Friday, August 24, 2007

Is the SMPR the death of spin?

In my mind, PR people walk the line between officers who 'provide information' and those who 'create messages'. Our role as advocates for clients makes us an easy target for journalists who claim that only their unbiased, unaffiliated point of view provides factual news without the spin.
Who can blame them for calling us spin doctors, when we call and e-mail them with elaborate pitches designed to get more media time for the client of choice.

What happens when you cut out the pitch?

The Social Media Press Release, in it current form developed by Shift, does not have a pitch or even a narrative. The template itself calls for bullet points. Have we, with the SMPR, lost our jobs as creative story tellers? Or more important than our creative whims, have we lost our ability to craft stories that advocate for our clients? Is that a bad thing?

For some, like Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times reporter, it's not:

"Press releases are nearly useless," Foremski writes. "They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on..." [ Adweek]

But he is not the only voice in the debate at del.icio.us. Others aren't quite ready to see the pitch go quietly into that dark night.

"A little creativity goes a long way with reporters who read about synergy and crap like that all day long. One of my favourite things about my job is the fact that I can be as creative as I want with our press releases, and it always seems to get approved, regardless of how ridiculous it is.
Frankly, that's always been my problem with the SMPR. I like it in theory, but its just-the-facts format seems to neuter the ability to be creative with the release" [ The New PR]

When we remove the narrative from our releases, Are we losing our ability to be creative and connect with readers and journalists or are we freeing ourselves from the bias and manipulation we so often get called out on?

4 comments:

Tolu O. said...

The SMPR is a great tool for Communicators. We are allowed to put as much information as we want, little details that may not have made it into the pitch for the sake of brevity.

I do not feel that it limits our sense of creativity, we can be just as creative in creating a Social Media Pres Release, I do not see a Journalist going through every single bit of information provided in an SMPR. So as (creative) communicators, we can organize (another fabulous skill we have) all the information to make the eye of the consumer drawn to what we want the focus on. I also do not see any corporation, firm or client allowing any form of less than stellar information being allowed into their SMPR. It is roughly all the same information that would have gone into creating a pitch letter (and nothing negative would have gone into that). So by creating an SMPR, we are reducing our workload and allowing our clients to reach many more people, company employees, students trying to learn, journalists for papers otherwise ignored, interested bloggers (lol, shameless plug) than with a traditional pitch letter.

In addition to that, if the expression of creativity is what we crave, I do not see the harm in having a pitch letter and putting at the end, "you can find this letter and more information at XYZ", where the less biased and mostly free from manipulation SMPR can be found.

k.strate said...

SMPR, although relatively new in this context, simply requires a little planning.

I believe whenever a new type of media, or a new media movement, comes around, it is appropriate for PR professionals to re-evaluate their role in the distribution and the use of the information in the social networks. This allows a person to assess whether his or her pitches or other ways of communicating with the media are effective and useful.

The new,bulleted way of pitching story ideas allows, in a sense, the PR professional to appeal to journalists from different genres. Although the textbook definition of "pitch" might seem different, I believe the multiple facts of the story act like mini pitches. Journalists are able to scan the document for a fact that interests them, and they use it for a story idea. In the process, they also gain a little background information.

I think the new pitch format gives more opportunity for creativity. New media focuses on a person having the choice to do whatever he or she wants. This follows the trend, and I think the new idea should be followed.

Alicin Hendricks said...

I agree that the Social Media Press Release does not restrict our creativity, but rather expands our options as communicators.

Not only is the SMPR more organized and user freindly than the traditional press release, but we can be allowed to express our creativity trough other outlets such as videos and podcasts. I feel that through the SMPR public relations professionals are no longer limited to written communication and that the use of videos and podcasts gives credibility to the piece, something that we, as PR, are always striving for.

TDefren said...

Good discussion, hope you don't mind if I weigh in...?

The SMNR is a new thing, and not set in stone. FWIW, what we released (at SHIFT) is a TEMPLATE, i.e., take what you like from it, ignore what you don't. Like bullets? Use 'em. Want to be more creative with your narrative? Go for it. :)

Ultimately the SMNR is about enabling the SHARING of content and empowering DISCUSSION about the news, regardless of who wants to jump in - the release becomes like a blog post in many respects.

Again, good stuff all - at the risk of sounding like an Old Timer, I truly love seeing the Next Generation of PR discussing the meaty topics of how to advance the profession.