PR In The Age Of Twitter

AdAge sparked a flurry on Twitter Monday with a juicy essay, RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) — and Long Live the Tweet, by @SimonDumenco.

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Tweetmeme Captures The Retweets

The flurry featured a lot of straight retweets, a few “huhs?” and at least three rebuttals. Mine was one of them:

Had you confined your treatise to celebrity media, culture and publicity, it’s unlikely that I would have seen your column. (I rarely read AdAge.) However, the Twitter tease meant it showed up in my tweetstream. (Link bait?) And the sweeping generalization in the headline then demanded a reply.

Jeremy Pepper (@jspepper) reminded us that the “press release is dead” meme (a variant of “The sky is falling!”) circulates periodically before nailing a key fallacy in the essay:

[T]o quote Simon, “as the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America.” Forget that publicity firms are the last firms to social media, often being beat (by years) by their consumer technology sister firms. Forget that publicity and the entertainment complex aren’t comparable to corporations that have to abide by SEC disclosures and other sticky things like that.

But, maybe, just maybe Twitter’s limitation to 140 characters is just not enough to disseminate news, even with links to a blog or page that is, well, I guess it’d be a press release huh?

And from Jason Mollica (@JasMollica):

It’s up to PR folks to help reporters and consumers that are wading through the static to direct them to clearer channels.  The press release helps to do that.  In the last two weeks, I have written a handful of releases.  Their distribution was enhanced by Twitter and Facebook.

The flurry on Twitter reflected attention that the article was receiving on the AdAge site itself:

adage-twitter-learmonth

RIP Article Drives AdAge Site Traffic

Here are two very salient comments. First, from KatMadison:

With all due respect, Simon, publishing an article about the death of the Press Release in Ad Age is ironic. I believe this is part of the problem and disconnect.

Publicity is not PR and vice versa. Of course Twitter (and other social media) plays an important role for popular and breaking news and is helping evolve new communications mediums. But as others have noted, it’s is not all about celebrities and earthquakes.

Second, from Cameron Berry:

Press releases aren’t dead, so let’s try to be a bit less argumentative and bit more informed, shall we? If not, I’ll have to keep saying that advertising is dead. Which of course it is.

Then there was a comment from Stan that made my eyebrows raise:

I’d rather read one coherent 250-word news release from a real source than a bunch of disjointed tweets. But then, writing a 140-character tweet doesn’t take much heavy thinking.

A note from me:

Dear Stan, it is far more challenging to craft a meaningful 140-character tweet. It is almost without exception that it takes more effort to squeeze meaningful content into a small package, be that a speech or a tweet.

A Bit of Context (otherwise known as history)

As a reminder that the press release is alive and kicking, last year Brian Solis wrote:

[T]he press release has evolved more in the last decade than it has over the century thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and most notably, the Social Web.

Solis tracked the history of the press release in the digital age:

  • 1997: BusinessWire developed the Smart News Release, integrating hypertext
  • 2001: PRNewswire introduced MultiVu, a multimedia release (MMR) service
  • 2006: Todd Defren birthed the Social Media Release
  • 2008: PitchEngine launched a service for creating, hosting, and publishing branded Social Media Releases and Social Media Newsrooms

Today, press releases are indexed by Google, distributed via Slideshare.net or Scribd.com, or refashioned as blog posts. They are promoted via Tweets, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, email.

The press release is not dead!

Aside: A Personal Example Of Twitter As Promotion

As an exercise in personal branding and as an experiment, yesterday I decided to promote my post. Although WiredPen posts are syndicated to Twitter automagically, I’ve never actually tried to get readership.

adage TweetDeck

Custom Search In TweetDeck

First, I set up a search in Tweetdeck for the keywords Adage Press Release.

Then I began reading.

I looked for people who had done more than hit the RT button, people who had expressed an opinion about the essay. I then went to their Twitter page. If it looked like they were open to conversation (a quick judgment) and that they were fairly digitally savvy (based on Twitter bio), I then sent them a Tweet with my link.

Many replied; several retweeted.

It was fun; it didn’t take too much time; and I discovered some interesting people to follow or add to my Twitter lists.

This morning, Regan Communications asked for permission to publish my essay on their blog. This is icing on the cake, so to speak, amplification far beyond anything I might have set for a goal, had I been doing this with ROI in mind.

One More Thing

There is another thing that Twitter is doing that should have editors, marketing folk and PR practitioners thinking about: Twitter is extending the life of a post.

Discovery is a process that occurs across time, not just at the time of publication. This means that articles have the potential to have a longer life. Witness the AdAge remark about the RIP essay making it to the top five two days running. Would that have happened without Twitter? I doubt it.

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