Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Breaking the News Release Cycle

The single biggest problem facing traditional PR firms as they shift to social media lies in their history. Not that they can't change and not that they lack the talent, but everyone in the organization came up through that organization learning to do things a cetain way.

As a prime example look at the idea of "news." A basic PR tactic is to create a news pipeline with the goal being to keep media interest high. A secondary benefit of this is showing customers and prospects a full press room, so when people peek into the online newsroom they see an active company.

It's a sound tactic and one that has served the industry well for a very long time. There's only one problem with it: it assumes "outreach" to a channel that, if not dead is certainly constricting.

Even attemps to remake the press release don't dissect it entirely, they just try to rearrange the
facts in a way that are more palatable to the changing taste of the percevied consumer of that release: bloggers, podcasters and reporters who now need more multimedia content.

But these attempts don't get at the core of the issue: news is content and should be treated as such. To that end, companies must look at their news pipeline not as a reason to write another release, but as an editorial calendar. The traditional news release, distributed over services such as PRNewswire and BusinessWire are still valid, but only as a single channel of communications within a much broader universe.

One of my favorite examples of a non-news release type scenario came from Google. If you bring yourself back to September 2007 you may remember the anticipation leading up to the announcement that Google would be entering the mobile world. On November 5, Andy Rubin put up a blog post titled "Where is my GPhone?" in which he announced the open handset alliance and Android.

If you read the post it has all the elements that would go into a traditional release. It talks about the partners, the technology and even uses the word "annnoucing." But it was not distributed over BusinessWire, does not have the usual list of editorial contacts and doesn't say "Google, the leading provider of search services to the planet Earth..."

Of course, this is Google and they can do that sort of thing for a highly anticipated annoucement, but for most companies there are pieces of news expected by their core constituancies. Customers may be looking for a product upgrade or partners may want to know about expanded programs. If they have an existing communications channel with which to follow news, then reaching them is that much easier.

The fact is, news is information and can be anything you want it to be. What works for you?

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