For PR folks, pitching to the web is a problem. Talking to a PR firm recently, we ended up chatting about the challenges traditional PR firms face online. You have experienced professionals who know the ropes, the tricks of the trade, and their journalists. But facing a diffuse mass of bloggers is a different story altogether. What can you do about it?
Enter the Social Media Release, a concept that has developed over the last few months, maybe a year or two. The short-short version is this: Provide bloggers (and other online media) with as much material in as many formats as possible. These folks want to pick the materials they use, comment it, mash it up, and stir it thoroughly.
Are blogs like toys, fun but not professionally relevant? Not any more. (Image: Lego Blogger Picture by Flickr user minifig, released under Creative Commons.)
(For further reading I recommend: Brian Solis (read his stuff thoroughly, starting maybe with what he says about blogger relations, his definitive guide to social media releases and social media releases, everything you ever wanted to know as well as the evolution of the press release.) Also, PR-Squared has a well-maintained list of successful use-cases of social media releases in the wild. (Update: and they have a template, too.) Just to pick one of those examples, Ford knows how to work the web: Note how everything is embeddable and the tons and tons of topic-related RSS feeds?)
Of course, this means you lose control over how your message is used, adapted, changed. The old rules of traditional media don’t apply here. They just don’t, so don’t even try. This is a hard lesson to learn for both PR firms and big brands, i.e. their clients. It requires a whole new approach to interacting with your stakeholders out there, and to some degree a new company culture.
It’s also tough to identify which bloggers to pitch, which services to use, and mainly: how to react to negative reactions on the web. For every campaign, you’ll have to find a decent strategy that works. A few basics like what’s listed in the articles above sure helps (think RSS feeds, embeddable pictures and videos, information in as many formats as possible). Also, forget embargoes, but that should be clear anyway.
If you’re a PR firm: How do YOU address bloggers (or do you at all)? If you’re a blogger, what are your experiences with being pitched?