The best way to drive traffic to your blog is to proclaim something dead, useless, irrelevant or wrong. And so it is in this context that I consider all of the recent eulogies to the press release. And while some are predicting its demise, others have responded with ideas for updating the traditional press release to take advantage of the popularity of social media.
The current conversation has been underway for a year or more. Tom Foremski’s February, 2006 post, Die Press Release Die, outlines a modular news release format that would make his job as a journalist easier. Arguably, we are here to serve our clients’ interests, but if we can do that more effectively by making it easier for journalists to cover them, I’m all for it.
Steve Rubel responded to Foremski and others with his March, 2006 post Everything’s a Press Release:
"…everyone's blogging for a reason. Many of us, although not all, are selling something and when we blog it's released not just to the public but to the press as well. So can we stop the blog vs. press release debate? Everything is a press release, even if it's not formatted that way."
I love this post. Steve really gets it, even if he tends to issue his own predictions of doom. Steve ticked off a bunch of people (though not me), especially those trying to make money in social media, with his provocative declaration that Social Media is No Mo, (see my note above on generating blog traffic.) Steve also blogged on the Death of the Page View
More recently, Brian Solis posted Social Media Kills the Press Release Star, which gets my nomination for Best Blog Post Title in the Ongoing Discussion of the Death of the Press Release.
Brian says the traditional press release is "lame," and it "sucks," but also mentions "in 2006, 50% of IT professionals reported getting their news and information from press releases on the web over traditional publications." While no trendline is offered, this would seem to me to indicate the popularity of the online press release, at least as of last year. I know the pace of change in our industry is accelerating, but based on this stat alone, I would question whether it’s time to pull the plug on something that has such high adoption. Brian also links to an interesting piece on last October’s 100th anniversary of the press release.
The industry has responded to this critical situation as well, with a series of announcements about the convergence of social media and the static electronic press release.
Last year, Edelman announced its Social Media News Release and Storycrafter:
"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."
I haven’t heard much since Edelman’s announcement and I’m not aware of any plans for large scale adoption, but it’s early. I can only speculate on its slow acceptance (or my lack of awareness thereof). Agencies may be wary of a potentially proprietary standard developed by a competing agency. Or perhaps it’s a great idea, but too radical for adoption right now.
While an entirely new kind of press release may be too "disruptive," enhancements and extensions to the formats of existing press releases may provide a more manageable transition from old to new media. (And by the way, watch the way some clients cringe when they hear a pitch that their product is disruptive. Their customers are not looking for disruption.)
Two announcements this week, from BusinessWire and PRNewsWire, signal what I think the social media news release revolution is going to look like, and it may already be here.
On Monday, PR NewsWire announced:
"All individual press releases distributed through PR Newswire will now include a 'Technorati' button, linking readers to a search result page hosted by Technorati that will display a list of blogs discussing and linking to the news release, and relevant excerpts from those blogs. Once on the search result page, the reader can set up an automatic watch list on Technorati to notify them when any new blog posts are published."
This is a great way to bridge some of the gaps that exist between bloggers and traditional media.
On Wednesday, BusinessWire announced that it would begin embedding links in its online news releases to allow readers to bookmark and share the release with popular tools like del.icio.us Newsvine, Digg, and Reddit
An important part of BusinessWire’s strategy is measurement. "When accessing the company’s NewsTrak feature, clients can monitor the performance of their releases on social media sites, including break-down by service and number of hits." As agencies and clients alike are becoming more interested in measuring the outcomes of social media initiatives, integrated metrics capabilities will be very compelling.
So who do you believe? The argument has become largely one of semantics. Clearly, with the proliferation of social media, tagging and bookmarking the traditional electronic press release is due for an overhaul.
I tend to side with Steve. Everything’s a press release. A recent trend, particularly in larger corporations, is to think about total customer experience – a relatively new way of looking beyond traditional components of a brand strategy, like corporate identity and advertising, to factor every way in which a company connects with its customers. Instead of considering the role of the press release in isolation, it’s time for those of us in the trade to think about the total media experience we are helping our clients deliver.
And if the press release and social media and all this other stuff really do go away, Steve and others can still find work writing obituaries.