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Tom Foremski

Die Press Release, Die Die Die

A Social Media News/Press Release is not meant to “stand alone.”  It is meant to suppliment your mainstream press release, not replace it.  The SMR combines flexible formatting options with a tagging standard. It becomes more user-friendly and useful by allowing the advantages of the linking, multimedia and social media capabilities of the Web.

The goal is to make business news usable by online reporters and bloggers. According to Brian Solis, a Social Media Release (SMR) “should contain everything necessary to share and discover a story in a way that is complementary to your original intent.”

The thing that started all the hoopla about defining and setting up some type of form or standard was an article written by reporter Tom Foremski in his blog post “Die Press Release, Die Die Die.” In it, he basically says that all he needs from an SMR is the facts. He is sick of reading the spin because he is the writer, and that is his job.  Basically, he is much like the detectives on the old Dragnet television show.  He wants, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Recently, I viewed a Webinar from PR Daily that covers this topic  thoroughly. The host, Michael Sebastian, who is managing editor of PR DailyWeb hosted a show entitled, The Basics: How to Produce a Social Media News Release.  His guest was Shel Holtz, ABC and principal of Holtz Communication and Technology.

He explained that this caused Chris Heuer, the founder of The Social Media

Neville Hobson & Shel Holtz

Club, took the intiative to have the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) assume the leadership role in the standardization of the Social Media News Release.

The SMR Working  Group of IABC to Date includes:

Current members:

  • Chris Heuer, founder, Social Media Club and principal, The Conversation Group
  • Tom Foremski, journalist
  • Shannon Whitley
  • Brian Solis
  • Shel Holtz, ABC

Those who have recently joined after receiving an IABC invitation are:

  • Laura Sturaitis, Business Wire
  • Jiyan Wei, PRWeb
  • Dan Zarella, social media consultant
  • Todd Van Hoosear, communicator and social media practitioner
  • David Parmet, public relations counselor
  • Jason Ryan, New Zealand public sector communicator.

Todd Defren at Shift Communications released the first template of a Social Media Release.  Although Foremski suggested bullets as a quick way to find the information, Holz says that you don’t have to include bullets if you don’t think your audience likes them or you are not comfortable using them.  Basically, he says you just need to include the core elements.  He lists these as being:

  • Multimedia: Images, Audio, Slide sharing (PowerPoint), and Video.
  • Quotes (Tip: worthwhile to subdivide quotes from 3rd party quotes. ex: CEO/Customer/Advisor
  • Research Aids (ex. Technorati Tags, Links to related content
  • Contact information
  • Boilerplates

Holz says that there are three ways in which you can produce an AMNR.  They are:

  • Do It Yourself: He himself codes in Html as he is writing.  If you are not proficient in that, you can always use a Web content managing system….a blogging platform(ex. WordPress, Blogger) to make this a lot easier.  It just needs to be clean, simple and utilitarian for your audience.
  • SMNR Services:  There are many out there for you to use. Pitch Engine has a template. All you have to do is copy and paste your content or type it in from scratch.
  • Links to sharing sites.

The bottom line is that when preparing a Social Media Release, you shouldn’t try to write showy, eye catching dialog. That is the job of the writer, whether that is a blogger, a reporter, or another journalist. Watch the following video from RealWire, a press release distribution company who  gives a quick rundown of the effective SMR.

E-Mail

PR blogger and owner of Public Relations Project LLC Claire Celsi recently wrote an article about the successful email pitch. She uses a sample of a good email pitch that she recently received and points out why it is good.

  1. Spell correctly the name of the person to whom you’re addressing the email.
  2. Mentioning the business/organization/news outlet the person is connected with. Both #1 & #2 are easily found by Googling the person. It is crucial that you take time to research each person you’re sending the pitch to. If you don’t have time to do that, you’re spamming too many people.
  3. Find out who writes about the kind of story you’re pitching, and pitch the email to them.  Then, offer your company as an ongoing resource, and give the name of a “real” person to contact.
  4. Make sure the email is informative, factual and full of good information. Include a link that will take the reporter to the correct page with the information promised.
  5. Do not use a “News Release” format to transmit information! This is called a “pitch email” and is highly effective because it is: on target with what the blogger writes about, personalized and researched and explanatory.

Hated PR Phrases

Erica Swallow has worked for a year at Mashable, (a tech and digital news site) and in that time has come across several pitch phrases that she despises. They are listed here.

  1. 1.Circle Back
  2. 2.Follow Up

Both of these phrases are used when the email sent by the reporter does not get a timely response. They assume that the email “may not be working or was caught by spam.” In most cases, this is not the reason. Most likely the pitch was dry, confusing or lengthy and the writer didn’t have time to figure out what the message was really about.

3. “Put Out Some Feelers” This brings a picture of insects to mind, and Swallow says to get back to her when you become a human again.

4. “Gauge/Re-Gauge Your Interest”  Swallow says  that if she wasn’t interested the first time, she probably isn’t in need to have her interest “regauged.”

5. “IndustryLeading” 6.”Revolutionary”                                                                                 7.”Groundbreaking”

All three of these phrases will get reporters to promptly delete your email or respond with a short “not interested.”

8.  “Did you get my email?”/ “I noticed you didn’t respond.”

The message is: email works.  To speak plainly:  Not interested!

If you work in public relations, Swallow suggests that you try to avoid completely annoying the reporters you work with. And: “Limit the PR jargon and just be a human.”

Project Management

All organizations use projects as the way to explicate techniques into action and goals into realities.  Many companies live and breathe project management because it is the nature of their business.  Some of these businesses include construction, aerospace, engineering design, consulting, and so on.  Organization around projects is a way of life since almost all senior staff members have worked their way through the ranks; the top management comprehends what it takes to be successful in a project.  Even lesser project–concentrated companies such as food, retailing and textiles still have projects that they deal with periodically.

PR organizations/businesses have one “project” after another.  Project management is a skill set that PR leaders can use in their organizations to deal with the high-growing and fast-changing business environment with increased access rates and compliance, and decreased uneasiness and expense.  Statistics show that exceptional project management can make a project lucrative while deficient project management can ruin your efforts, wasting money and time.  Bringing into play Project Management for the application of tactics and facilitating goals can supply a PR organization with:

  • Gain through achievement of goals in a timely manner
  • Competitive edge invigorated by refinement of implementation, teamwork and customer satisfaction
  • Provides better flexibility, especially to small and mid-sized organizations
  • Upgraded and better risk assessment is available when your team is united and ready to go and your tactics are in place.  Possible weaknesses will become obvious.  Project management allows you to be alerted to problems before you begin the project completion.

While PR business professionals may not approach Project Management as other organizations might, it is still essential in bringing the project to fruition in a timely and porductive manner.  As a PR professional climbs the business ladder, these skills will prove more than beneficial.  They will become essential in the successful completion of many projects.

If you’d like to learn more about Project Management, read Tony Bates’ article, or check out Buzzle.  Another interesting article is found on Project Smart.

Last fall, Facebook launched a new page for media. This Wednesday, it was  announced that they’ve done it again. This time it is Facebook for Journalists. This page is more about the individual and is geared to help journalists latch onto the power of Facebook with the help of other journalists. It provides a place encouraging peer collaboration and best practices and tips for more effective writing.

Facebook as provided a “Getting Started” page that walks you through the process of getting your own page within the Facebook for Journalists area. It also shares links to articles that give advice and tips to Journalists, beginners and pros alike.

Facebook also lists other uses for Facebook for Journalists. Some of these uses include posting requests for sources, polling for audience feedback, and articles concerning journalism and Facebook.

With video interviews of top journalists, a registration tab for notification of journalists meetings in the local areas, and polling and discussion options; it is evident that great care was taken to be thorough when setting up the Facebook for Journalists page.

Already supported by many well known journalists, it will be interesting to see how well this page does.  Looks like it’s off to a good start.  Read the whole article by Jeremy Porter.

Are you a brand new PR student who has never dabbled with writing a blog?    Don’t worry, I was in the same place just a year ago.  Though I still struggle with all the new things popping up in the world of Social Media and PR, I can still say….I’ve come a long way, baby!  If I can do it, anyone can.  Here’s a list of my top ten tips if you’re just getting started.  Some of these are all my own, and some were tips that I read in similar blogs when I was just getting started.

1.  Stay true to yourself. You aren’t writing for someone else. There’s a subject that you feel you have some experience in and you’ve got something to say. You can get ideas from others, but ultimately your blog has to reflect who you are and how you communicate with others.

2. Credit your source. This one is so important. It does matter where you got it from. If it is a truly original idea, or a new take on an old idea…give credit where credit is due. If you don’t, you might get blacklisted among other bloggers. Be credible and do what is right!

3. Decide what your focus will be and stick to it. It could be PR. It might even be sewing. Whatever it is, if you write about it, it should tie in with your primary subject. This is the only way people who are also interested can find you. Also, if you write about your Granny’s dog, and you can’t tie it into your quilting blog, then put it on your facebook and leave it off of the blog. However, a creative person can usually tie in the things that are important to them.

4. Use AP Style correctly. This means to check, check and then check again. My advice is that you buy the newest AP Style book (2010) and Use It!

5. Participate in other blogs with a similar focus. If you do, they may come and check your blog out.  Also, you can link to other like-minded bloggers. It gives your readers other avenues of information, and you’ll develop a following of readers and bloggers alike.

6. Check out new social media. It can be filled with new ideas and hot topics.

7. Invite comments and make it easy to comment. Remember, interaction is the name of the game.

8. Add pictures–don’t be boring. Just remember to give credit for others pictures that you use.

9. If you’re not sure what someone is talking about, google it. It may seem strange to you out there who have been participating in every social media as it came on the scene. However, I am new to this and when I was assigned articles on Twitter and a podcast….I didn’t know what either one of them were. So, I googled them. I have fallen in love with the podcast, and I would have missed out on many things that I like if I hadn’t discovered it and its meaning.

10. Keep It Clean. This is probably the most important tip that I can give you. Even if something is deleted from a site, it can still float around the Internet for years. Be careful what you write, it probably will come back to haunt you!

These are just a few tips that have been helpful to me. For more about writing, look at Gena’s post. Another interesting article for new bloggers can be found on Jorn Barger’s site.

Tonight I did something I have never done before.  That’s happening to me a lot lately in my PR Writing Class COMM 4333 with Prof. Barbara Nixon. I have had to be dragged kicking and screaming, mainly because of my disability.  That’s right, folks.  I have a double whammy!  I am Computer and Digitally Challenged. That’s a real problem in this digital age. However, I will have to say that after I got past my “learning curve” I actually enjoyed several of these experiences.  Twitter is definitely not one of them.

There may be several reasons why and I will sketch them out briefly before sharing the content of the Twitter discussion that I watched and participated in, albeit in a somewhat limited way.

The biggest reason is that I am not actually a PR student.  Therefore, this discussion was mainly “over my head.”  I have no practical knowledge of the PR business.  I know just enough to “get me in trouble” as they say.  More than  half of the questions asked by the panel were foreign to me.  Many of the abbreviations used I didn’t understand.  On Twitter, they will abbreviate words to save characters, but they’ll use commas.  That’s laughable to me. I’m too much of the “English” teacher to enjoy this abbreviated type of communication.

Perhaps if I’d listened in on something that I understand, like education, I might have been able to contribute more.  Still, I did make the effort and I sat there for the entire time taking notes.

The PR20chat was a panel of PR professors and students asking about the way PR is taught in our colleges today. They put seven questions before the public, and anyone was welcome to participate. Here are the questions and a sampling of the answers given from the tweeters out there.

  • Question #1: How would you train young professionals to develop solid decision-making skills in a fast-paced social media environment?

Mentor them and help them build their own online community.  Teach               them to communicate “truly, w/integrity.”

  • Question #2: How would you teach clients and new employees to engage audiences as participants in dialog rather than receivers of messages?

Remind them they are talking to other humans. Golden rule in place                     here. Be mindful of brand and purpose.

  • Question #3: How would you balance adding value to the community with the need to achieve your own organization’s objectives.

People will value what you have to say based on how much value you               provide them.

  • Question #4: What “new” skills do PR students need to learn to succeed as professionals?

Digital literacy, discerning quality information online.

Big theme: Writing skills:  Attn: students!

PR is an evolving beast.  U need 2 know how 2 roll with the punches                    evolve quickly and smile during the ride.

  • Question #5: How should professors prep students to understand PR measurement and explain “value” of PR? (I personally have no understanding of what ‘measurement’ is).

This will sound harsh, but unless they have digital strategy                                       experience they should not be teaching our kids.

Hard to understand measurement until you actually apply it to a real                world situation. (My question is: What is measurement in the context of PR? I’ve never heard it used in that context before).

  • Question #6: Is the pendulum swinging too far? What % of course work should be on social media vs “traditional” PR?

0% social. If we quit separating it, maybe we’ll finally “get it.”

I really wish there was a course on pitching at my school.  Would have                been very helpful.

Schools that provide real world opps in class/as a class (think in hours                  PR agency) excel in developing top grads.

  • Question #7: How would you encourage new professionals to think strategically about social media?

Again, think biz problem 1st. Then, consider how tech might assist  in               process. Remember, it’s just one piece.

The panel considered this “tweet” session to be beneficial.  In the space of an hour, there was 1,500 tweets. For the most part, I didn’t really understand all of the questions and did not know exactly what they were referring to most of the time. Still, I’m sure that this session will be beneficial to anyone who intends to work in the field of PR.