Last night, I finally got to attend the Phoenix chapter meeting of the Social Media Club. The room was packed, and it felt so good to get out from behind my computer screen, and see some real live human beings that I had only met before through email, like the spunky Francine Hardaway, Dave Barnhart, Matthew Moran, and John Seiferth.
The topic of the meeting was the new Social Media Press Release, which was developed by PR Squared and attempts to upgrade the decades-old format of the traditional press release so that it includes places for "Web 2.0" stuff like links, graphic files, video clips, del.icio.us tags and rss feeds.
The problem it attempts to solve is making it easier for journalists or bloggers to learn about a story, and have quick access to useful background information that is not strictly text-related.
It has its skeptics, like Teresa Valdez Klein of Blog Business Summit who wrote how this snazzy new format of the press release wouldn’t keep her from ignoring it, much like she does with "old school" press releases.
I voiced a similar concern at the meeting last night, from the perspective of a blogger who is beginning to get traditional press releases since my readership has increased. Sometimes, they seem to come out of the blue with no context, and make me feel very uncomfortable since I am afraid of hoodwinking my hard-fought readers with thinly veiled advertising. I wondered if any other bloggers felt uneasy receiving press releases from PR firms.
I talked about it in my How to avoid fright-inducing link sharing techniques, inspired after writing about Joel Splosky’s review of a Sprint phone that was thrown at him by an eager PR firm.
Here is where the convergence comes in.
A few months back, I had a wonderful interaction with APCO Worldwide, a communications firm that was working on behalf of Greenstone Media, the first women-owned radio network championed by Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. They wanted to involve a number of women bloggers in conversation about the launch of the network. Their approach was no-hype, conversational and open, and resulted in a once-in a lifetime opportunity for me to interview Gloria Steinem and fly to New York to meet her in person and attend the opening the launch event for the network.
This morning, David Wescott who works for APCO, sent me a summary of the "points of consensus" from a recent roundtable discussion about how PR Firms can best court bloggers:
January 9 Blogger Roundtable Consensus Points
The blogosphere is a trust-based medium where credibility varies from source to source.
Anonymity offers certain protections, particularly in political discussions, but it also can
create doubts as to the validity of information and the interests of the writer. These issues
are addressed effectively when writers have the ability to speak openly and directly as an
A new phenomenon in the blogosphere is the degree to which traditional media will follow
blogs and react to them. This places greater importance on the accuracy of the information
published on blogs and the transparency bloggers display. In political blogging, this writing
does not exist in a vacuum and there are some methods of accountability, such as FEC
reports and scrutiny from other bloggers.
One of the challenges PR Firms face is the varying standards bloggers employ. Some
bloggers consider themselves journalists and operate accordingly, while others see their
blogs as personal journals expressing opinion. Still others take pride in revealing sources or
publishing information meant to be “off the record.” PR firms have to understand the rules
each blogger adopts to work constructively, and there is no blanket ethical code binding
Blogs have self-policing tools the mainstream media lacks. Comments can show up in a
blog contradicting an original post, while publishing a “letter to the editor” can happen days
or weeks later, if at all. Other bloggers often work to correct the record; this is common
between political blogs at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.
Relationships remain the most effective currency in working with bloggers. Generic press
releases are generally ignored – or worse. Further, some bloggers are inherently skeptical
of being “pitched” by a PR firm – the act itself implies that there is an issue to be spun. PR
firms have to do a better job explaining to bloggers that their work is often nothing more than
the outsourced extension of an overworked client. To cut through the clutter in bloggers’
inboxes, bloggers rely more on information from familiar sources.
Participants in the forum included bloggers Pat Cleary from Shopfloor, William Buetler from Blog PI, Joanne Bamberger from Punditmom (Joanne, I know you read my blog, so share the inside scoop in the forum, ok?), Joe Sudbay from Americablog and David All from The David All Group. PR Professionals included Evan Kraus from APCO Worldwide, Kathy Cripps from the Council of Public Relations Firms, Aedhmar Hynes from Text100 Public Relations, John Bell from Ogilvy Public Relations and Matt Shaw from the Council of Public Relations Firms.
Speaking as a blogger who had a very positive experience with a PR firm employing these practices, I am encouraged that we are trying to improve the way that we all connect, support and inform each other.
What do all of you think about the new relationship between traditional media, PR firms and bloggers? What should it look like? And will the Social Media Press Release help?