Social media releases (SMRs) and why they matter

Value of SMRSince the Social Media Release (SMR) was developed by Todd Defren from SHIFT Communications in 2006, public relations professionals have debated its value. Many ask if it’s needed to be on the cutting-edge of PR, while some question its use against traditional means (i.e. personalized pitch letters, phone pitching, etc.).

Is it really useful? Or is it just a fad?
I believe the SMR has taken the traditional press release, and accompanying news content, and made it relevant to the digital age. It’s harnessed the power of multimedia and Social Media, transforming traditional media communique into technologically robust user experiences.

The components that make a SMR a great value include:

  • Rich HTML text throughout the release (Great for Web site SEO, indexing, cross-linking, etc.)
  • The ability to link to or embed photography, audio and video
  • RSS feed capabilities within the SMR to create viral distribution
  • Keyword selection, tagging and moderated comments to enhance user experiences, while creating heightened engagement
Courtesy of Todd Defren and PR-Squared
Courtesy of Todd Defren and PR-Squared

Brian Solis, a leading Social Media expert and author, wrote about the SMR in a blog post entitled “The Definitive Guide to Social Media Releases.” He said that wire services are adopting SMRs and making them a prime distribution source. Within his article, he posts the results, compiled by Todd Defren and Christopher Lynn, of a comparison model of wire services using SMRs and the functionality they provide.

Findings revealed that major wire services are all seeking to jump on the SMR bandwagon, fighting to make their service the most sought after.

Top SMR services include Pitch Engine and RealWire. RealWire summarizes the SMR in the following video:

Should I use this tool and why?
There are many PR folks out there using the SMR just to say they used it – to make themselves look cutting-edge among their peers and bosses.

But with any tactic, we as PR pros must remember to keep our strategic hats on, always asking ourselves – what’s our objective and who is our target public/s?

Let’s not forget why we are true counselors and advisors to our clients, organizations and companies. It’s to provide the strategic mindset and calculated planning, execution and measurement needed to reach our primary objectives. Though some PR people have little ability or desire to attain this level of professionalism, those of us who do MUST strive to be trusted advisors.

How to create a SMR
We have to also keep in mind that a SMR without purpose, proper messaging, excellent writing and a call-to-action is worthless. Just like a traditional release will fail without being well-written, newsworthy and timely, the same is true for a SMR.

Solis hits the nail on the head when he said:

I’m sorry to say, that just because a new tool is available to you, you still have to make your story interesting, relevant, and newsworthy. The Social Media Release is not going to miraculously fix a hyperbole-ridden, over-stated, incomprehensible document riddled with BS. The people that matter to you are simply seeking context, relevance… You still have to do your homework and write something compelling and clear.

John Cass, author of “Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging” and the PR Communications Blog, interviewed Todd Defren about SMRs, blogging and word-of-mouth. Defren, in his July 2009 interview, talked about PR pros taking an early lead in blogs and social media. He said:

Good PR has only ever been about relationships, context and relevance. We also like to talk and write. We’re communicators. We took to Social Media like fish to water!

So, in the end, it’s a PR professionals job to be the leaders, advocates and counselors when it comes to social media and its accompanying tools.

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