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Robert Scoble Asks, "Is Facebook the New Press Release?"

Robert Scoble recently asked whether or not Facebook may represent a new kind of press release.

Let me answer this for you.

No. Facebook is not the next template for press releases, no more than Pownce, Twitter, and Jaiku collectively represent the replacement for traditional wire services.

I know he wasn’t serious about it becoming the next template for a press release, but what he is saying is loud and clear, and you should pay attention. Reading between the lines, “I get too many emails. I can not respond to most of them. Find a way to stand out. Be creative and reach me in a way that appeals to me. Oh, and give me another reason to love my iPhone.”

For those who have yet to join Facebook, it is a social network. And, in my opinion, it is the most prominent social network out there today. It’s everything Myspace could never be and it is important, significant, and only beginning its reign of economic influence. The difference is the caliber of people in the network and the tools they use to communicate with each other inside and outside the network.

On each profile in Facebook, there is a “wall” for people to leave comments, questions, recommendations, and also share media with each member, which is not unlike the comments section in Myspace. Each addition is visible to anyone and everyone.

With a little imagination, you can envision how the new generation of social presence applications and social networks appeal to marketers and PR. If you can read it above, there are two quick pitches made on Robert’s wall. If not, click here for a larger view.

This is why I write about social media, networks, and social applications in the first place. They represents the ability to spark conversations with people directly, as well as those that influence them, in new and unique ways. And, they’re forcing PR to evolve and step out from behind its cloak of anonymity.

Now that Facebook is open to everyone, as well as all of the latest social applications, it’s very easy to join and find the people that matter to you and your company, wherever they may congregate.

While they represent new opportunities to reach people however, they are also indicative of why today’s PR practice will fail miserably in the realm of social media, unless a new approach is embraced. And, it’s not easy. A deep philosophical examination of the PR practice today and its ills, is critical and necessary in order to even THINK about participating.

The first problem is that we as PR people (generally speaking), don’t understand what it is we represent and why it is important and also unique to specific people. The second problem is that we speak in messages and assume that one message covers all the bases. The next issue is that we view journalists and customers as an audience speaking “at” them and ignoring (or forgetting) that audiences are comprised of different groups of people from a variety of horizontal and vertical groups. Finally, we use antiquated tools that broadcast the afore mentioned problems to the masses with little regard for the recipient’s wants and needs.

I wholeheartedly believe that leaving a traditional pitch on the wall of Facebook for all too see is fundamentally a bad idea.

It’s the difference between spam and information – and it’s a fine line.

Whether participating in social media is a good or bad idea, the answer lies in our ability to understand the culture of any community and why we should be there. We must analyze why other people are there, who they are, how they participate, while understanding the differences between journalists, bloggers, and everyday people.

The price of admission is respect, listening, and transparency. This is about relationships. And remember, this isn’t the one and only time you may need to reach certain people. So take the time to do this the right way.

What if we as PR, took the time to analyze what it would take to be compelling to each person as it relates to the culture of the community we’re evaluating? What if we reverse-engineered where people went for their information and in turn, truly understood how to use the same tools they use to communicate. What if after thinking through these challenges you developed something that looked nothing like a pitch, but ultimately effective? Well, we’d end up creating a new breed of PR professionals that will survive the impending collision between old and new PR.

Here’s my top 10 list of what to do whether targeting people through social or traditional media:

1. Determine your value proposition and the most likely markets that will benefit from your news.

2. Humanize the story. Personalize the story. One version no longer cuts it.

3. Identify the people you’d like to reach and how they prefer to see information.

4. Read and/or watch their work.

5. Participate in their communities and use their tools of choice – but as a person first, not as a PR spammer. Don’t start pitching right out of the gate.

6. Monitor the vibe and how people share information within their communities. Learn the dynamics and the rules of engagement. Listen. Learn. Respect.

7. Don’t pitch. Stand out. Be compelling.

8. Use a variety of approaches, but without spamming!

9. Don’t forget the traditional tools that work. Make sure that you cultivate relationships across the board.

10. Repeat the previous steps as you move across the disparate groups of people you need to reach. This is how to do PR with across the bell curve of customer adoption and in the long tail.

Just for good measure, I placed a link to this post on Scoble’s Facebook wall rather than write a comment on his blog or send an email.


6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Robert Scoble Asks, "Is Facebook the New Press Release?"”

  1. David says:

    Thanks for the summary — this is the best description of what Facebook is and what it isn’t that I’ve seen.

    I’m very impressed with your blog and what you’ve written generally. I’m relatively new to this business and I’m reading everyone – I’ll be sure to come back here to learn more.

  2. Moksh Juneja says:

    using facebook for all PR practical purposes.. the best part applied to other social network sites

  3. Constantin Basturea says:

    It’s interesting to see how the same idea pops up in different places in the blogosphere 🙂 Andrew B. Smith has posted recently on this topic – he argues that Facebook might be an interesting model for media relations in the future:

  4. mesmerized says:

    I agree with you, when you say it has moved from departing a message to listening and more or less respecting the response.

    Im a aspiring PR person and recently took a step into the corporate world, im not too sure if it fortunate or not but started working in the PR dept of a web2.0 consulting arm.

    My observation (may be constraint to India) is that the practice from being in control of the message for a PR person, to actually going out there and being a part of the Conversation is the biggest Hurdle.

    What do you think ??

    Priya S

  5. Jany says:

    Hi Brian,

    I agree with you that PR is about relationships and not venues, and I’m glad you said it. People seem to want to point to LinkedIn or Facebook or the Social Media News Release and say, “This is it!” But it isn’t. “It” is just another way to get out your message. Whether whatever “it” is works in the end doesn’t necessarily make or break your messaging because we’re broadening our options and therefore our opportunities, not choosing among them.

    I wish more people understood that. Thanks for your delightful post… I was begining to think no one, except for the elite group you mentioned, got “it.”


  6. G-Ro says:

    This was a great post that I just ran across. Facebook is no doubbt taking over the social media world but it doesn’t mean that it is the only place to get the word out. With the advent of web 2.0 it is easier than ever to get your message across so why not use as many platforms as possible to do so. Working for the Orlando Employment Guide has shown that even in a smaller regional market there is much ground to cover to let the world know about your events and happenings. As far as bands and musicians go, it is all the same practice. My blog for online music marketing and promotion has a central focus on getting away from just myspace or facebook and getting your message across to as many people as possible as quick a possible! Thanks for your post again and I’ll be sure to keep reading!

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