Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yes, Press Releases Are Now Part of Social Media and VERY Viral

About a week ago, after issuing a press release about my company's use of social media, I saw a tweet come up from someone questioning the use of a press release to promote Web 2.0. What I got from the tweet's 140 characters was essentially doubt about the use of press releases (traditional old school technique) in promoting use of Web 2.0. The tweet said something along the lines of "Why would a company that is rolling out social media use a press release. Social media is about being viral. Press releases are not viral."

This post has been created to make you aware that, yes, press releases ARE social media and ARE definitely viral. I'm not a publicist by schooling but I have had years of experience using press releases in the pre- and post-Web 2.0 world. Something I noticed about a year ago was how the press release outlets, including the majors such as BusinessWire, started Web 2.0-enabling their releases. The following is an example of the social media functionality added to press releases to enable their VIRAL distribution.

As you can see under the "Sharing" section on the left side of the page, the press release outlet (in this case BusinessWire) added a series of common social media platforms with which this press release could very easily be shared. This is only one outlet, but I've seen most outlets incorporate this "viral accelerator" to their pages.

As a result of a recent press release, I achieved immediate and broad distribution on Twitter illustrated by the sampling below:

As you can see, just on Twitter alone there were nearly 100 retweets of the press release. Multiply that number by the number of followers that read each retweet and you can see how a traditional press release can achieve viral distribution.

Now consider how these traditional press releases are distributed to hundreds of online media outlets by the wire services, resulting in greater viral potential. Below is a snapshot of a small number of the media outlets that received the press release from the wire service and began serving up copies of the press release - again, each with a similar "sharing" feature.

Now, keep in mind that simply having a "viral accelerator" does not mean a press relaese will achieve viral results. The material has to possess certain qualities. Press releases in of themselves are not great for creating viral buzz. But press releases tied to good viral content will do the job. I recommend reading the chapter of Viral Marketing in The Community Banker's Guide to Social Network Marketing for more details.

In any case, to answer the question posed by the tweet mentioned above, the fact that press releases have Web 2.0 funtionality means that, YES, press releases ARE about viral distribution.


  1. Well said, Jesse. I am a publicist by training and profession and news releases and traditional media still play a fundamental role in business communication and on balance reach a far more number of people than many new media opportunities. New media has its place, but traditional methods are the price of entry. More to the point, how can you expand an idea if you don't present it in forums where that idea might be new. To limit announcements of new media initiatives to new media, you commit the sin of preaching to the choir and prevent yourself from reaching new converts.

  2. Bryan, good point. I especially like your argument that traditional press releases that are social media enabled can be used to successfully migrate people to other more "pure' social media applications.

    Something I did not display is how many of the press release portals actually allow feedback/comments and ratings, two very effective social media concepts.

  3. If I were to not use every avenue possible to get the word out on a subject, than I am would not be planting every seed I could to be as viral as possible. Not doing a press release just seems short sighted and not realizing that social media is more than the adhoc blog post or other means of getting the word out in a purist world.

  4. Agreed Molz. I feel you have to be comprehensive. Certain channels hit one portion of your target market and others hit others. Therefore, a broader, systematic and well thought out approach casts a larger net and gets improved results.

  5. Good point. Seen Sun Life's commercials. They're great.


  6. Thanks so much for your article. Even as someone who frequently posts articles to my facebook wall, I had never thought of applying this concept for non-media companies. I am currently working on a presentation on how to better utilize social media at work and am excited to include your "Share" option on press releases and other articles. Thanks for the tip! Is there a certain way I should site your article in my presentation?

  7. Good information here. I really enjoy reading them every day. I've learned a lot from them.


  8. I would like to thank you for sharing this great information with us. I am really glad to learn about this because it helps me to increase my knowledge.

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