Why are we doing this release? Is probably the first indication that something is not right. There should always be a good reason to get the word out on a company, a product or a service -- something that is newsworthy. Yet often, internally, there is this misconception that many things that are in fact not new, not even improved, require the obligatory press release. That is the everyone-is-a-PR-expert approach, one I don't quite buy.
I propose that there is another way of getting the word out. One that would, interestingly, enhance the company's reputation and get information that is valued in the hands of the publics that value it. That would be a new kind of social media release -- call it the built-to-last information kit.
Several years ago, in what became once of the essential Fast Company articles, Jim Collins wrote the cover story Built to Flip. "A few short years ago," read the introduction, "everyone wanted to create enduring, great companies, businesses that were Built to Last -- and Jim Collins wrote the book on how to do it. Today, he says, Built to Last is under the gun, Built to Flip is on the attack -- and a battle is under way for the soul of the new economy. Which side are you on?"
Just like in the new world described by Collins VCs looked for ideas people could do quickly and take public or get acquired within 12 to 18 months, on the to do list of the PR professionals are now releases that are not really news in the proper term of the word, yet the need to get the word out quickly on product enhancements is still there. If what this is about, I suspect, is putting together a good story, one that shows good product and service people implementing an internal promise, why not do just that? Put together a good story, and one that tells the whole story from the view points of many publics, not just the media.
I borrowed the title of this post from a section of Collins' article as the concept has been around for a long time. Public relations provide a service for the company by helping to give the public and the media a better understanding of how the company works. Shouldn't we make that full service?
The social media releases (and some social newsrooms) I have seen so far begin to address the needs of many publics by incorporating different kinds of media -- audio, video, text -- and formats -- paragraphs, bullets, highlights, links. For example:
- Ford Focus courtesy of Shel Holtz (as shared on Twitter)
- BSG Alliance by Connie Reece
- Elements of the Social Media Release by Chris Heuer
- Social Media release template and Net Receipts example by Todd Defren
- Adobe's Flex: the Case for the Social Media Release Newsroom by Tony Hung
Social media releases can take a variety of formats and contain a variety of tools. In the Ford Focus example, it looks like a mini site, doesn't it? It's a story all by itself, a multi-media experience. What I wanted to get across with that particular example was how holistic a built-to-last information kit can be. It can highlight:
- what has changed of a product and service
- what other people have said about it, customers, partners, peers
- where it fits within the greater company response to a customer need
- how it integrates with products and services offered by partners and even competitors
- keywords (what we call tags) so that the information can be retrieved by all the people who need it, not only media scouting wires, or people who already know where to look
And here's a novel idea -- allowing people to comment, build upon, make suggestions, and test drive the information live. Why not have a company expert on hand to answer questions?
We are spending too much time trying to protect current practices, why not build upon them? Why not build upon the current release format? Why not admit when something is not really news up front and offer ways in which the information is useful, can help customers solve a problem better, etc.? Why not tell your story first? The media, you know, is not paid to tell your story, you are.
Things are changing so fast, yet sometimes ever so slightly that it's not about what's new. Nor it's about what has improved. It's about what works. That's why I called it the built-to-last information kit. [hat tip to Brian Solis for some of the links]
There is, of course, actual news and there are SEC disclosure rules. I recommend actual releases for that.