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Social media is a buzzword – reason #148. Oh and press release is dead

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Stowe Boyd on ‘new media press release’ (for the record, I find the idea of social /new media press release laughable):

To the participants: Please, please, please don’t talk about audiences
when you are theoretically promoting social media. As Jay Rosen has
suggested, we are the people formerly known as the audience. Blogging
is not just another channel for corporate marketing types to push their
messages to markets, eyballs, or audiences. Social media is based on
the dynamic of a many-to-many dialogue between people. Yes, people:
that’s the word that should have been used. Not audience. If you’d like
to make a distinction between a company and those outside the company,
just remember: they are not an audience for your messages, any more
than you are an audience for theirs… Companies don’t blog, or converse: people do.

Indeed, something that corporate communications doesn’t understand – if you want to communicate with individuals you can only do that as individuals not as a collective entity. So spare us the pretence and put real people behind (or in front of) ‘corporate communications’. That way you kill two birds with one stone – get through to other individuals who just might care about what you have to say and give your employees the visibility and recognition they deserve. To that effect, I say to any senior executive who finds that his company’s employees are also blogging – lucky you, you have real people lending their voice to the company that lost its own somewhere between the management and your comms department.

Incidentally, I know the people on the panel and have had conversations or arguments at some point with most of them. Stowe puts it well and the only thing I would add is that PR is dead as in the era of distributed communications I cannot see its role. Press release is a relic of another age characterised by channel scarcity and corporate bullshit. So I cannot but agree with Stowe and Scoble on this:

I could similarly howl about the disembodied third-person voice of
press releases, which also does not translate into social media.
Everything is written by someone, or a specific group of people, but
press releases read like the stone tablets that Moses brought down from
Mount Sinai: written by the omniscient hand of God. Likewise the
excessive hyperbole and surfeit of superlatives of press releases is
distasteful at the least, and demeaning at the most.

and

Various comments made to my complaints about the gradual change going
on in the world of PR make my head hurt. It’s bullshit. And it’s
painful to see leading lights in the new PR era acting as apologists
for large, slow-moving, risk averse companies who continue to get it
wrong.

Amen to that.

As for press releases a good start would be to stop pretending that any self-respecting journalist is going to use the carefully crafted writing, the chiselled meaning and empty style. The only practical use of a press release is facts, so let’s cut the crap and have a list of bullet points about what happened or supporting information to those who will be doing their own commentary anyway. I always say, the blander a press release, the easier it is for the journos to put their own spin on it. The more explanation and transparent causality is contained in any communication, the harder it is to spin it around someone else’s agenda.

To change the ingrained corporate comms and PR habits is possible. The tools are simple, communication is natural. The processes and
systems can be serious bottlenecks, I admit, but never has been an
alternative to entrenched methods so easy to see and apply.

For those interested, Stowe has a follow up post addressing all the responses to the one I am quoting above. I read them all, not much that would interest me. Seems like PR echo chamber and a lot of vested interests by various people who threw their lots in with social media. There is a fundamental shift under way, re audiences -> users -> people kind and that’s is far more important to me than some PR flack’s desperation to save their skin (and business models).

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