By Kami Huyse and Geoff Livingston
Jointly posted on Communication Overtones and the Buzz Bin.
Our friends Todd Defren and Brian Solis posted a challenge to the industry to better define the social media release (SMR). Let us preface our remarks that both Todd and Brian have driven the SMR from concept to reality, and should receive kudos for constructively contributing this idea to the public relations industry and to the age-old debate about the value of the press release.
At the heart of their discussion was a conversation about what a SMR is and what it isn’t:
“Social Media Releases may look similar to today’s multimedia releases in format, structure and design, but depending on a series of factors, they have the ability to open up dialog in a way not possible with traditional or multimedia releases.”
Brian and Todd argue that sharing quality information is not enough, but that the SMR should also be fully “socialized.” Socialized is defined as hosting conversations, providing trackbacks, enabling links to social networks and bookmarking sites and using links and tags that drive all of the images, video, and audio posted to social networks back to the SMR.
Storyboarding the SMR
The reality is that more and more people are becoming content creators. The purview of content creation extends beyond professional journalists and to the everyday person. The SMR should facilitate breaking out information for all content creators including the media, citizen journalist and enthusiast.
This emerging SMR method uses a story boarding approach to make the content both appealing and portable, ala podcasts, RSS feeds, YouTube videos, Flickr photos, social media tags, and bulleted formats. This storyboard is intentionally not fully conversational, but instead assumes that it is itself an “a la carte” catalyst for exporting the conversation. Last week’s Ford social media release was a great example of this conversational catalyst form.
Enabling Conversation Rather than Hosting It
This approach takes a more word-of-mouth approach, rather than leaving “breadcrumbs that ultimately aggregate the resulting conversations in one convenient spot.” Ultimately, an SMR needs to be about who will read and use it: an organization’s stakeholders.
Do we need another standalone social media enabled form? Or is this conversation better held in other pre-existing forums, like social networks, podcasts and blogs.
An SMR is candy for content creators to generate their own content pieces, a ready made format to facilitate word-of-mouth and distributed conversation rather than forcing it occur around the content elements. And that’s why storyboarding with social media elements is so fun. And smart.
To create a cohesive view of an SMR, all parties need to gather behind a standard. There are several needs:
- A clear list of components needs to be developed.
- Wire services need to be better equipped for distribution at affordable rates
- Major agencies need to support the SMR in its standardized form
- Stewardship needs to be passed gracefully to bodies like the Working Group
Currently the very talented Shannon Whitley, chair of the Social Media Release Working Group, is dedicated to creating technology standards for creating and distributing SMRs. We’d like to see the SMR Working Group get more support from the wire services or some of the larger agencies to help standardize SMRs. Or we’d like to see the Working Group team with PRSA or another organization to achieve these goals. It’s time for the industry to work together on this important, emerging form, and one organization or another needs to drive the bus.
Also, we would like to leave on the note (as did Brian and Todd) that the SMR is a tool, a new powerful one, but only meant to serve the community. Great PR is about building goodwill between an organization and its stakeholders. That means delivering great, honest and meaningful content that matters to your community.