The Social Media Release’s Fatal Flaw: No Hook

April 11, 2008 — 8 Comments

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Mark Glaser has a post up today on the virtues of the so-called “social media press release” (pic above): The Social Press Release: Multimedia, Two-Way, Direct to the Public. He runs through the arguments in favor of it and how apparently PR folk are starting to use it.

Perhaps I’m old school…ok, I am old school, but I’ve been dealing with media releases since 1997, when I was taught in a job how to write a good press release, so I have no issues with the current format of press releases and I don’t see an immediate need to dump them for this format, although I do take on board that others may prefer the style.

Press releases can be both bad and good, the bad usually comes from people who have no real idea how to write one. I get a mixture every day, some I read, some I just delete.?Ǭ† How a media release should work: short intro that includes exactly what’s in the release (the hook), second paragraph that expands on the details in the first one, maybe another paragraph if needed, two paragraphs of quotes (always important when pitching at the MSM as they may run them) then a concluding paragraph. Ideally the press release should never be longer than a page. That’s the formula I was taught and have always followed.

Here’s my issue with the social media release, and I think it’s a fatal flaw: there’s no hook. Leading with contact information is bizarre because contact info is only relevant for a follow up and is always best left in the footer. But to then have the headline below that, and “core news facts” with bullet points on the release….where’s the hook? General rule of thumb is you’ve got seconds to hook someone reading your press release before they delete it/ trash it: headline should lead with an immediate description (hook) of what the offering is. Good headlines help, but it’s that opening introduction that most people will read, you need to hook them there (headlines can’t always convey the vital info). Rejig a social media release to open with a hook then I’d think it would work a lot better.

8 responses to The Social Media Release’s Fatal Flaw: No Hook

  1. a good hook, indeed!

    but regarding the ‘2.0’ press release – with all those web2 links/features, etc…that could overburden, or scare, traditional media/journalists…to the point they’ll nearly automatically toss your PR to the bin.

    delicious, technorati, digg, rss, podcast, etc – to alot of journalists still, those are foreign words. and i doubt they’ll take the time to really learn it all – they will just cover or pickup a story that’s written in the old-school PR style

  2. At what point will this incestuous cluster**** that is Web 2.0 realize that what makes sense in this realm doesn’t fly with the other 99% of the world?

    This is by far the most ridiculous suggestion to come out of this sector, and that’s saying a lot. There’s a world outside of Web 2.0 and maybe the NYT was right… folks need to step away from the laptop and experience it.

  3. Duncan, I agree. I’m a big fan on PR 2.0 and a practioner of conversational marketing, but I confess I have not drunk the “Social Media Press Release”. I prefer to go out with either a well-crafted traditional press release or a well written blogpost. Either way, it’s a good idea to support it with a blog-ready graphic or video.

  4. Spot on, Duncan.

    2.0 or not, a press release is all about catching the attention of your target: usually a journalist.

    Therefore, one must think like one. Most journos get a ton of press releases – your job is to stand out from the crowd.

    In fact, you want to make it as easy as possible for the journo to do his job – ideally a (traditional) press release should be written pretty much like it could go straight to the presses.

    And it’s ALWAYS about the hook. No hook, then 99.99% of the time it’s trashed – and rightly so.

    This is all so basic PR 101, seems like the social media release is a bit of an overkill with all the info thrown in.

  5. Fully agree with you Duncan, having been at both ends of a press release for over 20 years. Perhaps Shift is being deliberately controversial and has managed to get far more links than they would have. Two years later, SMNR has not changed the PR world and I have certainly never seen one in the wild. Journos will not read a release unless they see the hook within a few nanoseconds.

    From the SEO angle, this SMNR is not delivered on a SM platform, e.g. Facebook. It contains links to SM elements, which is as SM as it gets. It is really a multimedia PR, but that sounds so 20th century…

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    Big discussion today about the social media press release. Again. There’s some good reading over at MediaShift which you should check out (warning – it’s long) prior to going too far here. You should also see counterpoints from Duncan Ri…

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