I'm speaking tonight at a panel put on by Business Wire. If you want to come, please do so, and be sure to say hello. The topic is on social media generally, but more specifically looking at using social media for enhancing your news value.
Two points come to mind:
1) There is no question in my mind that social media can, and should enhance your news value. And I had a great example of that yesterday. But....
2) There is also no question in my mind that most PR folks are looking at social media as if it's a press release distribution outlet. So they are doing it wrong and not getting enough out of it (mostly because they haven't put enough into it.)
I spent last week working with the Associated Press on an exclusive for my client, Gilbarco Veeder-Root. They are the world's largest maker of gas pumps. Did you see yesterday's story that you can get Google maps on the Gilbarco pumps? Thanks to AP, it was everywhere. From MSNBC and CNN to Yahoo, Engadget and TechCrunch. The Engadget article as of this writing has 649 Diggs, and made the home page of Digg. It's now everywhere.
When I was looking at who to give the exclusive to, I briefly thought about going blogs first. But AP still has lots of power, and clearly the smart blogs are watching the wires still. (The story crossed the AP wire at 12:01 a.m. Engadget had it up, with a nice picture, at 7:52 a.m. Impressive.)
So, for all the TV coverage and other hits, I was personally most excited about the Engadget/TechCrunch hits, because I know how influential they are in spreading news like this over a wide, wide area. This is just one small, tiny example of social media helping PR.
But... And this is a big but... Social media tools and sites clearly helped spread the news for me yesterday. But a PR firm that thinks a hit on Engadget/Digg means you maximized social media is kidding themselves. I had big news. Interesting stuff that these folks like to write about. It spread quickly. Good for me. Great for my client, who deserves ALL the praise for this great idea. They put me in the rare and wonderful position of not having to light up the social media sites on my own, sort of bottom up, because AP did it top down.
A better example of really utilizing social media to spread news is what Joseph Jaffe did selling his book. If you're a PR person trying to understand this space, read that post. Too many PR firms think that social media is about press releases on PRweb.com and pitches to key bloggers that they've barely read. I hear that a lot.
Progressive PR folks realize that social media is not an outlet. It's a fundamentally different way of speaking. More natural, yet completely foreign initially. Like any foreign language, the best way to learn it is immersion. Try it. There's a whole other world out there.