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January 8, 2009
Social Media News Distribution Comes of Age
 
For almost two years, I have been helping clients evaluate and implement social media news distribution. The use of Web 2.0 technologies for news distribution has really grown, and has reached the point where any company can reliably take advantage of the speed, simplicity, and improved user engagement it offers.
What is a Social Media Newsroom?
  • The Web 2.0 replacement for the press release
  • A central location for bloggers, journalists and other influencers to either read or subscribe to your latest news.
  • A searchable repository of company data and images that the sales force and others can rely on
  • A hub for industry conversations about your company, its products and services, its business prospects, etc.
Social media news distribution (my term) includes the Social Media News Release and the Social Media Newsroom, which unfortunately, sometimes have the same acronym (SMNR). SHIFT Communicationsintroduced the concept of the Social Media News Release in May, 2006 with its ground-breaking template (PDF download).
Later, in March, 2007, SHIFT announced its Social Media Newsroom template (PDF download). In May, 2007 Eastwick Communicationsannounced its Social Media Newsroom offering for clients.
I am not a big fan of the Social Media News Release as I think e-mail, the primary distribution method for the standalone news release, is not designed for this purpose. Not all email clients support images and links, and very few support embedded video. And e-mail clutter and large file size are already problems that are out of control. If the e-mail contains just links, then it isn’t a Social Media News Release. It’s an emailed link to a Social Media Newsroom.
Why would you want a Social Media Newsroom for your company or agency?
Much of the power of social media comes from the underlying technology – things like RSS feeds, tags, and rich media functionality (video and audio) – and these capabilities can help you post company news in a highly visible, shareable and engaging way in a more engaging and effective way than your current web site permits.
Many companies are now posting all of their releases in a Social Media Newsroom instead of using traditional news wires, or they may use the traditional news wires only occasionally, enjoying the ability to post an unlimited number of items on the Social Media Newsroom. (In most cases, once you implement a Social Media Newsroom there is a monthly fee with no per-release cost.) Not only will posting your own news reduce costs, it will save time and give you pinpoint control over the publication schedule of your news.
Traditional HTML-based web sites are largely invisible to thousands of people, like bloggers, online journalists, analysts, customers, organization members and shareholders. The Social Media Newsroom “behaves” a lot like a blog. The moment you post news to the Social Media Newsroom, it is instantly disseminated across the web and around the globe and made available to millions of people.
There are alternatives to the in-house Social Media Newsroom that offer many of the same benefits. Traditional news wires PR Newsire, BusinessWire, Marketwire are adding social media capabilities. If you use any of these companies, you should be aware of fee structures for their social media news distribution services.
These services can be appealing in that these companies are highly experienced with news distribution and can implement social media distribution practically at the flip of a switch. Marketwire is offering to build client social media newsrooms, and PR Newswire offers its Media Room. Another do-it-yourself option, similar to PitchEngine, is PRX Builder, offering user-created releases with distribution through PR Newswire.
As always, when thinking about press release tactics, there are some important considerations:
  • Press releases are no substitute for media relations and blogger relations. First tier coverage requires genuine relationships with publications, bloggers, and writers, and intimate knowledge of “beats,” preferred methods of receiving news and so on.
  • The press release is not dead. What is dead, and always has been dead, is the idea that shotgunning untargeted email press releases without developing meaningful relationships with journalists will somehow result in coverage.
  • Many outlets still rely on press releases.
  • Blog content and news content not the same; newsroom is the voice of the company
Recently, I spent some time using PitchEngine, an interesting solution for companies and PR agencies looking for a hosted Social Media Newsroom. I mention PitchEngine in my new book, SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, but this was the first time I created a newsroom and built a release on the site. PitchEngine offers both a tool for setting up a hosted newsroom and building Social Media Press Releases, as well as a community of users to help PR professionals connect with writers and bloggers interested in their releases.
As I mentioned, PitchEngine is one of many solutions, but I found it easy to use and effective. I created my newsroom in under 10 minutes and spent another 20 on creating and publishing a release. I was able to easily add a logo and links to numerous resources. There’s one thing I would change about PitchEngine. You can’t embed links and multimedia in the body of a release. They are separate and I would prefer to see them integrated. Other than that, PitchEngine allowed me to quickly and inexpensively create and distribute a release. The site also offers some metrics, so I can see how many people have viewed the release. PitchEngine offers a 30-day free trial and is $600 per year per “brand” for a regular subscription.
Additional Benefits of a Social Media Newsroom
In addition to all of the company news capabilities offered by a Social Media Newsroom, there a many additional benefits to companies who take advantage of this technology.
Following the July, 2008 announcement by the SEC that it would allow companies to use their social media enabled web sites to comply with the financial reporting requirements for publicly held companies, the Social Media Newsroom could easily fulfill this requirement, freeing the company from the cost and lengthy process of traditional SEC financial reporting.
The Social Media Newsroom is also a “Trojan Horse” for introducing social media technology into a conservative organization that might not be ready for executive blogs or customer forums. With a Social Media Newsroom, a company can gain familiarity with Web 2.0/social software implementation and use, etiquette, and features with less risk.
Finally, particularly for companies that do not have executive blogs, the Social Media Newsroom is an outstanding tool for crisis communications, allowing a company to respond instantaneously, and with high impact, in a demanding communications situation.
 
 
Portions of this article were excerpted from my book, SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate. Talent Zoo readers receive a special discount on the book by using the code: SOCIAL-ZOO at checkout when ordering the book from the publisher.

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Joel Postman is the principal of Socialized, a consultancy that helps companies make effective use of social media in corporate communications, marketing and public relations. He's the author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, a handbook designed to help corporate communicators and executives understand how to successfully adopt social business strategies in large companies. Prior to founding Socialized, he was EVP of Emerging Media at Eastwick Communications a Silicon Valley public relations firm, and before that, he has a decade of Fortune 500 corporate communications experience, including leadership roles in executive and internal communications at Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

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