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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Posted by philgomes 12:38 AM
Stowe And Scoble Hate The New Media Release -- EVERYBODY PANIC!

Stowe And Scoble Hate The New Media Release -- EVERYBODY PANIC!

Wow.

I guess life is just that odd downtime between feeding frenzies in the blogosphere.

(And, apparently, I'm just crass enough to join in, so go figure.)

Stowe Boyd, you see, doesn't much like the idea of the social media news release (more properly referred to, it would seem, as a "new media release"). Scoble jumps in, Holtz writes Magna Carta in response, and the snowball rolls downhill from there.

Since I have some skin in the game here, having discussed Edelman's own take on the new media release concept, I'll weigh in. Oh... And I had a tiny part in founding Third Thursday — the forum that started the ruckus — though geography and life-plans have prevented regular participation. Otherwise, I'd probably ignore this mess and let the already frothy discussion continue to generate enough sticky goo to make the diet-coke-and-mentos guys blush.

(Disclosure: Above link points to Revver.Com. A client of Edelman, a Daniel J. Edelman Inc. company, founded in 1952 and headquartered in Chicago, Ill., with additional companies including StrategyOne, Blue Worldwide, Zeno Group, and First And 42nd. The guys who did the video will make some ad money if you were to watch it. So would Revver. But you probably have seen it already. My deoxyribonucleic base pairs are ACTGGCAGTCGATCAG...)
You see... Stowe's primary challenge to the concept of the social media news release — "Why not just use blogs?" — just kind of strikes me as odd.

Odd because it's the rare company that will accept that message at face value. We're talking about a discussion that must take place thoughtfully within a corporation — with a little less passion, and a lot less prejudice.

Though many of us have had our hands in online media for some time, most have not. Say "blog" in some circles and your audience might think you were referring to some boil-like disease for which the school nurse once administered Motrin at the free clinic.

Is a blog suitable replacement for a re-examined and improved news release format? Well, the tool really depends on the task, doesn't it? (Pointing to a blog's lack of utility in a regulated scenario, Tom Murphy sums it up with characteristic wit: "Yes, Iíll go and tell the NYSE right now sir.") Certainly, no one is saying the converse — that souped-up news releases will replace blogs.

As I've said before, the news release is a communications metaphor that nearly every communicator understands. Efforts to improve and modernize the news release — even *gasp* imbue it with social-media-friendly elements — is a step that slow-to-move companies could be willing to accept. It's certainly more commensurate with established practice than a blog would be. Further, the two aren't mutually exclusive.

And some folks are working to improve it.

So the problem is...? Bueller? Seriously... This kerfuffle flamed up so quickly that it's a bit hard to remember.

This go-around is a bit different from the typical "Bagging Of Press Releases" blast-o-rama that Jeremy rightly calls out. This time the pro/con teeth-gnashing about improvements to the news release rolls up into a much larger issue.

You only have to go seven paragraphs into Stowe's post before you get to the spirit of where this is all coming from... What Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe once referred to as "the worst possible charge of the politically correct."

Yup... Stowe pulled out the "just don't get it" card.

The fact is: When the communications advice is reflexively "Just blog!" or "Post a video!" or even "Do a newfangled news release!", it's basically a form of what I call "tactical glossolalia."

In other words... The passion that people apply to the tools in this field is, frankly, nuts.

Blogs are good for certain things. Press releases are good for certain things. Sounds reasonable to me, but it strikes me that people are a little too into pointing out the you-don't-get-its, the imminent death of the news release (always one year from today), the newspeak/unwords in a Web-2.0 world. (Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the use of the word "audience" is being decried on a blog named with the equally loaded term "message"?)

I put it to you this way: If companies started with sharpening the bluntest tool of the PR trade (e.g. the news release) they've moved the ball a good number of yards. Hell... Just pay attention to writing them well. Folks who are expecting companies to make a 90-yard social media touchdowns, every down, are completely missing the point.

This recent conversation about the new media release throws the reason why into sharp relief. A good chunk of the group that wants companies to see social media as essential will go out of their way to ridicule those companies the second those companies dip their pinky toes in. Arguably, the idea of a social media news release is one way of easing into that pool.

NB: Absent the barriers presented by regulatory issues and similar concerns, many of the loudest and most influential online voices will only have themselves to blame for the fact that more companies don't blog or otherwise engage in any form of social media.

This isn't at all farfetched. It's easy to imagine that, say, a corporation-produced podcast could have a generally positive fan-base that doesn't blog, but instead emails the hosts thoughtfully and regularly. Some of these emails get read on the show and even guide its content. However, if the podcast doesn't exactly square up with the somewhat arbitrary standards of those that do blog, though, the company might kill it.

I can see the meeting now:

"Wow, Johnson... We've got hundreds of emails coming in from people who are interested in what we do, love our company's podcast, are precisely the people we want to reach, and have questions for the host's next show. But two people in the Technorati 100 (who aren't really our audience) hated the podcast's host, didn't like the intro music, and now various sycophants and ankle-biters who trackback and comment on these two blogs are piling on. YOU'RE FIRED!"

This isn't so crazy a scenario. Ever find it funny that most of the folks who talk about "the people" and "the former audience" make the tacit assumption that those people contribute to online media in a public manner as well as consume it?

Some people are more "people" than others, I guess.

Not every company is ready for the full-contact sport that blogs and other social media tools represent. If corporate use of (and participation in) social media is at all desirable, then let people develop transitional tools, of which social-media-friendly news release could possibly be considered as one attempt.

As to this intersection of social media and corporate communications — via newfangled news release or otherwise — I'll end with what Capitol Steps once said during a skit making fun of H. Ross Perot:

"This is a lot like two porcupines on their honeymoon: Everyone's got a lot of desire; it's just that the follow-through is gonna get a little bit painful."

UPDATE 2007-01-23, 08:10: Supplied clarification in para. 4 and fixed missing (and meaning-changing) word in para. 7.

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