Public Relations vs Social Media: Reputation Management Goals and Challenges

I listened to the podcast of the Third Thursday panel, thanks to public relations executive 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 a public relations firm seeks to reinforce a client’s position to give stakeholders a sense of how they want their news interpreted, the press release is still the document of choice for public disclosure.

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

I feel 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. Pushing a multimedia collection out seems less important than making those assets available on your site.

If people consume these assets on your site, the likelihood that your content draw them in 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 re-packaging a document drafted by journalistic guidelines as social media, where subjectivity, transparency, and bias matter most, is an exercise in futility. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for wires, whom I am not affiliated with and whose success or failure has zero impact on my financial well-being.

On deconstruction, I am unsure whether pulling apart the elements and moving them separately 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 risk being unable to frame the news in context, which could dilute the news value of the occurrence.

Journalists say they want the facts. But the facts out of context are far less meaningful than those presented against the more significant 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 necessarily 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 various 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 public relations agencies do you know with the tools to upload and SEO their client’s 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 no major PR firm has SEO consulting services or a comprehensive solution for integrating the web into their campaigns.

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 PR agencies, whose business is communicating, cobbling together a hodge-podge of unsupported freeware is risky and expensive.

But until PR firms get serious about content marketing and web content management and put their money where their mouths are, we will continue to see revenue moving over to the digital marketing agencies.

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