Last night I had the privilege of being part of a discussion on the press release vs. social media release with FH colleague David Bradfield and host Ian Capstick for PBS.org’s Media Shift. The discussion explored the role of both forms of communication and which, if either, is living on borrowed time.

For my part, I suggested the press release is a message/communication tool and the oft-misunderstood, oft-misused social media release is a relationship/value tool. Both tell stories in different ways and, as David explained, both remain relevant and complementary.

For a press release to be an effective tool, writers need to follow a specific structure and rules about language and newsworthiness. Press releases are more valuable than ever because of the attrition of newsroom staff and budgets though I believe they have a bad reputation right now because fewer people are doing them well. A well written press release with a compelling and relevant story will be picked up by a newsroom and reused with little if any editing. I see far too many press releases with no story or a poorly told story, weak leads and with little attention to spelling and grammar.

For a social media release to be an effective tool, organizations need to think about how they can connect with one individual at a time, building a relationship using voice, rather than language. Few companies understand that and are using social media releases as a new distribution method for traditional press releases (good or bad) — much like television was radio with pictures until innovators began to experiment and discover ways of making this new media exciting and interesting. I believe SMRs need to be thought of as part of a larger strategy and should be connected with existing online efforts in order to offer amplified value. David also pointed out that properly done, SMRs can contribute to SEO which can give the organization and additional boost.

The discussion will be available on PBS.org’s Media Shift in the next few days. In the meantime, you can read my Social media releases: five harsh thoughts post for my views on how to make SMRs more effective for your organization.