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Social media toolbox takes PR and newsrooms into the social future
PR professionals need to rethink how they distribute news in today's online and social environment. Engaging, rich media content is where it's at, and I spoke to one of the co-founders of Prezly, a social media toolbox for PR professionals, to ask him exactly what it is that today's newsrooms and press releases ought to provide.
PR today isn't just about sending out press releases to journalists, it's about engaging a wider range of influencers and providing information and resources to help those influencers create content in a format their particular spheres of reach enjoy.
Yet, many newsrooms continue to distribute one-dimensional, text-based press release documents.
This is a problem that three self-proclaimed PR geeks decided to tackle, having themselves experienced first hand the difficulties encountered creating and distributing rich media press releases and associated resources. Between them they created Prezly, a toolbox for PR professionals.
I 'virtually' sat down with one of those PR geeks, Gijs Nelissen, who is based in Belgium, to find out what it is that makes today's emailed press releases and newsrooms attractive to journalists and the plethora of 'others' who have a large online influence and reach.
Helen: What was the catalyst to create Prezly?
Gijs: We started by scratching our own itch. All 3 of us founders have worked in communication agencies and experienced first hand the pain of creating and distributing rich media press releases. So we initially started building something to make our own lives easier, quickly discovering that other agencies were having exactly the same pains. That's how Prezly came into existence. We see ourselves as the geeks supporting PR professionals, we take care of all the technological hassle, so PR professionals can focus on the stuff that matters: creating relationships and good content ideas.
Helen: What issues with current online newsroom offerings did you identify?
Gijs: The biggest problem we see is that a lot of companies do not have an up to date online newsroom. Most of them just create a press release and distribute it as a document or PDF. This way a press release has no clear existence on the world wide web, because it doesn't have a permalink or URL. This is the first, simple, but very essential principle we take very seriously: every press release needs an online version and a unique URL. This way it can be picked up by search engines and be shared via social media, thus reaching a larger audience than just journalists.
Another concern is that newsrooms only list press releases created for journalists. This way many companies miss the chance to reach an audience much bigger. The profession of journalist has been democratized; people do not necessarily need to be labeled "a journalist" to have a large influence or reach. People with a popular Twitter feed or Facebook Page are as valuable a PR asset as a journalist at a big media outlet. If you have a content publication platform, seize that chance to reach a broader audience by offering more content: offer case studies, customer success stories, backgrounders, biographies, any content that your audience might find interesting and that an influencer might use to create their story with your content.
Helen: I know that, when I'm looking for stories to write for Bizreport, I am drawn to those newsrooms that provide me with visual resources. Is this a specific need in today's image- and sound-bite environment?
Gijs: Absolutely. Online content is becoming more about short visual content. Look at the big success of slideshare presentations, infographics or services like Pinterest or Instagram. In a recent survey with journalists they stated that they'd be more inclined to write about something if there were visuals with it. Still, many PR teams fail to engage people by neglecting to reinforce their story with enticing visuals.
Helen: What about mobile, are today's newsrooms geared up for the mobile journalist or blogger?
Gijs: In a word, no, which is strange when you consider that that almost 40% of media interactions are on a mobile device. Information needs to be very easy to find across multiple devices. Influentials aren't necessarily working at an office, we see a lot of freelance journalists or bloggers that work in their own space at their own pace. They can be roaming on a beach in Bali with their tablet or cell phones.
Helen: What tools does Prezly provide that can enable companies to produce a newsroom or press release email journalists will love?
Gijs: To answer this question we need to understand how journalists work. Journalists know their channel, newspaper or readers the best. With this information they tailor each story around the interests and mindset of their readers. A good newsroom should allow those journalists or influencers to do just that: assemble the story based on the available content (images, video, text, quotes, relevant articles or specification documents). We sometimes refer to a Prezly newsroom as a content repository, allowing brands and agencies to publish all related assets and available information.
Journalists tell us that they love being able to see the complete story within the e-mail we send as it includes a summary of what is available online. This way a journalist can immediately see if this is an interesting article for their readers. Readers can send themselves a Prezly social media press release via our homepage and see just how engaging they are.
Helen: So, who might use a service such as Prezly?
Gijs: We have a broad range of customers including BBDO, Ikea, KLM, Ogilvy PR, Porter Novelli, and TBWA Group.
The lion's share is agencies: PR agencies and advertising agencies that use our service to setup press rooms for their clients. We pride ourselves in the fact that Prezly is easy to use, so everyone in an agency, or client-side, can create and publish social media news stories.
The other part of our customer base is PR teams at big brands using our service to publish and distribute their own content. Next to that we have a lot of freelance PR consultants amongst our clients. They like it because they can easily set up their own press rooms without requiring large budgets or an IT expert.
More information about Prezly, along with examples of social media press release emails and the opportunity to try out the service free of charge for a couple of weeks, check out the company website.
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