Public relations analysts Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge describe a social-media release as “the opportunity to share news in ways that reach people with the information that matters to them, in ways that they can easily use to digest and, in turn, share with others through text, links, images, video, bookmarks, tags, and so on, while also enabling them to interact with you directly or indirectly.”
A recent workshop led by Jeff Mascott of the Washington, D.C.-based PR firm Adfero addressed basic guidelines for writing social-media releases. Mascott emphasized that no one has all the answers, though some are trying to standardize the format.
Who does a social-media release target?
SMRs simultaneously target three types of audiences, Mascott said:
- Traditional gatekeepers, such as mainstream journalists
- Bloggers and other digital influencers
- The general public
And SMRs should be written for three types of readers:
- Real people
- Search engines
- Social-networking sites
Where do I put a social-media release?
Keep headlines short. Make sure your headlines are no longer than 80 characters, Mascott advises. “If you want something that’s going to be shared, a long bureaucratic headline is not going to generate any word-of-mouth or traffic on social-media websites,” he says. Ask yourself, “If this appeared on Facebook, would I click on it?”
Choose your keywords. What are some common words or phrases people would use to search the Internet for this information? Use these keywords early to optimize your headline for search engines and then repeat them throughout the story. Avoid generic phrases such as “the product” or “the company” when your keywords will work.
Tell a story. “Write like a person and not an organization,” Mascott says. Get rid of the marketing-speak and craft a narrative you’d like to read in the newspaper. Mascott doesn’t advise using bullet points in the main text, but others do.
Aim for “diagonal” readers. “Diagonal” readers take in a story in 10 seconds or less. “People don’t read an article like they read a book,” Mascott explains. “There’s an awful lot of scanning going on.” Help readers hit your most important points with:
- Subsection headers. Search engines can also index a story more effectively if you break up your story into subsections and write a subtitle for each section using keywords.
- Boldface. Search engines appear to pick up on bolded and underlined words better than plain fonts.
- Pictures, graphs and summaries. Make key concepts easy to grasp.
Create multimedia objects. Make creative use of video, photos and interactive objects that can be embedded and shared. Rather than including a canned quote within the story, consider recording a video of an executive making the statement and uploading it with a transcript.
Provide resource links. Link to executive bios, company fact sheets, downloadable logos, and a del.icio.us or Digg page that aggregates articles supporting — or even opposing — your point of view. These features are timesavers for journalists and bloggers, making them more likely to turn your SMR into a story.
Make sharing easy. Ensure your release syndicates to RSS readers, shows up error-free when pulled into Facebook, Twitter or other sites, and comes in a printer- and e-mail-friendly version. Include one-click buttons for popular social-media sites at the bottom of your SMR. If you don’t have an IT person to help, go to a DIY site such as AddThis.com or ShareThis.com to generate embeddable code.
Make feedback easy. Include a section for moderated comments at the bottom of your release. SMRs are all about fostering dialogue about your news.
Image credit: flyparade, via iStockphoto