As part of an online outreach effort we’ve been conducting for Ford in support of their launch of the new 2008 Focus, we recommended the creation of what’s often described as a social media press release.

The notion of the SMPR has been kicked around a fair bit this year, in lots of different incarnations and in some heated discussions. All that debate aside, with this implementation we were aiming for simply a way of sharing content with people who wanted it in formats they could use, all conveniently located in one place. Period. We didn’t include the ability to comment or trackback because not every interaction has to be a full-on conversation, sometimes sharing and enabling are enough. However, we have tapped into social networks that allow users to rate and virally share the 2008 Focus content – all of our images and video are hosted within product-specific channels on Flickr and YouTube, which also enables Ford to take advantage of their native sharing properties.

Thinking about how people would actually use the SMPR, we also didn’t include links to Digg or Reddit, etc. – only del.ico.us. for easy bookmarking, because are people really going to Digg or Newsvine a press release? I doubt it (why would you? It’s not really content, it’s more like the ingredients required to make content, hardly worth rating, unless you want people to talk about how great you are for thinking of it).

Our version of the SMPR also has the obligatory RSS feed – this time segmented out for text, images and video. Users subscribe and when there’s new content, they’re automatically notified.

The best part? Ford is such a great client, and they get this stuff so well, that when we pitched this, they immediately understood the value of setting their content free. Ford realized that the more bloggers and others could get their hands on quality images, video and text, the more they would talk about the product. Pretty much the primary purpose of a press release, isn’t it?

So, what are your thoughts? Does this format make sense to you? Do you think it’s better or worse than a traditional release? Pop on over and have a look. I’d love to hear what you think.

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18 Comments

  1. Maggie, I applaud your ability to get Ford to issue this and I think we all consider it a step in the right direction.

    It’s people like you who will truly help us improve PR, as well as our slightly tarnished reputation within the marketing industry, for the better ;)

    After working for just over a year with Mr. SMR himself, Todd Defren, Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, and Shannon Whitley on the future of “social” press releases, I think I finally figured out that the content and structure was only part of the equation. The other half is related to distribution and discovery. This at the moment, is more of a “thought in progress” than a definitive standard or direction.

    You bring up a great point and important distinction – one I believe is going to further assist companies to dip their toes into the new world of Social Media.

    As you said, sometimes we just want to share important information and connections to social networks instead of hosting conversations. I think it’s going to help us define the difference between “new media” releases and “social Media” releases.

    To me, the SMR is much more than a collection of building blocks for reporters and journalists to write stories. It’s the “social” elements that inspire me, as they can be a catalyst for conversations, either hosted or facilitated elsewhere. It really represents the opportunity for PR to engage directly with people as well.

    I’m of the belief that we can create and distribute multiple flavors of releases that appeal to different groups using the channels the reach them (customers, bloggers, journalists, etc.). It will combine mainstream PR while creating new arms and legs to reach important groups that comprise The Long Tail.

    My current project is working to take SMRs to a social platform with a partner static release (or releases, depending on the markets) that link back to it in order to distribute meaningful news, offer building blocks, and also facilitate and encourage conversations and sharing, all within a topical ecosystem in addition to ensuring a presence in both blog and traditional Web search engines.

    Again, well done Maggie. Take a bow.

    More on the evolution of the SMR here:
    http://www.briansolis.com/2007/05/social-media-releases-everything-you.html

  2. Maggie,

    As anachronistic as it may sound, don’t lose sight of the many influential automotive bloggers — both at the head and end of the tail. It’s one thing to pull viewers to rich content, but personalized push remains a valid (and still effective) PR function. Rubber meets the road.

  3. Maggie, it is beautiful to behold. But I also kinda agree with Brian… To me this is a “Multimedia Release” moreso than a “Social Media Release.” And I say that ONLY because this is how it is being displayed on a Ford site (vs. a wire site, where there is no ability for “socialization” with end users).

    That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a beauty and well worth doing. I like it. The creation and “sharing” on hi-quality content (Flickr, YouTube) is great in-and-of itself.

  4. I really like this approach. I am a pragmatist by nature, and I think you should deploy the tools in the way that makes the most sense for the project. Is it truly social, well, if people take it and repurpose the content, then I would say yes it is. Or at least it enables connection. I like how you put it, “setting the content free.” This is exactly what I am advocating with my clients and it is a huge move forward for corporations.

  5. To Todd Defren: What is the difference between this (very good) Ford example and the one you recently issued on behalf of your client through Marketwire?

    I don’t see how a wire service makes it any more social?

  6. san

    maggie it’s awesome – the world is ready for this approach – the only prob is – many corps n orgs are not. what a pity. it’s time to embrace it and acknowledge the hidden simplicity behind a social media NR vs a traditional nr. instead of having the editors log on google or digg etc for more juice – you pretty much fed it in that NR – good job!

  7. san

    one curious question – i’m wondering if one day – there’ll ever be a case of ‘template plagiarism’ – what do you think? hmmm

  8. It’s great, and you are right that not everything needs to be interactive.

    At the same time, I think any release like this should have a ‘click’ to an interactive version that is itself a post in an ongoing blog. The release can come in email or as a link, but it should be *the visitor* not *the company* who decides on the level of interaction.

  9. Hey everyone – thanks for all your kind words and interest! Ford is a great company to work for, and as I have said, they completely understand the value and importance of setting their content free in order to enable a broader discussion, which is really encouraging.

    Interesting point that’s come up a few times – whether or not this release is truly “social” since it does not directly create a platform for discussion. For the record, this was not an oversight, but rather a deliberate strategy – with this SMPR, we were seeking to provide tools and content to enable bloggers and other content creators to discuss the 2008 Ford Focus. In other words, we weren’t trying to build a conversation, but rather join one that was already underway, and hopefully make it a little richer and better-informed with easy-to-access content.

    The point is this: companies don’t always have to “own” the discussion around their products, sometimes sharing is enough (and right). I do find it interesting that the act of enabling and encouraging discussion would be seen as anything but social! :-)

    Once again, thanks to everyone – it’s so nice to feel the love!

  10. Maggie,

    The release looks great. Very nice work! I’ve finally solidified my view on multimedia vs. social media. I tend to agree that a social release must facilitate conversation, but it doesn’t necessarily need to host it.

    Speaking of template plagiarism, I’m thinking of adding a new template to PRX Builder. We might call it the MKF…

  11. Maggie

    Who was this primarily sent to? Reporters and journalists? Bloggers? Curious seeing as how you wanted to join and not build conversations.

    Jonathan

  12. Hi Jonathan, good question – the SMPR was sent out primarily to bloggers and other content creators in the social media space that we identified (by reading their blogs, etc.) as having an interest/having posted about either the car or Sync technology.

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