As is always the case with a rapid shift in technology, it takes awhile for everyone to get up to speed.  Companies are definitely seeing the value of implementing social ideas in their marketing, PR, HR, and customer service. According to the WetPaint/Altimeter Group’s report, those that are the most engaged in social media are also the ones doing the best financially. Yet their websites often don’t reflect their level of engagement in social media.

In the recent Washington Post article Social Networking:  10 Mistakes Organizations Make Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging book, recommends that organizations and companies using social media have a hub on their primary Web site where users can find links or feeds to blogs, photo galleries and other third-party social sites. This gives customers or constituents a single go-to URL.

social media newsroomThe online newsroom is the perfect place to do this, yet a quick look at the sites of the top thirty companies listed in the EngagementDB study reveals that only 55% have social features and links to their social content on their newsroom. They may be among the best at connecting with their customers and stakeholders in the social web, but they are making one of the 10 errors – neglecting to create that hub of social content on their corporate websites. Microsoft built a good one for Bing, SAP has one for SAPPHIRENOW and Cisco does a good job. 

Most of the companies on the list do offer RSS Feeds, but a surprisingly large number do not have their feeds programmed correctly so that it automatically gets indexed by browsers and search engines.

Less than a third are using the social media news release (SMNR) format and adding images and videos to their releases.  In a PBS Mediashift blog post Ian Capstick defined the SMNR as a single page of web content designed to enable that content to be removed, used and shared on blogs, news sites and other social channels.  In practice, social media news releases feature multiple embedded links (a YouTube video, Flickr slideshow, SlideShare presentation etc.) and blocks of text similar to those found in traditional releases (spokesperson quotes, boilerplate and contact information.)

Looking back at the history of the press release one can see that the way we format a release to reach the media has always changed as the media changed. Back in 1906 press releases came into being. They were specifically formatted as a way to get information to newspapers. Then came radio. PR agencies started to add recorded interviews and sound bites to releases sent to radio stations because that was what the medium demanded. If you wanted radio coverage you figured out what radio journalists and editors wanted and you supplied your news in that format. Nobody thought this was weird or that the press release had died.  It’s just smart PR.

Along came TV and the video news release was born. Forward thinking PR people stayed abreast of technology and the need to evolve with a new medium. Sending a TV newsroom a video news release in the exact format that made it easy for a news editor to use often got you the coverage you wanted. Companies sprang up to service this need and PR people had to learn a new skill – video news.

So why is the Internet and the social media news release any different? It’s not a case of killing the press release. It’s just presenting your news in the format that gets the best results.

As long as there are newspapers a traditional press release will exist. Radio stations still like audio releases and sound bites, but now they want visuals too because they have a website. Newspapers, magazines and TV stations have websites with a voracious appetite for content. As an example, most stories in the Wall Street Journal say ‘More on’. Print publications are extending their coverage online. They have podcasts and video on their websites. They have blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And that means they need more content and they need it in new ways.  It just makes good PR sense to use a social media release.  PR people need to acknowledge the shift and learn to present their news in the format that best suits this new medium.

The same applies to the online newsroom. We made the transition from printed press kits to digital and Electronic Press Kits and once websites became mainstream this moved to an online newsroom. That’s been the PR standard for at least six years now. But once again we’ve seen a big shift in technology and behavior.  It’s time to add the social features and upgrade the corporate newsroom to a social media newsroom

At the recent Media Relations Summit in New York City journalists and online editors clearly told the PR attendees that they still find it hard to locate the media section on most websites and they find them hard to navigate and use.  Journalists and bloggers want news content delivered iin chunks of information that is tagged and easy to find, links to supporting data and multimedia that is easy to use and publish. They also want to know what other social content you have.
•    Offer links to all your social content.
•    Publish all news releases in social media format on your own website
•    Add all multimedia assets to your newsroom, videos, Flickr image stream etc.
•    Add these to your press releases
•    Provide embed codes with images and video so bloggers or journalists can easily use your content
•    Optimize your news content for search so it can be found
•    Syndicate all news content in RSS feeds
•    Publish the blog posts and tweets about you in your newsroom

As the media landscape continues to shift companies have to keep abreast of the changes.   They must offer the news content their stakeholders are requesting in a format that makes it easy to find, access, use and share.