The Press Release Then, Now and Tomorrow

A press release used to be sent out by fax and later email.  They got picked up and printed and then people who wanted to read the article in the publication might.  They might clip it out and send it to a relative.  Later, with the Internet, they might send the URL to a friend.  Then print media online began offering little "share this" icons so that you could email the article to a friend.  That was all nice progress.

Then came RSS feed. One can aggregate a large number of feeds at once, getting news from a lot of sources and then spread them on quickly. 

The nature of a press release is evolving as does our forms of communications.  Now, there is no one sized fits all press release. 

For example, there is a PR Web News Release, which is very useful to get news out electronically. And there are innovative forms of press releases such as one I noted that was put out by Cephalon as a very well done multi-media release that included downloadable video, etc.  

But recently, through a colleague of mine named Geoff Gaspar in the San Fransisco of my employer Fleishman-Hillard, I was introduced to the Social Media Release and was wowed by it. 

Geoff developed a Social Media Release for his client, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. (CIRM) using a service offered by a firm called Pitch Engine, which is billed as "PR for the Social Web.  CIRM not only had a very visual story, but also one that could easily be carried along by word of mouth.  CIRM was announcing the winners of a photo competition that challenged entrants to develop the most beautful possible photographs of stem cells.  The release announced the twelve winners.

There are a lot of reasons this is interesting.  First of all, it not only spreads news to a targeted group of people who are interested in your topic, but it actually allows you to spread the news through your own social media networks while you read the release.  There is a pitch, for example, of 140 characters next to a Twitter icon.  If you click on the Twitter icon, you will automatically Twitter the pitch through your own Twitter account.  Then your followers are seeing it as you continue reading the release, and may re-tweet the pitch to followers of theirs who may also be interested.  
Likewise, there is a Facebook icon which, if hit, will post part of the article with links to your Facebook profile.  Brilliant.  Naturally, you can include video to post to YouTube as well, and there are a vast array of other social media hooks that can be employed to spread the word.  Rather than a social media release, one might call it a viral release – it is designed to be picked up and handed off.  As an example, I clicked on the Twitter icon and it immediately posted to the Eye on FDA Twitter account, which now has 534 followers.  Within seconds, someone else retweeted the entry to their Twitter followers.  No telling how far it went.   But if you were interested in finding out, you could go to Tweetscan and enter in "stem cells" to see where it got picked up and sent along. 

Considering that social media is occupying a larger and more important role in healthcare communications and that over 1ooo newspapers are twittering, for stories that one wants to spread within a specific network, a Social Media Release may be just the ticket.  Or, of course, you could send it out by fax.  
But also consider the other applications for this type of release.  A public service announcement (PSA) could be contained in a release that could, in turn, be posted by dozens of interested people to their own YouTube accounts.  The PSAs would then be seen by audiences who have a pre-disposed interes in the subject matter. 
And consider the public affairs utility in terms of advocacy.  An organization could not only alert their own  grassroots network with a release, but facilitate the sharing of it with their networks so easily that you not only draw in your consituents, but possibly increase the size and scope of your effort instantly – for example a call to action regarding a vote in Congress urging everyone to call, email a public official.   
The echo chamber offered by a Social Media Release might just have deafening potential. 
The reach and uses of a Social Media Release are limited only by a weak imagination.  It is a vehicle that takes the viral spread of news to a new height.  Or, you could clip out the article that you think is interesting, and put in the mail to your Aunt Sarah. 

I thought it interesting enough that I contacted the founder of Pitch Engine to discuss the utility of a Social Media Release.  Check it out.  

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2 Responses to The Press Release Then, Now and Tomorrow

  1. The interesting thing here is to ask WHO will be reading the release. Often in the pharma or bioscience industry, there may not be a tremendous response to the sharing options. But as tech transfer offices and biotech development firms, etc., slowly begin to have a presence on FB, Twitter, and so on that may change…

  2. First off, thanks for the post!
    It’s important to understand, PR is not going to always JUST be about journalists. The future (and current) capabilities to connect with consumers (friends, fans, followers), investors and media is where it’s headed. You can’t assume media is going to be your message distribution channel. Think bigger, or be left behind!
    Thanks for checking us out, our doors are always open šŸ™‚

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