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The social media release is designed to maximize online value

01 Jun, 2020 Media relations, Social media

This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.

The social media release was pioneered by Shift Communications in 2006, widening the reach to audiences after 100 years of the traditional media or news/press release. It is not a dramatic change to the concept of a media release – more an improvement specifically catering for mobile and social media.

At the time of launch the change was considered quite dramatic, but technology has caught up over time since 2006, and the various components of a social media release have become incorporated into the traditional media/press release. You can review the template below and decide if any of the elements shown can be included in your traditional releases as well.

Social media releases look similar to today’s multimedia releases in format, structure and design, but can open up dialogue in new ways.

Complementary to traditional releases

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.

One key feature is that the social media release should be in a responsive format compared with the traditional media release. Its layout adapts to the device being used to receive it.

A social media release is posted online rather existing simply as a Word or PDF document attached to an email, etc. By being online, people can search for the release under relevant keywords and can share on social media. Adding multimedia capability to a release increases the number of views significantly.

It must noted that 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.

Traditional releases are not readily picked up by social search engines; they remain invisible to the social search engine.

Actively promote your social media release

The best place to publish a social media release is on your blog or social media newsroom (which is hosted on a blogging engine). However, it’s important to recognize that 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 release.

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 social media release (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 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 social media release. 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 part of the release’s content somewhere else on the web. By including relevant tags and by consistently associating the release’s dispersed content elements (on YouTube, Flickr, etc.) with the release’s permalink in the social media newsroom, you can create a trail that comes to the one place – your social media release.

Key elements of a social media release

According to Shift Communications, the key elements of a social media release, shown visually, are shown below. Shift don’t seem to be actively promoting the concept in recent years, but you can review the structure and content of their template, below, to see what you might be able to productively use to suit your own requirements:

Features of the 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 paragraphs 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.

Here are some new (and updated) features for the social media press release template

Shift Communications added new features to the original format of their social media release, and they added the following comments with it:

  • Headline: Just like in news articles, the headline and lead are the most important parts of the release. If someone clicks on your page and they’re only going to read one thing, this is it. Hit your key point in the headline and support it with must-know facts in a sub-head. If a photo is relevant to your news, put that here, too.
  • Sharing Options: In addition to the headline, another important part of the release is the social sharing capability. You want readers to be able to quickly and easily share and engage with your content on their various social channels. Keep sharing buttons close to the top of the page!
  • Multimedia: Having visual elements on your page is not only beneficial to your audience, but to you as well. We included a short video (less than five minutes) of our subject (and newest hire) Scott Monty explaining why he was making the move to SHIFT, in his own words. This offered readers some context and visual content featuring Scott sharing a bit more about his move. The video also gives your company another chance to engage with readers. Some will gravitate to video and others written content, serve up as many formats as is realistic in order to reach the widest audience possible in a personalized way. As they watch and share the video, you have the opportunity to create an online dialogue with them.
  • Varying Viewpoints: In a traditional press release, all of the information is from the point of view of the organization. We wanted to showcase other viewpoints in relation to our news. In this case, blog posts from SHIFT CEO Todd Defren and Scott Monty in addition to AdWeek’s exclusive coverage on the news were featured on the page. Readers got the chance to not only hear about the news from SHIFT, but from several key players in the announcement along with a story from an outside news source.
  • Official Press Release: We may be focusing on new press release features, but the traditional press release is still widely used. Some people still appreciate having all of the information in one easy-to-read place. New aggregators will also pick up a press release, where they wouldn’t necessarily find content elsewhere on the page.
  • Twitter Collections: A Twitter Collection is an easy way to curate user-generated content around your news. Twitter tools like TweetDeck make creating and curating Twitter Collections very simple and user-friendly. Using the collections gives you the opportunity to showcase what people are saying about your news on Twitter. We chose Twitter in this case because Scott has a large and engaged following on the network. You’ll want to focus on the social network that is going to work best for your respective company rather than what works for someone else, or even us!

About the author Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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