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PR in the Age of Social Media

by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl) I saw this Tweet from @swissmiss, right before the holidays, and it got me thinking about how companies – small and large – are using social media as a PR channel, to promote themselves and their products. And about how so many of them are doing it wrong. Dear designers wanting Read more

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by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

I saw this Tweet from @swissmiss, right before the holidays, and it got me thinking about how companies – small and large – are using social media as a PR channel, to promote themselves and their products. And about how so many of them are doing it wrong.

As the author and editor of several blogs, I get a lot of e-mails like this, as well. And they don’t work.

The same day, I read this post by Lucy Siegel, outlining the five biggest mistakes that PR people for startups make. And here’s the thing, it’s not just the startup PR people making these mistakes. It’s a lot of people, across industries, across the board.

I’m here to say that the end of the traditional mass-(e)mailed press release is nigh.

In our connected age, it’s so easy for a PR person to carefully target the key people that would help their cause. It’s so easy to draft a well-written email that seems personal and on topic with the publication they’re reaching out to. So why don’t more of them do it?

It may be that they simply don’t understand the tools at their disposal. It may be that they just don’t understand how to really use social media networks to reach their target audience. It may be that their product is a niche product and they just don’t understand the market. It could be anything, really. At the end of the day, it just means the person sending you that mass email (Dear Editor, I have an awesome new knick knack that would be of great value to your readers yadda yadda yadda…) doesn’t understand the new world order.

Personalization is everything. The age of “Dear sir or madam” ended a long time ago. A few minutes on Google, LinkedIn or the about us/contact section of the blog or website you want to get in touch with, will very often lead you to the appropriate contact person. Or at least give you a fighting chance of getting it right. If you’re unable to find the name of the contact person, mention something about the blog’s content in your lead in, and why this release will be fitting with the blog’s content and editorial direction.

Target your audience. As of 2010, there were 152 million blogs on the internet [source]. Say it with me. One hundred and fifty two million. Blogs. On the web. That’s a lot of people producing a lot of content. Each blog with a very different readership. If you want to get your content out there, you need to know who you are reaching out to and why.

My borough of Brooklyn, New York, is often referred to as the most blogged city in America – I don’t have numbers on that, let’s just say I know more people with blogs than without – but each of these blogs is different. And each of their editors has a different, specific purpose. Don’t send a press release about your newest luxury condo complex, going up in Brooklyn, to a Brooklyn blogger who writes about canning and backyard chickens. I guarantee she’s not interested. You’re wasting her time. And your efforts.

Make real connections. If you’re a PR pro, you know that the best results come from connecting with people, real people. Not spamming their inbox with content. People get kind of cranky about that. I know I do. Social media is all bout making real connections with real people. Whether you’re emailing a blog, uploading a link to Facebook or LinkedIn or Tweeting out to your (or your client’s) followers, know that there are real live people at the other end of your message. And those real live people are the ones who will decide whether your content lives or dies on the social web.

When you’re sending a press release out into the Wild West of the interwebs, ask yourself this question – and if you’ve created the release, it’s a hard one – “Would I hit SPAM if this came into my email inbox?” If the answer is yes, ask yourself what would entice you to read it, share it, and keep sharing it. Then do that.

What are your tips for making press releases more social? Share them in the comments!

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