to adapt your releases to the social media format and house this content in the right format on your own website in a newsroom that meets the needs of today’s journalists and bloggers..

    4. Hi Ian, thanks for the fantastic post. I just wanted to mention Pressitt http://pressitt.com/, a free Social Media News Release creation and publishing platform from the UK. It’s been going for over a year now and it has gone from strength to strength with a number of high profile brands and agencies currently using it. The feedback we have received from bloggers and journalists alike is that the asset-led, de-constructed approach of the SMNR is a great help and a fantastic starting point to researching a brand further.
      Disclosure – I’m one of the directors @andymerch @pressitt

    5. Hi Ian,

      Really liked this thank you. I have used this concept for a year now, but have never heard the term “Social Media Release”. The example you give is very helpful too.

      Jonathan @grasshopperbuzz

    6. How would a social media news room be any different than like a site on CNN?

    7. Gunnar says:

      Hi Ian, thank you! Really liked this. I have never heard the term “Social Media Release”. The example you give is very helpful too.

    8. Dj Shah says:

      Compromise gets a disintegrating hit encompassing the concurrent States. going hangdog anything below than the biggest, the best, and the greatest reflects weakness.

      However, at the office, hoaxing encompassing teams amongst divergent happenings disciplines creates situations anywhere there are anti opinions almost how to carryout a follower’s goal.

    9. Really interesting article – I had no idea so much was involved…

    10. Hi Ian,
      Great article.
      Technology is moving so quickly that just about everybody is struggling to keep up! That’s good in a way because it means that by the time we’ve all go there the duds have failed and the remainder are well tried and tested.

    11. i like u r post very good..Social Media of very good information…

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    12. i like u r blog post.. it’s very good.

    13. Interesting article now I understand the difference between press release and Social Media release.

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