Stowe’s right: kill the social media press release idea now

Stowe Boyd speaks out against social media press releases and other lame ideas. He’s right. I hate that idea too.  Just give us a damn demo of your product and tell us about it. That’s why I usually do two videos with companies: one’s an interview, usually about 30 minutes or so (sorry Loren, it’s long, but then if you want the facts about a new product, you gotta spend some time) and the other is a demo, hopefully about five minutes or so.

I really don’t get why society needs a stupid press release. Oh, OK, I guess we need to pre-write stories for bloggers and journalists since they can’t write their own opinions or reports down, right? Sigh.

Why not use a blog? I have no idea. Oh, I remember Jonathan Schwartz telling me that there’s government rules that says he has to send stuff to major newspapers in a press release done by one of the major press release firms. I should have asked him that on camera.

Comments

  1. I wrote about this from a different perspective earlier in the week. And yes, I agree with Stowe and you, companies should just start blogs if they want to join the conversation.

    The only reason we “need” news releases is because PR wire services have better, more established distribution than RSS.

    For example, if you’re a Sun investor and you follow the company via Yahoo! Finance, you will get dozens of different sources of information, including news releases from the company and blog posts from Seeking Alpha.

    But no Jonathan. The CEO of the company can’t have his blog posts appear on Yahoo! Finance. Oh, I forgot, he can if he puts the post in a news release.

    What a load of crap.

  2. I wrote about this from a different perspective earlier in the week. And yes, I agree with Stowe and you, companies should just start blogs if they want to join the conversation.

    The only reason we “need” news releases is because PR wire services have better, more established distribution than RSS.

    For example, if you’re a Sun investor and you follow the company via Yahoo! Finance, you will get dozens of different sources of information, including news releases from the company and blog posts from Seeking Alpha.

    But no Jonathan. The CEO of the company can’t have his blog posts appear on Yahoo! Finance. Oh, I forgot, he can if he puts the post in a news release.

    What a load of crap.

  3. I think it’s fine for a company to adopt a dual approach; the bloggers and early adopters watching the space expect a blog post explaining the product launch, whereas the mainstream press still expects to have the shortcut of a press release because that’s the way it’s always been done.

    Whilst the need for press releases is diminishing, I expect they will be here for some years yet. So long as the company is also blogging/engaging properly, I don’t see how that’s a major problem.

  4. I think it’s fine for a company to adopt a dual approach; the bloggers and early adopters watching the space expect a blog post explaining the product launch, whereas the mainstream press still expects to have the shortcut of a press release because that’s the way it’s always been done.

    Whilst the need for press releases is diminishing, I expect they will be here for some years yet. So long as the company is also blogging/engaging properly, I don’t see how that’s a major problem.

  5. Huw,

    It would be nice if companies had the choice to do both, but in many cases they are forced to use news releases by law, such as by the SEC, or FSA in your neck of the woods.

    One problem here is that a company is often not allow to just send out a news release saying “Hey, I just blogged about our new product. It’s here (link)” because some wire services have minimum lengths for releases.

    So if you want to use both, which is not a bad idea, you have to do it on someone else’s terms…

  6. Huw,

    It would be nice if companies had the choice to do both, but in many cases they are forced to use news releases by law, such as by the SEC, or FSA in your neck of the woods.

    One problem here is that a company is often not allow to just send out a news release saying “Hey, I just blogged about our new product. It’s here (link)” because some wire services have minimum lengths for releases.

    So if you want to use both, which is not a bad idea, you have to do it on someone else’s terms…

  7. Robert I have written a new website called Pressmeme.com (not public yet but will be shortly) which uses the ping server ability of blogs (XML-RPC) to (re)aggregate blogs posts that have been tagged PRESS. This works in the same way as Edgeio.

    Thus companies could post product releases and pressmeme would aggregate them on a single website by category. Then people could RSS subscribe either to a category,company or country.

    But I fully agree the press release is hopefully a thing of the past along with pointless PR people/companies that churn them out.

  8. Robert I have written a new website called Pressmeme.com (not public yet but will be shortly) which uses the ping server ability of blogs (XML-RPC) to (re)aggregate blogs posts that have been tagged PRESS. This works in the same way as Edgeio.

    Thus companies could post product releases and pressmeme would aggregate them on a single website by category. Then people could RSS subscribe either to a category,company or country.

    But I fully agree the press release is hopefully a thing of the past along with pointless PR people/companies that churn them out.

  9. I’ve been both journalist and a PR agency owner, and I agree the press release is a bit anachronistic. I think the social media release is an effort to modernize it, which can’t be a bad goal.

    Your post seems to assume that every piece of news is a tech product announcement. Not so.

    There are financial releases — such as earnings — staff news, new facilities, mergers, etc. These need to be conveyed in some way.

    Press releases also serve the needs of investors in publicly traded companies and the rest of the public — in terms of getting news out broadly and fairly.

    Lastly, many press release services send announcements directly into newsrooms, such as the wire services, where they are vetted and sent to the appropriate reporters.

    I am a big fan of blogs and the online conversation, but unless places like the AP — where I once worked — Reuters, Dow Jones and the other newswires have a good sense for what’s going on, then stories simply won’t be available for bloggers to pick up. We all rely on the initial newsgatherers more than we might like to admit.

    Just my two cents…

  10. I’ve been both journalist and a PR agency owner, and I agree the press release is a bit anachronistic. I think the social media release is an effort to modernize it, which can’t be a bad goal.

    Your post seems to assume that every piece of news is a tech product announcement. Not so.

    There are financial releases — such as earnings — staff news, new facilities, mergers, etc. These need to be conveyed in some way.

    Press releases also serve the needs of investors in publicly traded companies and the rest of the public — in terms of getting news out broadly and fairly.

    Lastly, many press release services send announcements directly into newsrooms, such as the wire services, where they are vetted and sent to the appropriate reporters.

    I am a big fan of blogs and the online conversation, but unless places like the AP — where I once worked — Reuters, Dow Jones and the other newswires have a good sense for what’s going on, then stories simply won’t be available for bloggers to pick up. We all rely on the initial newsgatherers more than we might like to admit.

    Just my two cents…

  11. Gee, if blog posts replace press releases, won’t they all be cluttered up with those “forward-looking statement” disclaimers that basically say, “everything we just mentioned might not happen so don’t sue us if it doesn’t”?

  12. Gee, if blog posts replace press releases, won’t they all be cluttered up with those “forward-looking statement” disclaimers that basically say, “everything we just mentioned might not happen so don’t sue us if it doesn’t”?

  13. The idea behind the SMR aka hrelease aka Social Media Release aka New Media Release is incorrect in Stowe’s post. It’s not about capitalizing on trends in order to take an archaic, dying press release formula and present it to newsmakers in a fancy new package labeled as “social media” just because it has trackbacks, Technorati tags, RSS feeds, links, etc.

    The IDEA is to strip out all of the bullshit and hype from traditional mechanical, and useless press releases and rebuild it as a focused compilation of relevant facts, links, media and a subscription feed to help readers write, tell, and share a story their way (without having to sort through a sea of crap to find out what’s real, what’s canned, and what’s important.)

    This is what a good release should be anyway, regardless of trends and titles. Basically it’s the press release redux. It takes out what’s wrong with press releases and modernizes them into a usable format for journalists, bloggers, and individuals.

  14. The idea behind the SMR aka hrelease aka Social Media Release aka New Media Release is incorrect in Stowe’s post. It’s not about capitalizing on trends in order to take an archaic, dying press release formula and present it to newsmakers in a fancy new package labeled as “social media” just because it has trackbacks, Technorati tags, RSS feeds, links, etc.

    The IDEA is to strip out all of the bullshit and hype from traditional mechanical, and useless press releases and rebuild it as a focused compilation of relevant facts, links, media and a subscription feed to help readers write, tell, and share a story their way (without having to sort through a sea of crap to find out what’s real, what’s canned, and what’s important.)

    This is what a good release should be anyway, regardless of trends and titles. Basically it’s the press release redux. It takes out what’s wrong with press releases and modernizes them into a usable format for journalists, bloggers, and individuals.

  15. Enough Already: Getting Social Media Releases wron

    The IDEA is to strip out all of the bullshit and hype from traditional mechanical, and useless press releases and rebuild it as a focused compilation of relevant facts, links, media and a subscription feed to help readers write, tell, and share a sto…

  16. Actually Stowe is wrong and he did not do his homework, nor did he accurately reflect the conversation that happened at Third Thursday in response to his comments. It feels like he may have chosen this path just to be controversial and to attack the PR industry rather than trying to help professional communicators learn why social media is important and different. Maybe this is the same reason he has yet to approve the comment I made in response to his post yesterday morning.

    If he had bothered to do his homework, he would have learned that the whole point of the discussion we have started is about changing the way that companies approach press releases. It is about chunking news from companies into facts for the purpose of making it easier for citizen journalists, traditional journalists and anyone else to talk about what a company is doing when a new product is released or when something important happens.

    The end point of our discussion is for this to be a Microformat distributed via RSS on BLOGS! To make that information more findable and to help ensure the accuracy of facts. The underlying forces that will move it in that direction requires a lot of people to change the way they have been doing things for a long time, so this is a slow process and an ongoing conversation. The format itself will not stop certain spinmeisters from giving the profession a bad name, but it is a step in the right direction. As social media proponents, we can choose to be confrontational and combative, or we can choose to be respectful – do you want to offer a carrot or threaten with the stick.

    To that end, another important point in the discussion is to help PR professionals craft better stories by letting go of the story and helping other people to tell it for them. Now the thing is, if you take it down this path, I hear others say, “great, now the PR folks are using us to do their jobs” – so in some sense this is a lose-lose proposition. Even though the goal is simply to get the facts out, and help the right people find out about those facts and the companies perspective on them. This is the point behind our efforts on the social media release, or social media press release, or social media news release, or hRelease, or new media release, or whatever you want to call it – to update the official company communications vehicle known as the press release for the modern era – regardless of what you call it. It is not going away – it is evolving along with the way people consume and publish information.

    How do you get the facts, if not for someone from the company publishing them somewhere, or telling you about it. How can we distinguish between official communications and unofficial communications if not for some sort of channel for this information distribution. How do you know that this actually came from the company and can be relied upon? This is another goal of the social media release concept.

    So here is the comment I posted to Stowe’s blog that he has yet to approve. Perhaps this perspective will shed some more light on why we are actually helping PR Professionals to get Social Media Right. As with many other major socioeconomic changes we have experienced, there will be some bumps in the road, there will be failure and there will be those who just get it all wrong. I appreciate Stowe is trying to ensure we don’t go down the wrong path, but I don’t appreciate his tactics or lack of respect for those of us who do get it, but have a different perspective than him.

  17. Actually Stowe is wrong and he did not do his homework, nor did he accurately reflect the conversation that happened at Third Thursday in response to his comments. It feels like he may have chosen this path just to be controversial and to attack the PR industry rather than trying to help professional communicators learn why social media is important and different. Maybe this is the same reason he has yet to approve the comment I made in response to his post yesterday morning.

    If he had bothered to do his homework, he would have learned that the whole point of the discussion we have started is about changing the way that companies approach press releases. It is about chunking news from companies into facts for the purpose of making it easier for citizen journalists, traditional journalists and anyone else to talk about what a company is doing when a new product is released or when something important happens.

    The end point of our discussion is for this to be a Microformat distributed via RSS on BLOGS! To make that information more findable and to help ensure the accuracy of facts. The underlying forces that will move it in that direction requires a lot of people to change the way they have been doing things for a long time, so this is a slow process and an ongoing conversation. The format itself will not stop certain spinmeisters from giving the profession a bad name, but it is a step in the right direction. As social media proponents, we can choose to be confrontational and combative, or we can choose to be respectful – do you want to offer a carrot or threaten with the stick.

    To that end, another important point in the discussion is to help PR professionals craft better stories by letting go of the story and helping other people to tell it for them. Now the thing is, if you take it down this path, I hear others say, “great, now the PR folks are using us to do their jobs” – so in some sense this is a lose-lose proposition. Even though the goal is simply to get the facts out, and help the right people find out about those facts and the companies perspective on them. This is the point behind our efforts on the social media release, or social media press release, or social media news release, or hRelease, or new media release, or whatever you want to call it – to update the official company communications vehicle known as the press release for the modern era – regardless of what you call it. It is not going away – it is evolving along with the way people consume and publish information.

    How do you get the facts, if not for someone from the company publishing them somewhere, or telling you about it. How can we distinguish between official communications and unofficial communications if not for some sort of channel for this information distribution. How do you know that this actually came from the company and can be relied upon? This is another goal of the social media release concept.

    So here is the comment I posted to Stowe’s blog that he has yet to approve. Perhaps this perspective will shed some more light on why we are actually helping PR Professionals to get Social Media Right. As with many other major socioeconomic changes we have experienced, there will be some bumps in the road, there will be failure and there will be those who just get it all wrong. I appreciate Stowe is trying to ensure we don’t go down the wrong path, but I don’t appreciate his tactics or lack of respect for those of us who do get it, but have a different perspective than him.

  18. Speaking of videos, whatever happened to the one you did at Intel? After their spate of recent announcements, are they still requiring you not to post it?

  19. Speaking of videos, whatever happened to the one you did at Intel? After their spate of recent announcements, are they still requiring you not to post it?

  20. Domininc/Sam – By adopting microformats for social media releases, the open source newswire is simply RSS and not restricted to any one domain – though I expect a new form of aggregator will arise. This is the point I have been making since June of last year – people will no longer pay the wires for their distribution technology, but someone will make money authenticating the content and the source of official announcements from companies, both public and private.

    Rather than it being a per release/post charge based on the number of words or certain features, it will be a monthly service charge – either flat rate or based on bandwidth utilized. For a while I thought this was what Verisign was going to do in buying up ping services, but am now unsure.

  21. Domininc/Sam – By adopting microformats for social media releases, the open source newswire is simply RSS and not restricted to any one domain – though I expect a new form of aggregator will arise. This is the point I have been making since June of last year – people will no longer pay the wires for their distribution technology, but someone will make money authenticating the content and the source of official announcements from companies, both public and private.

    Rather than it being a per release/post charge based on the number of words or certain features, it will be a monthly service charge – either flat rate or based on bandwidth utilized. For a while I thought this was what Verisign was going to do in buying up ping services, but am now unsure.

  22. One more point I forgot earlier – to answer Robert’s question about why Jonathan Schwartz and the FCC care about this matter. Essentially, the FTC wants to ensure fair disclosure of material information that may affect a company’s stock price – to make sure all investors have equal access to that information so that people can not unfairly benefit from ‘insider’ news. This means that any material information must be distributed fairly to the world at large, which until now has mean across the news wires.

    This issue is to deep for me to address properly here, but am important exchange happened in the fall of 2006 when FTC Chairman Christopher Cox responded to Jonathan Schwartz on his blog. This will hopefully lead to blogs being recognized as sufficient distribution for meeting the fair disclosure requirement. I talked about this further in a hastily assembled blog post on Social Media Release.org

  23. One more point I forgot earlier – to answer Robert’s question about why Jonathan Schwartz and the FCC care about this matter. Essentially, the FTC wants to ensure fair disclosure of material information that may affect a company’s stock price – to make sure all investors have equal access to that information so that people can not unfairly benefit from ‘insider’ news. This means that any material information must be distributed fairly to the world at large, which until now has mean across the news wires.

    This issue is to deep for me to address properly here, but am important exchange happened in the fall of 2006 when FTC Chairman Christopher Cox responded to Jonathan Schwartz on his blog. This will hopefully lead to blogs being recognized as sufficient distribution for meeting the fair disclosure requirement. I talked about this further in a hastily assembled blog post on Social Media Release.org

  24. Missing the mark

    Stowe Boyd doesn’t like the social media news release. Big surprise. Neither does Robert Scoble.
    Here’s a big shock guys…  neither of you are the targets of this effort. Neither of you are journalists (last time I checked) and even i…

  25. CROSS POST

    Stowe,

    PR getting social media wrong… there’s a funny little irony there. Apparently, there’s a limit to what nonsense even goofballs can swallow.

    CRITICAL FLAW #1: “A Social media is based on the dynamic of a many-to-many dialogue between people. Yes, people: that’s the word that should have been used. Not audience.”

    No. A corporation will NEVER be able to afford one-off relationships, let alone conversations. Stowe, you are proposing a hugely expensive cost for
    undetermined return.

    Now don’t be cute and say, “well you won’t be able not to.” You’re wrong. Birds of a feather flock together. Shotguns work best.

    CRITICAL FLAW #2: “Companies don’t blog, or converse: people do.”

    Correct, BUT… a company is one entity under the law, not many. Companies speak as one. This is basic business dynamics. You might find that false;
    but a company by definition is a legal lie. Unless you plan to change that, which is totally ludicrous, you’re pissing against the wind.

    CRITICAL FLAW #3: Quoting Doc Searls to make a business case. C’mon. That’s just silly.

    LISTEN: Writing the company’s story, reporting the organizations facts, articulating a position, etc., ALL are NOT things any mature responsible sensible and employed corporate exec would EVER vet with the unruly amorphous populace mass. PERIOD. And to those knuckleheads that say “but, but”… fact is the benefits of all this social nonsense is the stuff of fad and myth.

    Lastly, the only reason this social crap has any support from PR is because a small group have glommed onto it as the new new thing and the cornerstone
    of their lightweight expertise. They look sillier every day.

    – Amanda Chapel

  26. CROSS POST

    Stowe,

    PR getting social media wrong… there’s a funny little irony there. Apparently, there’s a limit to what nonsense even goofballs can swallow.

    CRITICAL FLAW #1: “A Social media is based on the dynamic of a many-to-many dialogue between people. Yes, people: that’s the word that should have been used. Not audience.”

    No. A corporation will NEVER be able to afford one-off relationships, let alone conversations. Stowe, you are proposing a hugely expensive cost for
    undetermined return.

    Now don’t be cute and say, “well you won’t be able not to.” You’re wrong. Birds of a feather flock together. Shotguns work best.

    CRITICAL FLAW #2: “Companies don’t blog, or converse: people do.”

    Correct, BUT… a company is one entity under the law, not many. Companies speak as one. This is basic business dynamics. You might find that false;
    but a company by definition is a legal lie. Unless you plan to change that, which is totally ludicrous, you’re pissing against the wind.

    CRITICAL FLAW #3: Quoting Doc Searls to make a business case. C’mon. That’s just silly.

    LISTEN: Writing the company’s story, reporting the organizations facts, articulating a position, etc., ALL are NOT things any mature responsible sensible and employed corporate exec would EVER vet with the unruly amorphous populace mass. PERIOD. And to those knuckleheads that say “but, but”… fact is the benefits of all this social nonsense is the stuff of fad and myth.

    Lastly, the only reason this social crap has any support from PR is because a small group have glommed onto it as the new new thing and the cornerstone
    of their lightweight expertise. They look sillier every day.

    – Amanda Chapel

  27. You appear to like what Edwards is doing with social media (so do I and I’m doing similar things with senior UK politicians). But I’m sure that Edwards sees blogs as just part of what he does, I bet he’ll use news releases as well – and may even see the benefits of a social media news release.

  28. You appear to like what Edwards is doing with social media (so do I and I’m doing similar things with senior UK politicians). But I’m sure that Edwards sees blogs as just part of what he does, I bet he’ll use news releases as well – and may even see the benefits of a social media news release.

  29. I’m with Stuart on this – but forget the medium and concentrate on the message. If you’re doing the right thing as a business or as an individual – who cares how the message is distributed as long as people engage?
    Also the press release is as old as main stream media (I think John Milton did one on behalf of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War) and the industrial printing press.
    Most PRs deal with the truth – even when it gets ugly – and most journalists understand this and challenge us. This is a none debate and Sam Sethi’s comment about “pointless PR people/companies that churn them out” is just silly.
    Are we suggesting that Microsoft can their entire pR team? Everyone was creaming them selves over iPhone last week. Perhaps Jobs should sack his PR team.

  30. I’m with Stuart on this – but forget the medium and concentrate on the message. If you’re doing the right thing as a business or as an individual – who cares how the message is distributed as long as people engage?
    Also the press release is as old as main stream media (I think John Milton did one on behalf of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War) and the industrial printing press.
    Most PRs deal with the truth – even when it gets ugly – and most journalists understand this and challenge us. This is a none debate and Sam Sethi’s comment about “pointless PR people/companies that churn them out” is just silly.
    Are we suggesting that Microsoft can their entire pR team? Everyone was creaming them selves over iPhone last week. Perhaps Jobs should sack his PR team.

  31. Thank You for Bringing Attention to the Need for C

    If anything, this conversation demonstrates why the blogosphere (and most importantly, people) will chew-up and spit-out traditional PR and corporate marketing types – without thinking twice. But that’s the beauty of this. It forces evolution and imp…

  32. Press releases and blogs speak to different groups of people. You’ll wait a damn long time to get coverage in the NYTimes if you only do blog posts. The difference between the two is audience, and the only real problem comes when there’s duplication. It is indeed annoying to get the same damn thing in a press release that you read hours ago on a blog, but there are a huge number of journalists who won’t get the story for days if at all unless it goes out on the wires.

    Any company worth its salt should use both communication methods; we all know you can read leet, but there’s no reason to limit your company’s communications to that.

  33. Press releases and blogs speak to different groups of people. You’ll wait a damn long time to get coverage in the NYTimes if you only do blog posts. The difference between the two is audience, and the only real problem comes when there’s duplication. It is indeed annoying to get the same damn thing in a press release that you read hours ago on a blog, but there are a huge number of journalists who won’t get the story for days if at all unless it goes out on the wires.

    Any company worth its salt should use both communication methods; we all know you can read leet, but there’s no reason to limit your company’s communications to that.

  34. I am of course a complete non-entity, however the very depth of my disinterest in this topic _compels_ me to comment.

    Regarding the Comment of Chris Heuer of 4:20 pm January 20th.

    “Jonathan Schwartz and the FCC”
    “Essentially, the FTC wants to ensure fair disclosure”
    “FTC Chairman Christopher Cox..”

    hmmm… FCC, FTC, CDC, XTC, KFC

    All great and good in their own way but perhaps (and again what standing do I [a snarky nobody] have to comment) but perhaps _SEC_ Chair Christopher Cox was of more interest to the conversation.

  35. I am of course a complete non-entity, however the very depth of my disinterest in this topic _compels_ me to comment.

    Regarding the Comment of Chris Heuer of 4:20 pm January 20th.

    “Jonathan Schwartz and the FCC”
    “Essentially, the FTC wants to ensure fair disclosure”
    “FTC Chairman Christopher Cox..”

    hmmm… FCC, FTC, CDC, XTC, KFC

    All great and good in their own way but perhaps (and again what standing do I [a snarky nobody] have to comment) but perhaps _SEC_ Chair Christopher Cox was of more interest to the conversation.

  36. In agreement with many of the sentiments expressed above, particularly:

    Scoble et al are not targets of the Social Media Release. Anyone pitching you or a similar media entity (blogger or whatever) is a near-complete idiot.

    In fact, I don’t like to use press releases to pitch anything– it may have background information or some other useful reference content, but a personal message– whether by phone, email or blog comment– is the only good way to engage any serious media content creator.

    The Social Media Release– to me– is a way to make press releases do better what they should already be doing well– and that is to be found, and serve as a record of news.

    But for the love of god, not to pitch journalists/bloggers/whatever you want to be called

  37. In agreement with many of the sentiments expressed above, particularly:

    Scoble et al are not targets of the Social Media Release. Anyone pitching you or a similar media entity (blogger or whatever) is a near-complete idiot.

    In fact, I don’t like to use press releases to pitch anything– it may have background information or some other useful reference content, but a personal message– whether by phone, email or blog comment– is the only good way to engage any serious media content creator.

    The Social Media Release– to me– is a way to make press releases do better what they should already be doing well– and that is to be found, and serve as a record of news.

    But for the love of god, not to pitch journalists/bloggers/whatever you want to be called

  38. Broken Record Time: Bagging on Press Releases

    Okay, so over the weekend Brian Solis pings me with his post on the latest kerfuffle on the press release, in particular the social media release.

    Ugh, sorry, just got back from throwing up.

  39. [...] Last Friday 1. Everyone’s up in arms about the social media press release. Seems Stowe Boyd feels that many of us out here are getting social media all wrong, that we shouldn’t use terms like “audience” (sorry Stowe, not with you on that one) and that, instead of SMPR, PR agencies should simply use blogs instead (they have all the same bells and whistles). So then there were calls to kill the SMPR altogether. [...]