We had the pleasure this week of launching another Social Media Release (SMR), this time to mark NutriSystem’s arrival in the Canadian market.

Meanwhile, Craig McGill, a British journalist and author, challenged some of the assumptions about SMRs, based on the one we created for com.motion’s launch. He had some very kind words to say about what Veritas/com.motion is doing over here on this side of the pond, but also raised some questions about the medium.

Here’s my thoughts on the issues he raises. Craig writes:

1) Most journalists don’t have time to sit and sift through all of that detail. There’s three videos there, survey results, highlights and a traditional press release. If the journalist is interested, what they want is the story quickly so they’ll rip the traditional release, play about with it a little, give it a new intro and move on. The journalist expects all the main points to be in that press release, making the rest a little
superfluous.


My experience as a journalist was little different. Yes, journalists need to be able to access the key facts fast. But I always appreciated it when I had an array of background materials to help me in putting my story together. Even if 99 per cent of it was irrelevant, the other 1 per cent could save me time and make my story stronger. Not only that, but I think the bullet-point facts in an SMR allow journalists to access the key facts even faster than a traditional press release written in paragraph form.


2) If this is sent as a URL link in an email, 9/10 (at least)
journalists won’t even click on it, based on my experience.

This remains to be seen. While I think Craig’s 90-per-cent estimate of non-link-clickers is too high, it’s reasonable to assume that there are dinosaurs in every newsroom who won’t open links. Some may still prefer to get press releases by fax. That’s why, when pitching journalists we don’t know, we tend to cut and paste the traditional press release into the body of the e-mail in addition to providing them with the SMR link. It’s a different issue with blogger relations. They tend to favour links and to shun cut-and-paste jobs.


3) How long is a press release like that going to take to get pulled together? Unless you have a large team ready to do each release – writing, editing, production – with fairly decent kit it’s going to take a considerable amount of time, which is time not spent on other clients.

SMRs take time. So do traditional press releases. But if they add value for our clients, then it’s time well spent.


4) What’s the approval process going to be like? It can take days for clients to approve a couple of pars and it can take weeks for a final release to be approved. What will they be like with video? Will there be notes saying ‘take out 2:28 until 2:56 but definitely keep in 3:45-4:01′?

Not every SMR needs to have an interview. Sometimes video can be incorporated in other ways, such as a television commercial or a product demo. And in my experience the length of the approvals process depends more on the client — and whether there are lawyers involved — than on the medium of the release.


5) If you want the audio to be useful to TV crews make it available in a decent format for download, not YouTube Flash.

Agreed. This video is not suitable for TV, but designed for bloggers. By hosting videos on YouTube it is easy for bloggers to embed, as David Jones did here with one of the videos we produced for com.motion’s launch.

6) On that note, where’s the audio for the radio stations and podcasts? I know I go on and on about this, but you have to think standalone audio as well as video.

Point taken. An MP3 file for podcasts would have been a good idea, particularly for the launch of a social media division.

David concludes by writing that what he likes most about SMRs is that they show that public relations is PR not MR (media relations):


For a journalist what is on the site is probably too much, but for someone looking into the topic it’s fantastic if they have the time to sit and read/watch it all.

Agreed. SMRs have three targets: journalists, bloggers and customers/consumers. The best SMRs are the ones that balance these interests and prioritize them according to each communications initiative.