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Last May, SHIFT Communications, a mid-sized independent public relations agency with offices in Boston and San Francisco, announced that it had developed the first-ever “social media” press release. According to SHIFT's press release, the new format is "designed to help PR professionals looking to evolve traditional press release formats for the dawning ‘social media’ age." The company decided to develop the template after blogger and journalist Tom Foremski complained bitterly about press releases in a now-famous post: “Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!”
The new template generated a great deal of conversation within and without the blogosphere. Some panned the new format while others, including Business Week, praised it. Unwilling to be left behind the social media curve, Edelman announced that it too would be developing a Web 2.0 press release later this year.
My Impressions & Experiences With The Social Media Press Release
After examining the press release template, I decided that I liked the new format. However, I wasn’t focused so much on the social media goodies. Rather, I was most impressed by its clarity and simplicity. Media are interested in the facts, not spin. Anything that helps journalists quickly get to the heart of a story is a good thing in my book.
While planning blogger and media outreach for a healthcare blogging survey I am currently co-fielding with The Medical Blog Network, I decided to try out the format. I followed SHIFT’s template, which helped me shave significant time from the press release development process.
However, when I went to PR Newswire and PRWeb to distribute the release, I hit a few snags. First, the editorial staff at PRWeb told me that I had to change the format of the release to accommodate their distribution infrastructure. PR Newswire said I could use SHIFT’s template – at a price of a few thousand dollars. Too rich for my blood, I decided.
I ultimately went with PRWeb to distribute the release. However, my experiences left me with the impression that the social media press release is not ready for prime time. Before it is widely adopted, newswires, media, public relations professionals and others will have to solve a number of problems -- most importantly, how it will be distributed and interpreted by the media and the general public.
In part II of this series, I will provide some answers to these questions. This article will feature exclusive commentary from SHIFT Communications, PRWeb and PR Newswire. Stay tuned for the next installment.