ImageThere has been a lot of discussion about the idea of a social media press release and what it should contain.

Press releases have been around for a long time and have served the purpose of providing details of an upcoming event, financial announcement, or new product launch. With the advent of social media, there have been countless blog posts about the death of the press release and how they may have become less important or even fodder for a digital graveyard.

Unfortunately for those taking that view, the press release still continues to thrive. Between PRNewswire, Market Wire, PRweb and countless other press release newswire services, thousands and thousands of press releases are being generated and distributed. Are people reading press releases? The answer, is a resounding yes. In doing research for this blog post, I took a look at 20 of our online newsroom clients. In the month of February, those clients had more than 2,100,000 views of their news content on their online newsroom. More than 2 million views of a web page containing a press release, news story, image, video, press kit, or executive biography.

The press release is not dead. However, it has changed. In the past five years, social media has penetrated nearly every industry with PR and Communications being no exception. No longer do you have to issue your press release over the newswire. No longer are you limited to creating a text-based, inverted pyramid styled, “who-what-when-where-why”-laced document that gets emailed or posted to a dark corner of your corporate web site.

Say hello to the Social Media Press Release. Actually, it has been here for quite some time.

In 2006, Shift Communications released the Shift Communications SMPR format (picture above) which provided a thorough template for what the “new” press release should look like. Filled with social media outlet integration, multimedia, contact information, as well as related assets and pre-fabbed quotes, this template certainly provides a great baseline for transforming your press release into a social media press release. There are certainly other templates and methods to integrating social media into your press releases, and while there is no exact “right answer”, two main components that are critical to transforming your standard press releases into social media press releases are multimedia and sharing.

Multimedia

recent study shows that including embedded multimedia and significant imagery in your press release will not only make it more interesting but also provide increased exposure and viewership. If at all possible, it is certainly a huge improvement to a standard text press release if you add multimedia elements. Some organizations include thumbnail images with their news stories and allow people to download a larger version of the image to include in their blog, magazine, or Facebook post. Others include several large images and embedded video in their news stories. There is no right way to do this. The key is to just include something other than just text. Keep an archive of images and videos that can be embedded into your news. If it is a story about an executive, be sure to include a thumbnail of that executive with a link to their biography and any quotes or speeches they may have. If it is a new product launch, certainly you have some images that can be included and if possible, embed a product video into the news release.

Shareability

If I had to pick one component that defines a social media press release, it would be “shareability.” Giving anyone (journalist, investor, customer, employee, partner, prospect) the ability to share your content with others is something that is critical. Furthermore, make each component of social media press release shareable. Somebody might want to use the picture in their blog post. A television station might want to download a broadcast quality version of your video to run on the air. Online publishers might just want to republish your news story in full, providing even more opportunities for others to share your content.

At a minimum include one of the many free sharing widgets on each and every press release that you have. This will allow readers of your news to quickly share it with their co-workers, editors, friends, family or anyone else who might be interested. This is very quick and easy to do and every press release or news story should be shareable.

In a perfect world, the multimedia elements would be shareable as well, so that people can quickly share the video on their Facebook account or tweet out a link to an image of a new product.

There are definitely other elements involved with integrating social media with your news stories and the Shift Communications template does a good job of outlining those. However, don’t be overwhelmed. If you don’t have a Skype account, links to coverage, or executive quotes, that is all right. Concentrate on what you do have and ensure that you put as much multimedia content into the news story as possible. And, at a minimum, make the news release shareable on your online newsroom.