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The social media release has arrived

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

The social media release has arrived after 100 years of the traditional media or news/press release. Social media releases look similar to today’s multimedia releases in format, structure and design, but can open up dialogue in new ways.

However, they don’t replace traditional media releases; they are complementary because they are intended to reach social media while traditional releases reach traditional media.

What’s more, gems are not created out of dross: if a person writes substandard material in a traditional media release (journalists are always complaining about this), they are also likely to write substandard content in a social media release.

The social media release (SMR) is intended to make easier for people to identify and share the most important information with others while adding their own perspective to the text.

It is important to learn how to implement Social Media Optimized (SMO) campaigns to more effectively converse with stakeholders and encourage them to share information with each other. Therefore it is important to learn technologies such as RSS, tags, SMO, social bookmarking etc, because this appears to be the way of the future.  

You need to remember that traditional releases are not readily picked up by social search engines like Technorati, even if you use Technorati tags. The release will remain invisible to the social search engine.

To be seen by these blog-specific engines requires a separate social media optimization (SMO), also known as blog search engine optimization (BSEO) process and an entirely different distribution mechanism. If the SMR is not published via a social platform (blogs are inherently social) like Wordpress or Blogger, it’s going to be ignored by Technorati, BlogPulse, Google Blog Search etc.

The best place to publish a Social Media News Release is on your company blog or social media newsroom (which is hosted on a blogging engine). However, it’s important to recognize that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) alone will not necessarily draw attention to your news. It’s still important to actively promote and distribute your releases via newswires and social media tools, and – wherever you promote your news – to provide a link back to your Social Media News Release.

This is an important point because social media and traditional media releases can look exactly alike, but will show up in different places.

So how do we get more “social” with social media releases?

Social can be defined as:

  • Hosting conversations – via moderated comments – directly at the hub of the SMR (ideally in the corporate social media newsroom) or providing a link to comments.
  • Providing a trackback function – and displaying the results. This is not only a good metric for marketers evaluating industry response, but also helpful to those looking for additional perspectives on the news.
  • Enabling links to social bookmarking sites (like is good. So is the creation of purpose-built links that highlight other voices and provide context for the news.
  • Using links and tags that drive all of the images, video, and audio posted to social networks back to the SMR. These links and tags act as beacons for the conversation. It shouldn’t matter whether users come across a traditional, multimedia or social media release; it shouldn’t even matter if they find a “chunk” of the release’s content somewhere else on the Web. By including relevant tags and by consistently associating the SMR’s dispersed content elements (on YouTube, Flickr, etc.) with the SMR’s permalink in the Social Media Newsroom, you can create a trail that comes to the one place – your SMR.

Key elements of a Social Media Release

Headline: Used as in traditional releases. Use the passive voice to put keywords at the start.

Sub headline: Optional

Highlights / key facts: This is one of the major differences of the Social Media Release compared with a traditional press release. Highlights and key facts, are short and to the point statements that are the important takeaways that are the reason for the release. There is no technical limit on these highlights, but keep them brief.

Summary: This is intended to present the highlights of the Social Media Release in paragraph form for those who do not like reading bullet format – it also allows more room for context and to set the tone.

Tags / keywords: Using the most highly relevant tags / keywords for the information in the release, will give it a higher chance of being discovered by people who monitor social media for those particular keywords and phrases. At present, search engines like Technorati and other services create ‘feeds’ for these tags that individuals and organizations use to connect to the information that most interests them. There is no technical limit as to how many tags can be included, but as a practical matter it is probably best to keep it more focused than less; otherwise the value of the system will be eroded as email has been by spam.

Links / URLs: Links may be embedded in most of the other areas of the social media release as most elements allow HTML, and this specific designation of all the links in a separate field emphasizes them in a way that makes it easier for people to access.

Link types: One of the reasons for having a separate area of the Social Media Release for links is to identify them as link types, which adds even greater value. These enable the recipient to identify the links source, relationship and relevancy. Link types will be defined over time based on real world usage. They are initially intended to be left as an open, practitioner-defined field. Examples of link types include, third party review, supporting research, case study, company web site, buy link, and most notably, collections of links such as those created on sites like Delicious and Furl.

Reserved link types: There is the possibility of having special link types reserved such as cascading styles, where a cascading style link type can be used to display the social media release on different sites with a particular style and emphasis. This would allow companies control over the visual presentation of the release.

Quotes: An easily identifiable and widely used element of the traditional media release, showing quotes as a unique field is required. This also leads to types of quotes, which require further discussion and may in fact be left as a user defined field in the initial standard.

Embedded audio, video and images: Use existing RSS protocols for creating enclosures that enable practitioners to include logos, photos, audio clips, video and other similar content along with the release.

Traditional media release: The standard release format can be used for text, which allows recipients to receive and republish as they always have done while accommodating the principles of the SMR. It helps bridge the gap between the traditional media release and the social media release.

Company information: This should include separate fields for company name, description, website, stock exchange symbol and whether or not the company is the primary source of the release rather than a party to the release.

Contact information: Multiple hCards can be included here with one being designated as the primary contact. hCards are similar to the types of contact cards that you find in Outlook and contain all relevant information in a common Web standard format.

RSS feed: Within each SMR is the information on the location where someone can find and subscribe to all releases from this company. This URL for the feed may exist on the company site or at a third party location such as FeedBurner or PR Newswire. Additionally, this may serve as a location for all feeds from the company’s blog or just the specific feed for the company’s hReleases.

Date/time stamp: At the original point of publishing, add a date/time indication.

Geography: If the release is intended for a specific geographical area, the SMR can specify the point of origin using geocoding specifications together with an extended radius field. This again is intended to allow for a more targeted connection between the source of the information and interested readers.

Source URL: The source URL should indicate where the SMR was originally published and allow for individuals to return to that source to see if any modifications were made. This also makes it easy for people to reference a link to the original release and to track citations to it.

Trackback URL: Following standard conventions of blogging and RSS, a trackback URL will enable the conversation around the release to be tracked more cohesively – at least among those sources that want to demonstrate that their audiences can feel comfortable knowing that the source of the information is trusted and accurate.

Further information on social media releases can be found on

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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