Last October, our firm, Social Media Group (which in 2007 was granted the contract to help the Ford Motor Company develop their global social media strategy) began working on the launch of the newly-redesigned 2008 Ford Focus.
We wanted to involve interested online content producers (not just bloggers) in the press events around the Focus launch, and to also give them the content they needed to tell the best possible story. So we decided to create an SMPR for the Focus. However, rather than hosting images and videos on Ford servers, we saw the benefit of leveraging the native sharing properties of platforms like Flickr and YouTube (i.e. the content becomes findable there as well, rather than just via the SMPR). So that’s what we did, making all of it available under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution license (which was somewhat revolutionary in itself. Recognizing this, one of Ford’s competitors released much of their content under a similar license very shortly afterwards).
Of course, we certainly didn’t invent the concept. The first template for a Social Media Press Release was originally developed by Shift Communications not quite two years ago, in May 2006.
Looking back now, I find our first version of the SMPR to be pretty rudimentary. This is probably because in the intervening months, SMG has made some major R&D investments in a platform that makes managing (and, most importantly, updating) SMPR content quick and easy. This revolutionary new webservice is called Digital Snippets, and I’ll let Collin Douma, our Chief Strategist, explain exactly how it looks and functions:
“SMPRs are used to help digital content creators tell their stories, not just a place where you tell your stories to content creators. That’s a pretty fundamental shift from traditional PR practice, and one that we think far better reflects the current nature of successful communications.
Once released to the public, the traditional press release is not able to evolve the story. The content is often long, tremendously detailed and heavily editorialized text that the “traditional journalist” is paid to sift through. An SMPR, however, cuts out the editorial and streamlines the core content into easily digestible, quotable and most importantly, updatable “Digital Snippets”. This makes every item posted on an SMPR a potential “asset” for the influencers to quote, republish and editorialize credibly.
“Digital Snippets” updates the story with any combination of available multimedia assets including photos, videos, audio clips, graphs, pdfs, textual facts and any other type of story update imaginable. Since the new influencers are generally not paid to write, nor are they interested in spending more free time than necessary to create a post, podcast or article, we don’t wish to ask them to sift through 2000-3000 word press releases looking for “the point”. We want to give them the latest information in easily digestible chunks and we want them to be sure their source is credible.
An SMPR speaks to this and unlike the traditional press release, can be updated to tell the evolving story. Subscribers to the information get an editorial-free update to the SMPR as a “Digital Snippet”.
We’ve since created a SMPRs for Ford on the Digital Snippets platform in support of the Ford Year in Review story, Ford and the Environment, the Verve concept car and the new F-150.
Download the Digital Snippets SMPR Template
In the tradition of Shift Communications’ release of that very first SMPR template, we also want to share. We’ve created a template that illustrates the functionality of the Digital Snippets platform available here as a .pdf for download. So please pull it down and use it as you please, we’ve licensed it under Creative Commons mashup and commercial share and share alike. Shift Communications is also planning to release an updated version of their SMPR template soon – it will be interesting to see if we’re all heading in the same direction.
If you’d like to find our more about SMG’s best-in-class Digital Snippets platform (which is built on open source, incidentally), please contact us. We’d be happy to run you through the program, including some of the metrics and measurements we’ve baked in to ensure that our clients know what’s working and why.
SMG SMPR Template – click to download
Ultimately, however, we’d love to hear from the social media community. Love it? Hate it? Please let us know what you think about this newest version of the SMPR.
UPDATE: Chris Heuer has put together a quick video commentary explaining the difference between traditional and social media press releases – a great explanation, take a look for yourself.
Just curious, is there any reason that you do not include the original “social networks” (you know, the websites formerly referred to as “enthusiast sites” that have hosted discussion by brand enthusiasts long before the “Web 2.0” buzzword entered our world, in the Digital Snippets? While Jalopnik and Autoblog are nice, their popularity is fleeting. The F-150 is announced, 50 comments are made, and their single post on a topic falls 20 pages down three days later. At F150online.com, Ford-Trucks.com and FordF150.net, there are dedicated forums with *thousands* of ongoing, on-topic posts, yet for some reason, because they never received VC funding or grab the “blog” headlines, are not included as resources here. Doesn’t make much sense to me…of course, nor does “Web 2.0.” Same stuff, different day, with a different moniker.
Hey Maggie – Cool stuff. I am traveling but will take a close look when I am back in the office. As has been noted elsewhere, I have been working on a new rev of our own SMPR template; be curious to see where (or if) we differ. Either way, thanks for adding to the debate!
@Anthony – that is a great point, and here’s the answer from Rob Clark, an SMG Social Media Analyst who was instrumental in developing the Digital Snippets platform:
Here’s the list of forums that Rob’s planning to add shortly to the F-150 SMPR:
@Todd Defren – yes, also noted in our post – really looking forward to seeing your updates!
Thanks for the feedback, Maggie. I am glad to see that these sites will get some of the recognition they deserve.
Great post Maggie…it is refreshing to hear that innovation continues to create value for our clients such as the Social Media Press Release.
It is an intuitive, dynamic and most importantly engaging asset that both traditional and social media outlets can use as a complete backgrounder to develop a potentially balanced and reflective overview of the client.
I think your ascertain is right…the true measure of its success will be the feedback from the Social Media Outlets as to whether it helps or hinders…in the meantime best of luck.
Thank you for your thoughtful take at an evolving art form. Clearly the days of text-driven and videotape follow-ups are waning — at least when dealing with online journalists. What I’d like to know more is how the work you did for Ford, a former client (Lincoln-Mercury), was ultimately used by the media. I saw the SMNRs. What feedback and pick-up did you generate from those journalists who knew enough to capitalize on your digital snippety approach, e.g., results? Or is the effort mostly designed to raise Ford’s profile in Google?
Hi Peter – great question! We (as with all our projects) have a baked-in metrics strategy for the Ford SMPRs. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you understand, the results we’re seeing are proprietary to our client. However, I will say that we are all very pleased with how well and far the content is being used to tell richer, better-informed stories about Ford products.
Good stuff and I’m going to post links to this in my blog. Question. I took a look at the Focus site and found one thing missing (at least w/o more digging than I was willing to do) – Dates. One thing about the Web 2.0 world I’ve gotten used to is the time/date stamp on so much content letting me know just how fresh it is. From reviewing the Focus site/SMPR it was hard to tell is the content was a year old or updated yesterday. Did I miss it? Seems that if you didn’t want to note for each piece of content when it was posted/updated, at least the page itself might have an update stamp of some kind.
I am very intrigued by this for reasons I’m going to blog about. I’m looking forward to more!
I’ve been thinking about your request for feedback and gave you some on my blog post on the SMPR (http://m-2-m.typepad.com/m2m/2008/02/social-media-pr.html).
However, the more I think about it the more I think the SMPR is really the tip of a really interesting iceberg of Social Media promotional technology. I would love your feedback on my ideas as well, from the perspective of how you think your clients would react to them. I know it’s easy to come up with ideas and another thing entirely to get the client to buy in!
And thanks for (re)generating this discussion. It’s very interesting.
Congradulations to the Social media group on your recent contracts with “Ford”, “SAP” and the Digital Snippets design and is very innovative.
The Ford Focus Snippet site has the statement “Fresh design, better fuel economy and new safety and technology features”. As a customer for buying a e.g. Ford Focus I’m also looking for better “Customer Service”, “Price lowering” and above all “Reliability” with less time in the service shop, add eg. a 160,000km 5 year warranty which GM has introduced.
p.s. I did own a 1998 Ford Contour.