By Jill McCubbin

In keeping with the less-hype approach to PR that I advanced in a past post, I’m now advocating for the following: apply some critical thinking before you dive into creating a social media press release for your next PR campaign.

Social media releases are the current “darlings” of the PR world – but common sense says don’t be swayed by trends, do your own homework on this topic. Connecting with communities that are interested in your product or service requires using social media tools for PR – but what exactly is a social media release (SMR) and is it necessary?

At best SMR is a public relations tool, at worst it’s incredibly unfocused and trying to be everything to everyone at once. Take a look at this SMR for the 2008 Ford Focus – is it an advertisement? A Web site? A Video blog? An announcement? Where’s the specific “call to action” that I just can’t ignore?

Brian Solis in his PR 2.0 blog recently tackled the subject of SMR. Here’s what Brian says in a nutshell: SMR can compliment your regular form of news release or pitch. It’s one tool among many that, depending on your audience, might be effective. Brian admits SMR is often a confusing mish mash and says,

“I’m sorry to say, that just because a new tool is available to you, you still have to make your story interesting, relevant, and newsworthy. The Social Media Release is not going to miraculously fix a hyperbole-ridden, over-stated, incomprehensible document riddled with BS.”

If your news isn’t short, clear and focused, you’ll lose your target almost immediately because journalists and bloggers don’t have the time or inclination to click around an over-blown, wordy and glossy news release. Writer and blogger Seth Godin points out that people have choices and don’t want to be inundated by everything at once. Godin also says, This is a truth of the Internet: 75% of all unfocused visitors leave within three seconds. Any site, anywhere, anytime.”

Says my market2world colleague, Jennifer James (in agreement with Seth Godin), “SMRs are meatball sundaes… two or more separate great ideas that become a huge bad idea when combined.

So what to do instead of SMR?

Instead of paying $3750 to distribute your SMR via PRNewswire (the quote I got from a phone call to PRNewswire customer service) – and paying more to produce the video, the two photos, and the 400 word release itself (all that PRNewswire allows for that cost) – you can produce a clear and targeted 400-or-more word news release, include a company logo or other graphic, and distribute it to the same outlets for less than half the above amount. An example here: Ottawa’s international press release along with the PR results that include blogs and podcasts.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks already have communities interested in almost any subject – your company, product or service just needs to be introduced to the right groups. Discuss your options with market2world PR professionals. The market2world team has experience forming connections with online communities using social media tools such as RSS feeds, company blogs and blogger outreach, social networking, and creating video podcasts for online communities to digest. Also, take a look at two recent market2world blogs:  “How to get (and keep) the attention of the media” and “Marketing using social networks.”

Effectively using social media tools in PR means introducing a compelling item or call to action about your product or service in order to get online conversations about your company rolling within a community. Using social media tools successfully, in most cases, means leaving out SMR.

(Jill McCubbin is a Communications Architect with market2world communications inc., Ottawa, Canada's tech PR and product marketing agency.)