Post 53:08 I’m back, good and grumpy about social media releases

Press releases are the most predictable documents in the world.

They contain little or no news, plenty of self-congratulation, and offer little value to most journalists I respect other than for their role putting things on the record, i.e; when the CEO says something so turgid you are actually better off using the canned quote in the press release. The real story, the one that adds value to readers, almost always lies elsewhere.

The same, sadly, applies to the new creation of the “social media release.”

Those of this genre that I have seen do a few things differently to a normal media release. They have links to a Facebook group or some other social networking site. They have links to photos, which should really have been standard issue in press releases a decade ago, but let’s not go there. Sometimes they have podcasts or videos.

It’s the latter two I want to take issue with, because I am yet to see one of these social media releases in which the multimedia do more than offer dull, low-production-values, versions of the same kind of PR corporate-speak you get in a written release.

Here’s a good example. The videos in this social media release are just garbage. I fell asleep after two minutes. The Chalk Talk video, IMHO, is the worse of the two. Why waste my time filling a whiteboard with theory? Why not just SHOW me the software in action? This, to me, seems like the most basic idea imaginable. Now that video lets you show things to people, why not do so? Cut out the boastful self-promotion and let me have the visceral experience of watching the software actually DO something.

So it’s the same old useless content. But in a different medium.

At this point, readers might have one of two reactions. If, for example, you are privvy to the knowledge that I have recently had a spat with a representative of the PR firm that does some work for the company whose social media release I have linked to, you could think this is a get-square. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just like to blog about this stuff. And I am a gnat on the vendor’s ass anyway.

Another thing some folks have done when I raise this topic is to accuse me of being an old fogey, a digital immigrant and therefore unfit to comment on anything 2.0. Bullshit. You could be a 14 year old who spends all day with a pair of iPhones glued to your eyes and still find stuff like this SMR dull as dishwater.

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5 thoughts on “Post 53:08 I’m back, good and grumpy about social media releases

  1. I find it completely ridiculous that people are against the very idea or concept of a SMR. Something that bullet points main ideas, links to various multimedia, surely must make your job easier.

    I understand that the video content of this particular SMR might have been lacklustre. But surely that doesn’t mean the SMR as a tool is useless?

    What about this one. No PR folk, just nerdy tech-heads, who actually talk about the technology, and as you say, show it:

    http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2008/07/14/Multi_2D00_Touch-Capability-Available-Tomorrow-for-Latitude-XT-Customers.aspx

  2. Vuki,
    I’m not sure where in this post I say I am against SMRs.
    And they are not useless.
    “Something that bullet points main ideas, links to various multimedia” would indeed make my job easier. But here we are in 2008 and, frankly, I am amazed it has taken this long (and the new notion of the SMR) to get PR into the position of being able to do this stuff. For at least a decade, innumerable technologies and services have made this kind of online resource comfortably achievable for anyone with enough technical nous to create a decent-looking table in a word processor. It’s taken the social media bandwagon to actually get PRs doing it.
    Dull, self-congratulatory corporate-speak is, however, utterly useless. And the SMR discussed in this post is full of it. So are most of the others I have seen. This makes them fall waaaaay short of being social. Most come across as As-Seen-On-TV style ads, but with worse production values.
    I’ll review the other SMR you link to and make it the subject of a future post.

  3. I’m with you on this Simon.

    Most of what I’ve seen of ‘Social Media Releases’ to date could be better described as ‘poor quality, high-bandwidth, press releases’.

    What’s more, they generally go to prove my theory that the true news value of a story is generally inversely proportional to the amount spent on the media announcement.

  4. Better late than never I suppose.

    So once the value of the actual multimedia content included/linked to in the releases is improved, you’re happy with the format?

    I get the impression many journalists have problems with the format rather than solely the content.

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