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PR Trends: A Press Release for Social Media

The traditional press release gets a makeover to appeal to the newest online media outlets.

In the past few months, there's been a buzz swirling in the PR industry about proposed changes to the format of the news release. The premise for the changes is that while the current format provides readers with the basic information regarding a company's news, it doesn't fully leverage the latest wave of social media technologies.

Commonly referred to as Web 2.0, the newest breed of internet-based services allows people to collaborate and share information online, using tools such as blogs, tags and user-generated content. Forward-thinkers in the PR community are identifying opportunities to leverage such technologies to enhance the exchange of information and spread your company's messages to even more diverse audiences, while continuing to use the proven systems and techniques, like newswire distribution and media targeting, that have been successful over the past 50 years.

The format of the new social media news release steps well away from the traditional, text-focused news release. It's designed so that anyone accessing it--whether a journalist, a potential customer or a curious onlooker--can quickly find and interact with its content.

The social media template is designed to contain these items:

  • A brief description of the news announcement
  • Quotes from the CEO or other execs, customers and analysts, if applicable
  • Photo/video attachments, or links to web pages that host these items
  • Links inside the release copy to background information, and relevant links to other news stories or reference sources
  • Digital tags (used to link to web tools such as Del.icio.us and Digg)
  • RSS Feed links
  • Links to podcasts and MP3 files, graphics and video

The social media release is especially beneficial to reporters and bloggers because information is presented in a style that enables them to select the type and level of information they desire--from detailed background information on the company and quotes from senior executives to graphics and photos.

For the general public, the social media release promotes greater online accessibility through search engine optimization and linking from interactive websites such as Del.icio.us and Digg. The template itself also allows users the opportunity to provide feedback to the release's authors.

Can You Really Use It?
So how practical is the social media news release? For entrepreneurs, the question boils down to: Will my company benefit from the increased functionality?

So far, the social media release has been used primarily by those in the tech industry, which makes sense, since reporters, bloggers and customers in the tech space are familiar with all the release's bells and whistles. If you have a cutting-edge company, using the new release could even be viewed as a benefit in itself--showcasing your business as a trendsetter in your field. Other sectors that may benefit include the entertainment industry, companies that appeal to youth culture or businesses that market highly visual products.

If your company falls outside these arenas, the social media release is still something to look into. The written portion of the release, for instance, is more a presentation of facts than an exercise in prose. You may find this format a bit easier and less time consuming, especially with the aid of automated services that help you put your release together, like PRX Builder. Further, if you rely on internet buzz for driving business, you'll benefit from the inclusion of links, digital tags and search engine optimization.

Ultimately, however, you'll have to decide if including such elements will produce the desired results. The objective, as always, is to facilitate the exchange of information and do so in a manner that'll attract attention to your products or services.

Looking Ahead
While the social media release has its advantages, the existing news release format has been in use for more than 50 years and is unlikely to be superseded quickly. However, the past several years have witnessed an increased use of multimedia and interactive content in news releases. The top newswires, for their part, anticipated this trend and are fully equipped to distribute such material.

The future will see continued use of Web 2.0 tools and, over time, will cause the release format to evolve. The best PR tactic for you is to be aware of what's available and not be too cautious to try different techniques and formats.

The key--and this remains the most important factor in getting visibility for your news--is the quality of the content in your release, regardless of the format. Writing a strong release with newsworthy information should always be foremost in your mind. Finding the best format for your content should follow.

Mark Nowlan is senior vice president of marketing & communications at PR Newswire. Nowlan is a frequent lecturer on media relations, strategic communications and crisis communications at industry conferences around the country. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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