Social Media vs Public Relations: Comparing Apples to Oranges

I listened to the podcast of the Third Thursday panel, thanks to Shel Holtz, and I must say, regardless of his adversarial posture, I think Stowe Boyd made a good point.

The notion of re-engineering the press release as a social media mechanism is in many ways, a sheep in wolf’s clothing. But the press release, as it exists today, IMHO isn’t going anywhere. If you want to evaluate the company line, and get a sense of how an organization wants you to interpert their news, the press release is still the document of choice for public disclosure.

Aggregators index newsfeeds from the wires which impacts SEO, particularly if the right terms are pointing to the right websites. They wind up on Reuters and Bloomberg Terminals, appear in front of wire editors at newspapers and are repurposed on vertical industry news sites. As the company line, from a breaking and an archival standpoint, they still have value.

My feeling is the Social Media Release is a step in the right direction. But it’s really incumbent upon PR practitioners to find a way to gather and upload information in a variety of formats to their client’s website. The idea of pushing a collection of multimedia out seems less important than making those assets available on your own site.

If people consume these assets on your site, the likelihood that they’ll be drawn in by your content, and then click through to another area of your site where you can engage them in some other transaction is far greater than if they read your news on Yahoo! Finance or Google News.

On the notion of subjectivity, I agree that the idea of re-packaging a document drafted by journalistic guidelines as social media, where subjectivity, transparency and bias are what matter most, is an excercise in futility. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for wires, who BTW I am not affiliated with, and whose success or failure has zero impact on my financial well being.

On the notion of decontruction, I am unsure whether pulling appart the elements and moving them seperately makes sense in a world where the way information is presented can be as important as the information itself.

When a dog bites a man, that’s not news. But when a man bites a dog, that’s news. It’s also the lead. If you pull the news apart, you run the risk of being unable to frame the news in context, and that could dilute the news value of the occurence.

Journalists say they just want the facts. But the facts out of context are far less meaningful than presented against the larger trends and issues. And sometimes it takes patience to grasp the real story. PR may be at a marked disadvantage if the press release gets distilled to the sum of its parts.

I launched iPressroom in 2002 to offer PR people an easy way to upload multimedia to their agency and their client’s website. Five years later, blogs have introduced communicators to the benefits of online content management and social media, not necesarily because they are the best vehicle, but because they’re essentially free.

I still believe organizations are much better served by maintaining dynamic websites with content in a variety of formats. The marketer is becoming the media outlet, but most marketers lack the tools to manage content on their sites without webmasters and coders. How many agency’s do you know who have the tools to upload and SEO their clients press release, high-res images and EPK to the client’s website in an easy, point and click environment? I’ve done the rounds, and I can tell you, not a single major agency has a comprehensive solution in place for integrating the web into their campaigns. St0ry Crafter? Have you seen it? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Word Press is certainly a reasonable alternative, if you have the time, energy and resources to maintain servers, circumvent virus threats and figure out the platform, but for most agencies, who’s business is communicating, cobbling together a hodge-podge of unsupported freeware is risky and expensive.

But until the PR communinity gets serious about web content management, and puts their money where their mouths are, we will continue to see revenue moving over to the interactive agencies, who quite frankly, are eating the PR industry’s lunch.

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