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Thank You for Bringing Attention to the Need for Change

The conversation regarding the need for evolution in PR still rages on (with the SMR aka hrelease at the center of the controversy.)

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Some bloggers “get it,” others are forcing us to do a better job explaining what we’re actually doing, while some (and the people who read their blogs) completely miss the point.

If anything, this conversation demonstrates why the blogosphere (and most importantly, people) will chew-up and spit-out traditional PR and corporate marketing types – without thinking twice. But that’s the beauty of this. It forces evolution and improvement – so, either get on board or get out!

It also brings to light a much needed discussion of the need for PR and corporate marketing to evolve.

Truth is that “social” is what’s truly sparking the controversy here. PR had the ability to hide behind so many tools in the past, and now finally, social media is forcing them to step out into the light. PR must now engage with people and in order to do so, must act like “people” not just a faceless broadcasting machine.

It’s not just PR though, social media must be embraced by companies in order to have validity.

In Stowe’s latest post, he nails it with pinpoint accuracy, “Let’s get down to the real basics. We are people. We are already engaged in conversation among ourselves. If corporations want to jump in, fine, go ahead. The water’s fine. But you have to drop the old line model in its entirety, or you will have zero success.”

Chris Heuer adds, “Regardless, this is finally the beginning of the manifestation of the cluetrain principles in our society, with companies entering the conversation in a real and meaningful way. ”

All in all, the world just needs PR to pay more attention to whom their sending information and why it should matter, to them and the people, that read their writing (or watch their videos).

Once they have that knowledge, it will, by all means, change how they reach out – whether it’s in email, by phone, comments, or through blogs. As someone pointed out, the best way to engage socially is by phone. But until they can do so with acceptance and legitimacy, PR has no business engaging directly with individuals.

PR must step from behind its black cloak of anonymity and step into the conversation. But in order to do so, they can’t at all, come across as a traditional PR person – just people talking with people.

The only problem is that most offenders in PR probably won’t even read these blog posts. Hence why we’re trying to bring them into the conversation. Well, only the good ones, the rest can wait for the Ice Age.

Here’s a summary of the conversation…


The idea that there is no audience any more—that we’re all equal parts producer and consumer of content—makes for a nice sound bite. It’s also complete bullshit. One percent create content. Ten percent interact with it. That leaves 89 percent who simply read it. They are not engaged in the conversation. They are passively absorbing content. – Shel Holtz

Social media press releases are far, FAR from perfect. But, as long as they’re used as a bridge to further conversations with clients about a blogging strategy that is honest and not filled with malarky … then you know what? I’m willing to stomach it. – Dr Tony Hung

My opinion on the matter is this. I think that anyone who takes the time to invent something, lobby for it and contribute to the community is doing the right thing. That’s the definition of social. – Chris Saad

Stowe makes some bullshit assumptions about the PR industry and the changes many of us are already working to incite. – Mike Manuel

Fact: Press releases continue to be an efficient way to widely distribute information, so there’s no need to cut off your nose to spite your face. – Mark Evans

The new media release, as we refer to it, has the potential to make PR and media more honest because the source of each word, sentence can be tracked.
Posted by: Tom Foremski

Which brings us neatly to Robert Scoble, who misses it more than most. At least Stowe Boyd’s original post was well argued, even if I don’t think he fully understands what it’s all about. – Stuart Bruce

In the end if a marketing or PR professional writes good copy, or tells a good story particularly when it is selling a good product it tends to cut through all the clutter no matter how the message is delivered. – Rick Calvert

I’m a supporter of SMR, but if we want to debate SMR constructively let’s try to have some data to base our arguments. – Daniel Riveong

I’m sick and tired of ‘leading blah blah blah’ and ’solutions’ and phony ‘pleased and delighted’ quotes. But that’s not the issue the social media news release is addressing. – David Parmet

The IDEA is to strip out all of the bullshit and hype from traditional mechanical, and useless press releases and rebuild it as a focused compilation of relevant facts, links, media and a subscription feed to help readers write, tell, and share a story their way (without having to sort through a sea of crap to find out what’s real, what’s canned, and what’s important.) – Me

The social media release is the presentation layer, and that the concept we are supporting technically is the hRelease. The reason behind supporting Microformats are many, but the simplest is that it is intended to primarily be distributed through RSS on BLOGS! – Chris Heuer

I think Solis would say that quality PR can be done without compromising the integrity of the social network experience and maybe that’s true but as with all things commercial we’ll see more obnoxious and manipulative stuff than quality promotion. And hey, that’s OK because this … is …. America and we like our commercialism crash, superficial, and obnoxious, right? – Joe Duck

Some PR people are actually good at what they do. Others are not. And what they are good at is helping refine a message. And, thus, I can see social media and the “future of the press release” being a valid concept.
J. LeRoy

I don’t think we can kill the Release just yet, it still serves its purpose. But smart companies should be trying to complement it. – Jeremy Toeman

For the record, I think “social” news releases posted on a company’s website are hugely better than traditional releases posted on a company’s website. At least a social release allows people to have input. At least you know it’s a PR pitch and not a fake blog post.
Posted by: Dominic Jones

As readers here know, I don’t have any problem with press releases, old or new format, as long as the PR people do the real job of crafting well written and newsworthy announcements without BS. The press release and other materials created for announcements are just the documentation of the story. They aren’t the story. – Susan Getgood

So, where I am right now with the idea of a social media-based press solution: let’s use better writing, a more open approach to replying to feedback, blogs and a richer markup (hRelease) to make our press information more freely available, more indexable, remixable, and just more useful. Instead of being an end in itself (or merely a set of message points we hope others reprint verbatim) hReleases should jumpstart more conversation. — Brian Oberkirch

In my opinion, the social media news release is an inconvenient distraction from the real task at hand, which is getting businesses to understand what social media is in the first place, how it changes the rules, and how it challenges received wisdom and ancient corporate communication tools like, er, the press release. The social media press release is a distraction, but it’s a meaningful distraction… – Giovanni Rodriguez


I don’t have a PR background, and was trying to figure out how it helps communication. Frankly, I probably don’t know enough in this arena, so I’m anxiously waiting for this to get sorted out.
Posted by: Jeremiah Owyang

There’s something about the “social” in “social media” and “social networking” and “social” everything that keeps raising my hackles, no matter how much I believe in the best elements (and intentions) of those much hyped phenomena. – Scott Karp

I find this “social media release” thing rather odd. I’m sure it’s not the case but it sort of gives you the feeling that some in the traditional business world are getting together and deciding, “Well, it’s finally about time we started understanding this Internet thing.”
Posted by: Eric Berlin

Come on, guys, do it right. Don’t just talk the talk: walk the walk. Otherwise, your clients will never get there. – Stowe Boyd

Brian, if everyone agreed with your description of what a social media release was supposed to be and do, then I don’t think there would be any problem — although I think even a social media release should be just part of what a company does to get is message out, along with blogs, etc. It’s baby steps. – Mathew Ingram

Not Sold – yet

The problem with the SMR (which sounds more like AK-47 than it should) is that it still pushes information in “blips of transparency” that you expect people to somehow care more about than their friends, who are pushing similar, yet ongoing and consistent “blips of transparency” that, over time, have resulted in genuine relationships forming. You can’t expect drive-by honesty to replace decades of abuse and indirection. Posted by: Chris Messina

In fact, even the term “social media” makes me want to cry. WTF is social media? People are social and we aren’t just idly waiting here to have really impersonal, crappy PR messages stuffed down our throats. Posted by: tara hunt

Public relations is “getting social media all wrong.” None of this is rocket science. And the PR folk have no excuse. All the relevant information is easy enough to find, if one takes the time to actually look. The fact that lots of them aren’t bothering to take the time, well, that’s another issue altogether. – Hugh MacLeod

Would it be possible to get all the little glue-sniffing communist SMPR advocate bastards together so corporate American can beat them with baseball bats? Please? CONTINUED ON ANOTHER BLOG — Lastly, the only reason this social crap has any support from PR is because a small group have glommed onto it as the new new thing and the cornerstone of their lightweight expertise. They look sillier every day. Both comments posted by: Amanda Chapel(This is a bit weird coming from a blog that is all about hiding identity. Where’s the courage in anonymity?)

I really don’t get why society needs a stupid press release. Oh, OK, I guess we need to pre-write stories for bloggers and journalists since they can’t write their own opinions or reports down, right? Sigh. – Robert Scoble

I don’t really need to read anything else to understand that Stowe is right on point – and you understand that my post was less about the idea of a social media press release than the role of PR more generally, I assume. And I don’t personally think this is an Edelman issue. It’s simply the expected tension between the authenticity of social media and the lack of it in much of business. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is as immutable as the law of gravity. – Rob Hyndman

It’s all good. But you gotta stop caring about press releases and start caring about people. – Jenean Sessum

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Thank You for Bringing Attention to the Need for Change”

  1. Chris Heuer says:

    Great work on the summary Brian – thank you for the tremendous effort. As I pointed out on a few mailing lists that also were buzzing with this topic, it is clear we have not done a very good job of explaining what we are working towards, what the SMR is and what it is not. Your work this weekend has gone further than anything so far. Particulary in pointing out that some of the negative comments are insightful, despite being wrapped in combative rhetoric.

    At the end of the day, even though this took a lot of time from our weekend, I am very happy about the amount of input and attention this has received. I think everyone will be the better for it, compatriot and critic alike.

  2. Sally Falkow says:

    I took this conversation into the heart of the PR industry and posted about the Third Thursday event on the Bulldog Reporter blog Leading Edge. It certainly seems to have hit a nerve there. But as Chris says, bringing social media and changes in the way we communicate to the media and the world is a good thing.

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