For many companies, public relations is probably the most misunderstood of all the marketing disciplines. For most it doesn't involve much more than churning out a press release on some sort of semi-regular basis.

I spent 2 years working in a PR agency and anyone who has been involved in PR business, either on the sending or receiving side, will tell you this approach rarely works.

In fact, spamming your contact list with weekly releases is a sure way to engender a fair amount of resentment towards your organization.

That and press releases are rarely run in their entirety anyway (certainly not by any reputable publication), so a lot of effort is wasted in crafting releases that usually just end up in the Recycle Bin. Editors have ranted about this for eons.

This trend definitely bears out in the real estate space too; I rarely see press releases being used effectively by most Realtors and brokers. My email address for this blog is already being bombarded by releases and I’ve only had it up for a couple of weeks.

There’s no doubt however, genuine media coverage of your product, message or company is far more effective than bought advertising.

Having a well thought out PR strategy in place to complement your marketing campaigns can do wonders for pubic perception of your brand. And there are many textbook examples of companies, like Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (before it was embroiled in SEC allegations), that have relied exclusively on PR to build buzz for their product or service. (Full disclosure: KK was a former client I worked with).

But in today’s fractured media environment, PR is especially challenging as there are so many more new ways for your message to be heard, and therefore so many more outlets outside of the mainstream media to take into account: blogs, podcasts, just to name a few.

There is a new move underfoot to take all of this into account and recently Todd Defren of Shift Communications debuted a new press release format, one that tries to tackle many of the challenges facing the traditional press release.

social media pr template.jpg

Click image to download PDF.

On first glance the template takes some getting used to, especially to one with an eye on how press releases have traditionally been structured. But I think it’s an interesting foray into challenging one of the principal tools we use in PR. Whether it’ll take hold is another story altogether.

One of the more creative means I’ve found for submitting or pitching ideas is for media outlets (like this blog, say) is to create a unique tag on del.icio.us – and encourage people to tag interesting articles, press releases to that particular tag.

For example, if you have something that you would like me to check out, tag it with the tag ‘tform’ as I maintain an RSS feed of all articles or pages posted there in my feedreader. I’ll be much more likely to see it then, as I’m pretty trigger-happy with the delete and spam buttons in my Gmail account.

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