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SMPRs: Who’s paying attention? Who should be?

As the Social Media Press Release reaches its second anniversary an interesting study was released recently by PR Week that gauges where, and how, bloggers and journalists like to receive company information. It’s a topic that’s picked up steam recently as the major news release companies and PR firms have gotten on-board with the notion of making their news “sharable” and “findable”.

Which brings me to the most recent report and then some thoughts on what “findable” really means on the interwebs as they stand today, and as they will organically move forward with Universal Search and the semantic web (aka Web 3.0). But first, the findings in the report:

Across the board, both traditional journalists and bloggers (approx. 85% respectively) received pitches from public relations folks.

No surprise there, but this is where things get interesting…

Traditional journalists rely primarily on a companies website (89%) for information when researching a story, followed by Google search (73.8%) and personal contact by a PR person (70.9) or press release. On the flip side, bloggers rely on a Google search and the company website almost equally (86.1% and 87.3% respectively) and are just tipping over 50% in the personal contact or press release department (54.4% and 57% respectively).

And then of course the question relating to the title of this post, how about the SMPR?

“What would the ideal pitch look like?” — A personal, concise email – 63.1% across the board, with the highest percentage being bloggers at 70.9%.

When asked about the social media release bloggers were slightly more receptive than the average at 17.7% vs. 7.1% in aggregate including traditional TV, radio and print journalists.

Now of course, no one wants to receive a traditional release with the abysmal stats of 2.5% for bloggers and 19.9% in aggregate.

Finally, video isn’t swaying many editors it seems with 70.1% aggregated journalists and bloggers (60.8%) stating that including video in a pitch doesn’t sway them.

So there are some stats here that make it pretty clear we have a long way to go in wide-spread adoption of the SMPR, although with the echo chamber noise about it, it seems the bubble effect keeps going and SMPRs are becoming major parts of a brand social media strategy but without any thought to the fundamentals about who is paying attention, and perhaps more importantly, how they are doing so.

No offense, but the way SMPRs are being presented range from a blog post format to a traditional ad-agency microsite format to a press release on the wire with some video and “share it” buttons. There is no consistency, and frankly, no context or long-term planning for the most part. It’s a bit ironic, but what I’m seeing happen with SMPRs is akin to the rampant use of microsites in the late 90s/ early 00s… lots of content thrown at the users, no contextual relevancy, no personalization, and an expiry date.

Let’s go back to web principles 101 here for a minute:

Everything you do should be intuitive, findable, and relevant (both in the immediate and in the archive). This is what drives the semantic web, what will drive the future of our online experience, and why tagging etc. has become a standard categorization method across all social media applications and tools.

So about the SMPR…

First off, and I cannot stress this enough, what ever you do online MUST be hosted on your own servers, with your own domain strategy in place, not exclusively on a newswires or an agency’s. Otherwise you are giving away your brand SEO juice and contextual content to a third-party and it provides absolutely no value to you unless that third-party has the built-in organic relevancy for your brand that you do (I cannot even imagine an example). Leaving aside the obvious SEO elements, from a conversational, and a web usage standpoint, search is where people go first to find information they’re looking for unless they are triggered by a friend’s recommendation or conversation. That’s where, if they’re searching, they want to find your information – in one of the top organic results. Why would you want to compete with anyone when you’re building an SMPR (especially yourself)? Your site has the brand equity of, for most corporations, a decade; build on it, don’t dilute it.

Secondly, using a newswire that’s enabled social sharing is a great idea as a supplement to sharing your content or news, but nothing beats one-to-one interaction, as the study further reinforces. There is no substitute for getting to know the community you are a part of. In addition, as multiple studies over the years have shown, when it comes to domain and branding strategy, simple and contextual is key to recall. Making sure your social content is part of your overall website and marketing strategy is crucial to maximizing visibility and interaction.

In the end, it ultimately comes back to being “findable” and “relevant” on a topic in the long term. Let’s also keep in mind that as much as an SMPR is a valuable tactic within social media, there is nothing inherently “social” about a “share this” button. The sociability comes in the interaction and the conversation over multiple channels and platforms.

And part of interaction, conversations, and what drives it all, context, is being accessible. Which leads us into universal search.

Universal search is a hot topic, and with it the reality that content is findable across a wide spectrum of properties using a single search term (a search for “Hyatt” could yield video, images, podcasts, as well as the corporate website and blog, etc.). Google, for example, is all about building a relevant experience for their users. If they know (because their algorithms look for patterns and context) that not only is the Hyatt video on YouTube hot, but it’s also embedded and linked to from the Hyatt Press Room that has historical and brand credibility, that contextually confirmed video will appear in the top results in most cases.

And that’s where the SMPR plays a valuable role: in your Media Centre/ Press Room, properly optimized for search.

The whole report really has some meaty stats and questions in terms of journalists views on the state of their industry, and how they work & bloggers take on their place in the eco-sphere – it’s worth a thorough read.

h/t on PRWeek report @dannysullivan via Twitter

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