The Web 2.0 Press Release: An Oxymoron?

The Web 2.0 Press Release: An Oxymoron?

By Bob Geller, Senior Vice President, NY

2006 marks the 100th anniversary of the press release, according to Businesswire. Some say it is time for a change. Is a “Web 2.0 press release” the wave of the future in PR?

A number of agencies have recently announced updated versions of the venerable press release, embellishing the traditional format with Web 2.0 elements like social bookmarks and RSS, with the stated goal of bringing PR and the press release into the new, Web 2.0 era.

We have a different philosophy and a different approach.

Our answer is not some newfangled press release nor any press release for that matter. As news cycles compress and the shelf lives of press releases dwindle to zero, the press release as a means of communicating information is looking increasingly tired and old.

The press release was borne of an era that favored top down, asymmetrical communications, in an age when a few major networks and the print media controlled the media megaphone. In the years since the press release came into being, new technologies have emerged that have upended the media. The Internet enabled any-to-any communications and blogs emerged to give anyone a soapbox and a way to reach a mass audience. These technologies not only affect how we communicate, dramatically expanding the number of “channels,” but also affect the style (format, tone and other important accoutrements) of communications.

The new way favors transparency and informality in communications. The top down “party line” is out. It is no longer just the headline or the scoop that are important, but it is the blog post, resulting conversations and links back to the original sources. PR success is no longer measured just by the heft of the clip book. Now, online indicators such as Google PageRank, Technorati authority, links, search engine placement, and recognition from the new opinion leaders, the A listers, i.e. the blogging elite are important coins of the PR realm.

Ironically, as the message needs to be made simpler, the language more direct, compelling and informal, and issues and online conversations need to be tracked and engaged, we as communications professionals are needed more than ever. But we need to adapt, and to change our tactics and tools.

Sure, just like the US Postal Service continues to exist in an age of universal email, press releases will be around for some time. If anything, they need to be made simpler, not further embellished, and they need to be optimized to boost search engine ranking. And their central role in communications strategies needs to be reevaluated.

In short, we do not think the answer is to simply update old metaphors by slapping on Web 2.0 bells and whistles. But Web 2.0 does offer rich possibilities for building effective online communications programs. Instead of a Web 2.0 press release, why not work within the constructs of established standards and formats?

  • Take advantage of existing and accepted constructs like blogs and Wikis.
  • As you build an online presence with blogs and Wikis, make sure the Web 2.0 components are considered, and employed where it makes sense, e.g..:
  • Use RSS feeds to give people an easy way to subscribe and “tune in” to your content
  • Remember that tags can make it easier for others to discover your content; research the tags that are commonly used on Technorati and Delicious before you decide how to tag your content, starting from the keywords that you would normally use to describe your business, product or services.
  • Make it easy for others to vote on and tag your content by including Digg and Delicious buttons in your posts.
  • Explore mashup opportunities by tapping into the APIs of social networking sites

Looking a little more broadly, although we can’t reduce it to a simple formula, we can talk about the types of tools and programs that have proven to be very effective in the world of new media PR.

  • The Blog Release – Why not break your news via an informal blog post from the CEO?
  • Content Optimization – When you do have a press release make sure to optimize it for online visibility
  • Leveraging RSS – Get the A listers and MSM to tune into and subscribe to your white papers, commentary and news via RSS feeds
  • New Media monitoring -Tap into online buzz about your brand in real time
  • Blog relations – Proven ways to identify and court the blogs that count for your space

So remember, when it comes to the press release, focus on the message (not the container), simplify, simplify, simplify, and perhaps reconsider the whole idea.

And please stay tuned to this space for more on New Media PR.

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