Social Media Jobs: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t, Now You Do

On October 1, an article by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on Fortune’s website proclaimed “The social media manager is dead. Long live social media.

Just two days later, PR News’ blog was sharing an infographic about “The Rise of the Social Profession.”

Infographic: The Rise of the Social Profession

So which is it? Are social media jobs increasing or decreasing?

As with any set of numbers and statistics, it’s all in how you look at it.

With the infographic, data was collected from LinkedIn over several years. Based on that, social media positions have increased on the network by 1,357 percent since 2010.

Holmes’ piece referenced a Quartz story from September 12, which notes job postings that mention social media in their description on the site Indeed gained 89 percent since 2012. While that’s not as much growth and a shorter span of time, both the Indeed data and the LinkedIn data seem to agree that job postings mentioning social media are growing.

So why did Holmes’ proclaim the social media manager dead? Because while social media continues to grow as a desired skill in job postings, it’s not only for postings that have social media in their title. Shel Holtz noted on his Facebook page that several articles have been written over the last couple of months about the decline in social media manager job postings, but that organizations still need someone to coordinate things like tools and governance. This led to a lot of great discussion amongst several “heavy hitters” in the social arena.

I’ve been inclined myself to lean in the same direction as Shel. While I think integration of social media into many different jobs at different levels of an organization is ideal, I’ve also felt that there needed to be some strong leadership – especially in a very large and disperse organization. If everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge.

But, maybe I’m looking at this too hierarchically. Have my many years within the corporate world where, despite goals of meritocracy, titles still carry weight, led me to confuse leadership with organization? Are leaderless teams chaos or true democracy? Does a social media leader within an organization need the title of social media manager to lead?

Some of this line of thinking was spurred by an article in Harvard Business Review titled “When No One’s in Charge,” and the comments on it such as this:

“BUT, of course, leaderless does not mean there is no leadership… rather it means that leadership is distributed or devolved …decades ago i convinced my prime minister to run a leaderless cabinet office… it was a theoretical master-piece for a full 6 months..everyone love it…it worked a treat, well almost…it was fine internally but it was a disaster externally… all the departments around it, which depended on it for direction and control, were hierarchical bureaucracies and they could not work with a free-wheeling policy unit at the core of the government…it was disbanded before it celebrated its first birthday…as with many great ideas it is ‘the unintended consequences’ that accompany their implementation that restricts their success….leaderless entities will become more common in our digital global economy but they will have to be a good fit with their purpose and their environs if they are to survive….”

One line of thinking is that social media is a tool that everyone will use and it will become as ubiquitous as email. I said myself upon my last job change: “Social media won’t be my job title, but it will certainly remain a part of the way I do my job. And that’s exactly the way I think it should be.”

But… even if it is as basic a tool as email or the telephone, within an organization there still remain today departments with people who are responsible for making sure that email and telephones work. Sure every manager must play a role in hiring, managing and sometimes firing employees, but most do so with the guidance of a Human Resources professional.

So while the title of social media manager may be dwindling, and true leaders in social media don’t necessarily have to carry such a title to lead, someone still needs to be tasked with managing the infrastructure.

I wonder what their title will be?

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Write Hard. Share Soft.

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately, even though you haven’t seen much of it here this month.Lapel pin that reads "Write Hard. Die Free"

Two posts on writing crossed my radar this week that I wanted to share – the first of which is actually about how much you should share on the Internet.

Since this is a personal blog in the sense that I’m not trying to generate any business through it, my topics can sometimes be of a personal nature. Alongside a lot of posts about social media, I’ve blogged about vacation trips and parenting, issues facing women and girls, books I’ve read and talks I’ve attended.

But, there have been times when big things were going on in my personal life that I didn’t share here. Sometimes because I’m thinking about how they might reflect on me personally and professionally, but often because I’m thinking about the impact on other people involved and what their comfort level is with me sharing.

Sarah Kathleen Peck shared her personal rules for this on her blog this week when she asked “How much should you share with the internet, anyways?

Peck says she only shares about a quarter of the things she’s written, if not much less, but she still writes to process things that will remain private. “Share everything with yourself. Put your words down, write your heart out, and keep that journal flush with ideas,” she suggests. Perhaps it’s something I should consider doing in an old-fashioned paper journal.

If I get to the point where I’m typing it out long-form, I’m probably going to post it, so for me there’s a lot left unwritten. Unlike the many emails I’ve typed saying what I really wanted to say in response to someone, but deleted before hitting send. <wink> And, I have often censored myself on Twitter. Learned that lesson early.

The platform of Twitter was a big part of the next essay that caught my eye – “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing” where Thomas Beller ponders how great literary figures might view Twitter and how much we currently think in public.

He also hits on reason I might like Twitter so much: “…because it is a medium of words and also of form. Its built-in limitation corresponds to the sense of rhythm and proportion that writers apply to each line.” He also notes that it brings a sense of performance to writing, because it’s being done live.

I’m not sure I’ve written much about it here, but a somewhat dormant passion of mine is dancing. When asked in a creative writing class once to write about my favorite place, the dance studio with its well-worn wooden floors and walls of mirrors was the place I selected. But, the stretching, the learning, the practicing done there is all about taking it to the stage. As much satisfaction as I get just from the act of dancing, there’s something to be said for the validation of hard work through the applause of an audience.

But writing and tweeting are different from dancing because they involve words rather than movement. Beller ponders if putting an idea into a tweet makes it public and whether that fact diminishes the chances it will grow into something “sturdy and lasting.”

I’ve often thrown out tweets with the hope I might get some nibbles of interest in the topic, so I could then use the resulting conversation in a blog post. But, more often than not, they simply drift along the twitterstream like one of many fall leaves in a creek. Lost in the multitude and not eliciting any response.

Are they unseen or is the topic just not intriguing to others? Beller asks in his piece, whether writing that is never seen by anyone other than its author even exists?  I think I know what Peck’s answer would be.

I started this blog as just a writing practice exercise and I try to remind myself that is all it is, rather than worrying about Google Analytics or how many comments, shares or likes each posts receives. But, I’d be lying to say I don’t get a little joy whenever someone does say they like what I put down here.

My thanks to both Peck and Beller for their thought-provoking pieces this week. May they start their weekend on a high note knowing that someone out there was listening.

Image via Creative Commons by Mel Green

Hashtags: Out at Pinterest, (Likely) In at Facebook

Geek Flashing Hashtag HandsignYou see them in tweets, you see them in print ads, you see them in television commercials. Last month, desperately-trying-to-stay-relevant Disney star Demi Lovato released a music video chock full of them.

I’m talking about the humble hashtag that started life as a simple tweet asking “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” according to “The Short and Illustrious History of Twitter #Hashtags,” in GigaOm.

A user-led invention from the pre-search days of Twitter, what hashtags do is create a way to find information based on keywords or topics. They’re especially useful for events, even if sometimes confusing (should I be using #sxsw or #sxswi or the session-specific tag?).

And they’re not just for Twitter. That same hashtag works the same way on Tumblr, Instagram or Google+. But, that sort of cross-platform functionality seems to have recently taken one step forward and one step back.

Most of the attention paid to Pinterest’s recent redesign has been on the visual elements, but along with those they removed the functionality of hashtags. While touting “More Ways to Discover What You Love,” Pinterest actually took away the most egalitarian of ways to do that. The Verge feels that with this sort of backend change — and a much-anticipated API — it could set the stage for big changes in the months to come. The changes noted here certainly seem to indicate Pinterest is trying to take more control:

Features lost in the most recent Pinterest redesign

On the other side of the issue, the Wall Street Journal noted that Facebook was working on incorporating the hashtag into their platform, although, “the feature isn’t likely to be introduced imminently.” Presumably, doing so would allow Facebook users to filter updates around a topic of theme – if Facebook really does adopt the hashtag. They’re not officially commenting on it.

A Los Angeles Times headline proclaimed the very “idea of Facebook adding hashtags incites uproar,” based on a few users they interviewed that didn’t want Facebook to be more Twitter-like. Ironically enough, these users evidently took to Twitter to express their unhappiness.

Hashtags on Facebook have the potential to be useful to community managers who could gain another outlet for organic visibility for their page updates. And, ClickZ reports that “Marketers [are] Eager for Facebook Hashtags,” because, as one commented: “Visibility is the name of the game on social media and hashtags are going to increase that.”

But, a New York Times social media editor says in a Neiman Lab post that hashtags don’t attract an audience and are aesthetically damaging:

“I’ve heard before: What’s the harm? Why not at least try to include #SuperBowl if every little bit helps? Somewhat of a fair point. Using a hashtag does no harm in the same way wood paneling does no harm to your station wagon, or a misspelled tattoo does no harm to your bicep.”

I guess I fall in with the “what can it hurt” crowd. I love the grassroots origin of the hashtag as something users themselves wanted and didn’t wait for platforms to create for us. I think that more cross-platform usage of it broadens its acceptance and makes it that much more of a beneficial tool for users.

What about you? Are hashtags useful for organizing and discovery of content, or are they just visual trash taking up valuable characters?

Hashtag hand sign image via Creative Commons by Kenneth McFarland

I’m the Reason Google Killed Reader

Photo of my family burial plots in Bastrop, LouisianaRecently, Google rather unceremoniously announced as one bullet point in a post titled “A second spring of cleaning,” that it was shutting down Google Reader, one of the world’s most popular RSS readers, effective July 1, 2013.

It caused much more of an uproar in my social circles than the deprecation of Search API for Shopping or retirement of Google Building Maker that were also announced in the same post.

Mashable wondered “Will Killing Google Reader Increase Global Censorship?” and called it “A Blow to News Junkies.” And, The Economist noted that “Many websites which have come to depend on the service to power their news feeds now fret that Google’s decision will cost them millions of readers—and with that lots of advertising revenue.”

Back in October 2011, when Google announced the removal of Reader’s share features, Dave Winer – one of the early developers of RSS in the 90s – said it was scary to see so much of RSS use in one app and that “Google seems to have the power to either seriously injure RSS, or perhaps set it free.” At the time, The Atlantic surmised it was part of a Google push to get people using Google+ for following, friending and sharing links.

The official reason Google has given this time for completely ending the service is “usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products.” I believe them because I must confess “I am Sparticus”-style that I have killed Google Reader.

With the launch of Twitter seven years ago, the ever-increasing growth of Facebook, the use within my employer of Chatter, and even ye olde email, the number of links to interesting news shared with me on a daily basis has made the need to search out news in an RSS reader irrelevant.

Back in the early 2000s, I was an avid RSS fan. My first favorite platform for reading feeds was Bloglines. When it went through some uncertain times being sold, closed, re-sold and re-opened, I moved over to Google Reader. Like a custom online daily newspaper, reading feeds was once was the way I’d start my day. But now I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually looked at my Google Reader.

Now that Google has announced Reader’s sunset, Winer says “I don’t doubt that people will be well-served by a newly revitalized market for RSS products, now that the dominant product, the 800-pound gorilla, is withdrawing.”

And if you still have no idea what RSS even is… here’s a little slide deck I put together almost eight years ago when I was working on the team that first brought the technology to Dell.com – before Google Reader even existed:

It’s pretty funny to me to look back at that presentation and see how it mentions that Windows Vista “will have” support for RSS, since we’re two revisions of Windows OS past that now. Much like how operating systems continue to go on without a majority of people paying attention, I agree with Winer that RSS will go on. I suspect it will just get pushed further back than it already was from the purview of mainstream users.

However, if you are a Google Reader user looking for an alternative, lifehacker, emoderation, unclutterer and many others have compiled helpful lists of other platforms for managing and reading RSS feeds. Or, you could do like me and Don Reisinger and simply let Twitter be your RSS reader.

 Geoff Livingston sees it as an impetus to “shake things up by purging, and moving toward a new direction.

I see it as just the minor footnote Google played it to be when they combined its death knell with that of several other obsolete services.

How about you?

Pope Benedict XVI Truly Part of the Silent Generation

Why would someone who is adventurous enough to leverage new communication tools like Twitter, suddenly think they’re too old for their job?

That’s what I first wondered when I heard the news that Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down citing his age as the reason.

Perhaps it was others within the organization that pressed him into the new social media world, rather than his own embrace of it, though. Maybe it even played a part in his realization that he was just not able to perform his duties in the current world.

But, then CNN reported that the pope’s Twitter account would close when he left office and I thought maybe he really was a part of what I call the Digital Generation. In my mind, this refers not to the kids growing up in today’s digital world, but the people I’ve encountered of all ages embracing new technologies. They’re the grandmothers I met in Second Life and the moms who embraced blogging and Pinterest.

At a recent Social Media Breakfast Austin meeting on “How Different Generations Use Social Media,” someone called them outliers. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book of the same name to try to explain the careers of really successful people. At its more basic sense, though, the term describes something that is outside the norm – in this case, outside of the typical behavior of a certain generation.

Sherry Lowry, who represented the Silent Generation, on that SMB Austin panel, is part of my Digital Generation. But, she’s not necessarily an outlier in my opinion. As she described it that morning, her generation rebuilt the U.S. economy after World War II and did so by working together – transparently and collaboratively.

Key aspects of social media or social business have always been transparency and collaboration.

Sherry said the lack of that in the way generations that came after hers did business will lead her generation to one day leave their wealth not to their kids, but to their grandchildren or great grandchildren. They are of generations that also embrace collaboration and transparency and have never known a world without the ability to leave comments on a company’s Facebook page, write an online review of a restaurant, or tweet directly to the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict, it turns out, was probably not part of my envisioned all-ages Digital Generation, although he was a member of the Silent Generation. It was later clarified that the @Pontifex account would not be deleted; leading me to believe that it was indeed the organization, rather than the man, that embraced it. Since his departure, Vatican has deleted the individual tweets and archived them on their website; but the account remains live, “Sede Vacante,” waiting for the next pope to fill it with Instagram pics of communion wine.

And if the humor of that doesn’t offend you, you might also be interested in this mashup from Religion News Service of March Madness and the conclave of cardinal’s voting on the new pope:

Make your picks in the Vatican’s Sweet Sistine brackets!

Basketball Tournament-Style Brackets with Names of Cardinals that Might Be Pope

Was the Super Bowl a Twitter Win or a Facebook Loss?

FootballI got a lot of retweets this morning when I tweeted a link to a Marketing Land article titled “Game Over: Twitter Mentioned in 50% Of Super Bowl Commercials, Facebook Only 8%, Google+ Shut Out.” The fact that these statistics are so different from last year’s, when Twitter and Facebook both tied with only eight mentions is, I think, why it grabbed so many people’s attention.

With 24.1 million tweets about the game and halftime show, and probably at least as many if not more about the advertisements, it’s easy to say Twitter won the game.

Then there’s also the fact that brand usage of Twitter beyond putting hashtags into commercials is getting a lot of attention. Like the way names such as OREO and Tide quickly moved to capitalize on the loss of power in the Superdome by tweeting witty commentary and images that joined the thousands of other jokes being made at the time. Or the fact that it only took four minutes into the blackout for names like Bud Light and Speed Stick to bid on ads for search terms such as “power outage.”

What it got me to wondering, though, is could the brand love for Twitter be a backlash to the EdgeRank changes at Facebook? As much as Facebook has denied holding page owner’s updates ransom for ad dollars, the fact remains that pages are still not reaching as many fans as they used to reach. I see this first-hand on the Social Media for Business page I manage where the reach to our 55,000+ fans certainly fluctuates, but with much lower lows and lower highs than it did back in September 2012. And I hear about it from small business owners like the one who recently reached out to me for advice because she noticed her status updates weren’t getting to her followers and she wondered what she might be doing wrong.

She isn’t doing anything wrong. She’s doing many things right. And while I can give her advice such as encouraging users to request notifications from her page, or giving more calls to action, the even the stock market analysts at Seeking Alpha were calling out what’s happening as recently as January 23:

“…revenues grew on the back of Facebook page owners having to pay twice to show their fans page content. After Facebook altered their algorithm for Fan page posts appearing in users’ news feeds, back in the last quarter of 2012, fan page administrators could not reach all of their acquired users with just a simple post. In order to reach their existing fans, brands had to pay for promoted posts in order to see more ‘viral’ reach. This also gave Facebook a boost in revenues.”

And this, I think, is one of the reasons Twitter won the Super Bowl. I think Facebook page owners from small mom & pop stores to large corporations are getting frustrated with Facebook’s still-mysterious-after-all-those-explanations algorithm for reaching the people who have obviously indicated they want their information by “liking” their page. Twitter feels so much more unfiltered.

Add to that the speed and agility of the platform – five minutes after the lights went out, the @superbowllights parody account was already up and tweeting – and Twitter becomes the place to be for events.

Image via Creative Commons courtesy Rosh Sillars.

Two to Tango: HowToPitch.me and Pitching Notes Want to Match Them

Dancers doing the tango in ArgentinaThe dance between public relations professionals and journalists has always been a bit of a tango – the two are linked in a close embrace, share a common axis and it can be rather volatile.

Recently two new services crossed my radar that attempt to help fill the dance cards of each of these groups with partners matched to their appropriate skills.

First was Pitching Notes, a U.S.-based, free service where members can share their reporter experiences with other PR professionals. Reporters are also encouraged to join so they can tell members how they prefer to be pitched, and what will most likely get a response from them.

In an Orlando Sentinel story last month, co-founder Jeannie Clary said it can be a challenge to convince public relations pros it’s ok to give negative feedback about a reporter, as well as the positive.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship,” Clary said. “We sometimes have a fear of upsetting reporters in the industry with a bad review. But including those types of comments, without insulting anyone, helps keep reviews honest and everyone accountable.”

At the time that article was published, Clary’s team was still trying looking for ways to actually make money from the site. According to an email to members last week, however, they’ve begun experimenting with special levels of membership to address this.

Pitching Notes has created two classes of membership: “General” and “Club.” Only Club members will be able to access the pitching notes and reviews for each media professional. In addition to creating revenue, they hope that the change will help spark the growth of the database – limiting who has access and encouraging more people to submit notes, including those potentially negative ones.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, HowToPitch.me has launched with a very similar goal. Billing itself as a personal space for journalists and bloggers to state what they’re interested in and what they aren’t.

The creator of HowToPitch.me, Nicholas Holmes, told Journalism.co.uk:

“So much ink has been spilled on PR spam and how to stop it. Part of the problem is that access to journalists is still a bit of a walled garden. You have to pay for media databases – and I don’t see why that should be the case.”

A freelance travel writer himself, Holmes’ own profile provides a peek into the type of content he’s hoping more journos will provide.

Screenshot of HowToPitch.me Profile

I wish both services all the best because their shared goals can only help improve the dance.

Tango image via Creative Commons courtesy Bernardo Lopez

Israel and Palestine Bring Evolution, not Revolution, to Propaganda with Social Media

As the roar of the shells has died down, so too has all the talk of social media’s role in the most recent Israel-Palestine conflict. A WIRED UK headline earlier this month exclaimed Israel “loses social media war to Hamas,” but that’s about all I’ve seen on the topic since the new year started.

I actually began writing this post back in November, and my original headline was “Everything Old is New Again.”  Not because the conflict between these two is ancient – it is – but, because the use of propaganda is also ancient. Leveraging the new tools of social media is simply keeping up with the times, rather than revolutionizing the process.

Just how old is propaganda? Well, you could say it’s as old as the existence of stone monuments that described kings and even a female Pharaoh.

According to the Oxford Reference, the word propaganda is derived from the Vatican’s establishment of the Sacre Congregatio de Propaganda Fide in 1622. “Before 1914, propaganda was usually associated with religion and the implanting of ideas to be cultivated in support of existing beliefs and ‘faith’. Its wartime applications, in the Napoleonic or the American independence wars, were confined largely to calls to arms, lampooning the enemy, glorifying victory, and sustaining morale,” it notes.

Cover of the book Comic Art Propaganda  - by Fredrik Strömberg Munitions of the Mind traces propaganda back to even earlier times of warfare. From those stone monuments I mentioned to paintings, print, radio, television and computers, the scholarly book points out that “throughout history, propaganda has had access to ever more complex and versatile media.”

And, that’s all that happened when the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and Hamas’ Ezzedeen Al Qassam Brigades took to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr and just about every other major social network to make their case to the world for why their side was right. Propaganda simply moved to the media of the current times.

Tweet of Hamas Comic ImageToday’s infographics are simply an electronic version of yesterday’s comics, rather than the “disconnect between that messaging and the bombing taking place in real life” that Alex Kantrowitz talked about in his Forbes piece that called the use of social media both “groundbreaking” and “bizarre.”

Spanish Civil Ware Propaganda FlyerAre hashtags really that much more radical than small leaflets in packets of cigarette paper sent by rocket over enemy lines during the Spanish Civil War in late 1938? Sure, the potential audience is larger, but then we get into the whole debate about broadcast messages versus targeted messages and which has the greater response rate or drives actual action and change.

What is new in this evolution of propaganda is the ability to know who the individual is behind it. It’s possible that the stone carvers, painters and comic artists creating monuments, murals and booklets were known by a small circle for their work, but it was much easier (and probably safer) to hide that involvement from most.

In today’s connected environment, the creator can become equally as known as what they create.

One Jewish publication, Tablet, highlighted “The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media” opening the curtain on what had to happen behind the scenes to convince military leadership that social media was indeed a powerful tool to be leveraged. It sounds very similar to the challenge anyone in a large corporation faces when seeking budget for new initiatives.

But, there is also the less-flattering side of being responsible for an organization’s presence in social media. Many have lost face, or even lost jobs, for their snafus. Military propagandists are not immune.

A photo posted by one member of the IDF new media team in September came back to haunt him months later as the military conflict and the social media propaganda heated up. An image of him at the Dead Sea’s mud baths with a controversial caption led to accusations of racism and led him to restrict public access to his Facebook profile.

It’s a good reminder to everyone, whether you work in social media communications or not, to not only check your privacy settings, but also always remember that anything you say or are photographed doing can and will be used against you.

“Its results may be beneficial or harmful. It can cause victory or death, and today it is a potent and highly influential instrument for the deliberate and purposeful leadership of peoples,“ a U.S. Navy publication said of the subject of its title: “Propaganda.”

The “today” they referred to was 1958, but it might as well be 2013.

 

Get To Know Generation Edge

Effective communication is always about understanding your audience. In an attempt to do that, somewhere around the early 1900s we Americans began naming groups of people based on when they were born.

For example, I’m a part of what was termed Generation X. We’re known for being individualistic, flexible and tech savvy; and, according to Kristine Simpson on the blog Running a PR life communicators “shouldn’t try and fit the GenXers in a box and assume they all want the same thing.”

After my generation came The Millenials – well-documented by the Pew Research Center – who are often called entitled, selfish, impulsive and highly indulged.

And now, The Sound Research may have won what USA Today called a “frantic race to name the next generation of American consumers” with their new video about Generation Edge:

Ian Pierpoint, global president of The Sound Research told Marketing Daily:

“Where Millennials were idealistic, Gen Edge is realistic. Things are going to have to be more grounded and more realistic. It’s going to be much harder for brands to appear to align with social causes while not really doing that much. Where Millennials were willing to talk the talk, these guys are walking the walk a bit more.”

As those of us in America prepare to celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday with family, it might be a good time to do a little field research of our own. Observe your relatives born after 1995 and see if you think The Sound Research have nailed their generation.

And, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The Press Release: Just Walk Away PR

The press release won’t die.

When asked if it will, Wendy Artman of GroundFloor Media says, “I will always respond by saying absolutely not! When pitching reporters, more often than not they ask for a release.”

But, the press release’s audience has really become anyone on the internet. One idea to take it forward is to trade it for a blog post.

Jeremy Porter, co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a blog about public relations and journalism topics thinks, as I do, that there is little return on the investment in creating and distributing a press release. “The results tend to be pretty lackluster, even from those fancy multimedia or social news releases. There has to be a better way, and I think that way is a news blog,” he says.

I agree – with the caveat that the blog can’t just be filled with typical press release jargon.
Most Overused Jargon in Press Releases
Blog Post as Alternate to Press Release

One UK brand makes no bones about using press releases on their blog, creatively titled: “Masteel Corporate Blog: Latest News, Press Releases & Announcements” But, they’re not alone. A Google search of “corporate blog press release” will turn up many that openly state their intention to post press releases on their blog.

I tend to side with people like Mindy Withrow, a content strategist at Hanson, who suggested the difference between a press release and a blog post is that the first makes an announcement while the second initiates a conversation (at least that’s the hope of those of us who do blog). A good example from Mindy of how a blog post should be different from a press release is that of a product launch. She says, “Leave the SKUs for the press release but interview the inventor on the blog about what inspired the product.”

Getting beyond the press release as blog post is a conversation Dell’s Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca and I certainly had back in the early days when we were launching Direct2Dell and it remains part of his tips for business blogging: “Provide an inside look. Content should complement, but also offer a different view than corporate website content, press releases, and other brand communications.”

This doesn’t mean it simply becomes the dumping ground for anything not deemed “press release worthy.”

While PRNewswire might posit that press releases are “authoritative statements” to which blogs are more supplement, if blogs are really going to replace the press release they must become the primary means of news distribution rather than the supplement.

So where does this leave us today and where can we take it tomorrow? Here’s my two cents.

Just Because It Won’t Die, You Don’t Have to Feed It

Public relations professionals should just walk away from the press release. It’s a zombie that will only eat our brains. It doesn’t reach our intended audience and therefore provides little return on the investment in time and wire distribution services. For those that can’t go cold turkey, at least consider a “press release diet.”
Do Not Feed the Zombie
Instead of spending time killing yourself a little every day trying to get non-jargon-y content and interesting quotes through of a committee of sales, marketing and legal teams, spend that time getting to know the journalists and bloggers that are interested in what your business does. And those who aren’t, but you truly believe their readers are – which is even harder. Follow them on social media, engage in conversation without a motive, be helpful even when it isn’t going to gain column inches.

Zombies are very trendy these days, though, and there is return on a press release in regards to the creation of online content that improves SEO and provides collateral for sales teams. Therefore, the press release as a tool should move to the domain of marketing. No more arguing about whether a topic is worthy of a press release or not – if marketing wants to pay for the distribution, let them do it. PR teams can reinvest that budget into things like training on how to write for blogs, or online newsrooms, if you will, so that they become the go-to source for information.

Oh Brothers and Sisters Where Art Thou?

And now I’ve spoken my piece and I’ve counted to three. (for those who don’t get that reference)

If only it were that cut and dry. Just because this is what I believe, that doesn’t mean you won’t see my name as the contact on a release coming across the wire in the future. I’m but one person with an idea. If you agree or disagree with the idea, let me know. Perhaps we can’t change today, but we can set the stage for change tomorrow.

Zombie image via Creative Commons by patricneckman

Chart from Ragan’s PR Daily, February 2012