December 7, 2011

The Social Media News Release explained in detail

Chris AbrahamLast week I dissected a blogger outreach pitch email line-by-line in Detailed analysis of the perfect blogger pitch as a way of proving that no matter how brief and conversational one of Abraham Harrison’s blogger pitches may appear at first blush, the effortlessness takes a lot of work and the time of three senior agents. Today I plan to go through, line by line, a site we create to support all of our blogger outreach campaigns. You can call it a Social Media News Release (SMNR) or a microsite, a resource site, or a fact sheet. To those of you who are in communications, you’ll recognize the structural similarity between it and a traditional news release or press release.

To the right, you’ll see, scrolling down most of this article, a full-length screen capture of the SMNR we produced for a launch campaign that we did for the first iPad tablet-only daily newspaper, The Daily. I am using this SMNR because we’re particularly proud of it, and you can explore it In Real Life (IRL) over at

As I am sure you will notice right away, this SMNR — and all of our SMNRs — is a flat-file, traditional Web page. You’ll also notice that it scrolls and scrolls and scrolls.

No, we didn’t do this because we’re not good coders and don’t understand database-backed web applications like WordPress or Drupal. I have been developing Web applications since they were Perl CGI scripts, into PHP, then into Python-based Zope, and even Ruby on Rails.

We’re building our SMNRs on flat-file, scrollable, single-page Web pages because of human nature: people tend to click away from where we want them to be. We want them to be on-topic, on-target, and really considering the act of blogging on behalf of our clients. In this case, The Daily.

We use old-fashioned HTML standbys such as HTML anchors, allowing us to link within the same page. We don’t want people to miss anything and we don’t want people to get lost in a maze of pages.

We also use flat-file HTML on an Linux-variant Apache install because we tend to reach out to thousands of bloggers at a time — upwards of 8,000 — and we don’t want a database-backed website to get bogged down by a potentially heavy, all-at-once stampede of traffic. Flat-file pages tend to serve faster and more reliably because they’re generally much less resource-intensive.

What we did for The Daily, section by section

Let me go through the SMNR we created for The Daily, section by section, so that I can explain. Long story short:

If we can’t get someone we send an email-based blogger pitch to to post something within five-minutes of opening our email, then we’ve lost him. If it isn’t as easy as pie and as clear as crystal, then we might get nothing. If it looks like it’ll take six minutes instead of five, we’re lucky if we get a tweet or a post to a Facebook Wall. More about that later.

The banner

The banner is simply a quick, attractive “splash.” It’s always above the fold and needs to convey, in a single glance, what’s up and why we didn’t, in fact, waste the blogger’s time. The banner is useless but essential. It allows the client to clearly, as though in summary or abstract, convey the entire message of the campaign both visually and textually. Carefully selected choice slogans, logos, screen shots, and photos go in the banner. However, since it isn’t really possible to “steal” anything from the banner, all the content found in the banner should be replicated somewhere else deeper in the SMNR.

The banner may just seem like bling or flair but it’s is really the single opportunity the PR professional or publicist has to sink the hook, to build the resonance and excitement and to activate the passion required to encourage bloggers to spend their valuable time and finite energy on doing something for me and my clients for free.

One caveat, however, is to make sure the banner isn’t too tall that it blocks out the QuickLinks, below, or seems just like an advert or splash page instead of what it is, a multimedia press release rife with important, objective blog fodder.

The QuickLinks


OK, that’s rather hard to see, so I will make it a bit larger below so that you can see what I am talking about.


That’s better. Well, the QuickLink row is essential because it might be the only interactive part of the SMNR that’s above the fold for some viewers, especially those who are still running 640 x 480 or 800 x 600 screens. (Don’t roll your eyes about the small screen size — there are still millions of folks worldwide who are running small monitors, large font sizes, and also dial-up modems, not your big 2560 x 1440 resolution, double-screened 27″ LCD computer displays. You should work with and understand everyone and design to your lowest common-technology denominator.

So, the QuickLinks are a short-cut to what the blogger wants. These links don’t go anywhere off-page, but, rather, just link down to somewhere much further down on the single page.

And like I said, if we don’t do everything to make it as easy as possible to allow the blogger to search, discover, collect, and report on what we’re pitching, then we’re risking losing them.

The video introduction and the social network sharing

This is a two-parter. Obviously, the commercial that goes with the introduction of the then newly launched iPad-only daily news site, The Daily, is the main thing we wanted to promote. A no-brainer.

More importantly is what I circled in red, the “Share This” embed with the easy-to-share-to-Twitter-Facebook-Yahoo!-Etc. buttons. We never used to add this to our Social Media News Releases. Why? Well, we were afraid that if we did, bloggers would share on social media and social network and with either their Facebook or Twitter friends and followers instead of posting it on their blogs.

The truth is, the SMNR is all about making everything as easy for the blogger as they need it to be. Folks who feel the need to feed the maw of their always-hungry 24/7/365 blog, will always blog (and often then tweet and Facebook their post), and the folks who are interested enough but don’t have the time or interest in the topic or promotion or don’t feel like their blog is the right place for the news we’re pitching won’t blog no matter how much we may well disagree.

So, popping that little “Share This” array of buttons has quadrupled the number of earned media mentions that we get from folks who wouldn’t have blogged our stuff, our news, our clients, anyway — they are just interested enough to throw us a bone and share the Daily with their followers and friends.

The news

The news section is the most important part of the SMNR. Because there’s lots of great stuff to steal. Consider our Social Media News Releases to be one-page versions of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book — which is to say that once we have appealed to a blogger enough that she has opened our email, read our pitch, maybe emailed us, clicked through to the SMNR, scrolled past the banner, the QuickLinks, and ignored the Share This buttons, we want the blogger to have to do as little additional work as humanly possible.

We also post as many photos, illustrations, screen shots, and logos as we can into each SMNR, inline, so that a blogger can easily copy-and-paste each image into the blog post and not need to download and then upload. We act as the host, happy to sponsor the image hosting to the SMNR. As many of these as we can because we never know which one resonates with each blogger.

So, we pre-link all the items in the bullet-list with text links to the daily. We link the phrase The Daily any and every time it comes up in the list. This will appall SEO gurus who think I am an ignoramus who doesn’t know Search. I am an expert in search and my SMNRs are not Google-bait, they’re blogger-bait. We actually do not want our SMNRs to start competing with our clients’ sites — and they used to — but if we mess up all the delicate Google balance, then hopefully our SMNRs will not show up in the top-ten on Google, which is often quite challenging since most sites are absolutely terrible.

Actually, recently, we have had clients who have wanted to optimize their SMNR for search, but then you put the onus of linking, textually, on the shoulders of the bloggers, many of whom are not experts in search or HTML. So, we make sure that almost every single link has one linked textual on The Daily, just to make sure that every potential news item that a blogger might want to copy-and-paste onto his blog includes a link.

We never know what the blogger will or won’t steal, we don’t know how much or how little the blogger will copy, paste, then blockquote into their blog. Some bloggers go full-text, blockquoted, and then wrap the copy that we wrote in a bit of introduction and a parting shot into a blog-post sandwich where the copy, exactly as we wrote it, is the meat.

OK, you may have noticed that the page is pretty long. It requires quite a lot of scrolling, right? Well, remember how brief, concise, and minimal the blogger email pitch was? Well, the pitch might be laser-focused but the SMNR is everything but the kitchen sink. As many diverse and random and seemingly extraneous content and assets as we can find and collect we put into the SMNRs.

Those of you who have ever spoken to me about this before might want to jump ahead. I have an analogy for you. If you think of the Sunday paper and all those coupons, think of our email blogger pitch as a coupon for a big-screen TV at hhgregg.

If we can get that person who’s browsing the Sunday Post to cut out the coupon — already a huge task, to say nothing of even buying a paper, reading the paper, and braving the coupon section — and then pocket the coupon, get in the car, and drive to the store, once that guy gets to the store, he’s generally committed to doing something. While we’re pitching the TV, we’re just happy if that consumer ends up spending an equal sum on something — anything — else, just so long as it’s with hhgregg.

Same thing with an SMNR. The email pitch is the coupon selling a particular thing — the launch of the iPad app — and the SMNR is the big box store offering loads of other things, including bios, and other content. In the case of the Daily SMNR, a blogger may well come in to look at the offer to download and use the iPad app or to share the video with the readers of her blog but may report, instead, on Daily Editor in Chief, Jesse Angelo, who left the New York Post for a position with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

To me, it really doesn’t matter what news from the SMNR the blogger reports, it just matter that the blogger takes time out of her busy, busy, day to spend some time writing about our clients, for free. We really always remember that we’re not entitled to anybody’s time, especially if we’re not paying for it. No matter what, every mention is a gracious courtesy.

Multimedia elements and the essential embed code

I always tell everybody that only 1% of all bloggers have media, communications, or public relations experience. Full stop. Even fewer of them are HTML gurus. Nothing can be assumed. I am not recommending pablum. I am not saying that we have to dumb down for the bloggers, it’s just that they speak a different language from ours in PR. We don’t share lingua francas. So, we always go out of our way to make sure everything is as simple and self-explanatory as possible without ever insulting the blogger.

In the above case, we always make sure that embed codes are included whenever any video is included — if we ever want to see it embedded inline in a blog post. We had an embed code in the first video at the top of the SMNR but it was deleted by the client. Even if our blogger knows how to find the embed code himself, we really don’t want him to leave the site to go hunt it down over at YouTube, as I explained earlier. We don’t want people to ever click away.

So, we include all embed code at a height and width that is optimal for most blogs, in this case 480 pixels wide. If the blogger is sophisticated enough to want a 853 x 480 video, he can go get that, we’re just making it as easy as possible to make the entire process take less than five minutes from the opening of the email to the clicking on Publish.

Social media and tags

The “Share This” buttons at the top of the SMNR are promotional. They don’t reference the client-owned Social Media properties. It is essential to make sure that we offer up everything and anything to the blogger’s consideration.

Finally, to make it as easy as humanly possible for everyone, we include a string of comma-separated topical keywords that each blogger can easily copy-and-paste into the “post tags” portion of your blogging platform.

Yes, I know. this SMNR has everything including the kitchen sink. Not true. It gets worse. If you explore the SMNR for Habitat for Humanity’s World Habitat Day the SMNR we did for the US Olympic Committee we made for the Winter Olympics in Canada, or one of the SMNRs for the Fresh Air Fund, you’ll see that there are all sort of other things such as banners with embed codes and additional videos and all sorts of other assets — really the kitchen sink, in many cases.

Favicon, header title, and meta description

One last thing that I want to discuss before we end this helluva long post is about fit and finish. Too often “single use” sites like this just don’t get the love they deserve. Make sure you take some time to create a nice “Favicon” aka favorites icon, shortcut icon, website icon, URL icon and bookmark icon. Also, please take the time required to create a strong and descriptive Metatag Title and Description tag as well.

<title>Introducing The Daily - Facts and Resources</title>
<meta name="description" content="The Daily facts and resources page. Introducing The Daily The first digital daily news publication built from scratch for the iPad by some of the best in the business to bring you information that's smart, attractive, and entertaining.">
<meta name="keywords" content="the daily facts, the daily resources, the daily facts and resources, the daily,, rupert murdoch, news corp, apple, mac, ipad, ipod, iphone, iphone 3g, iphone 3gs, iphone 4, steve jobs, macbook, macintosh, mackbook air, ipod nano, new iphone, ipod touch, apps, ipad apps, iphone apps, mac rumors, ipad reviews, apple technology, apple news, ipad news, iphone news, tech, technology, geek, geek news, gadgets, new gadgets, new technology">

Why? Why is it even worth the extra time to go back into the engine room and tool with the Meta Data? Well, the HTML Title tag directly contributes to what people see when they either bookmark your page, what they see in a browser tab, or what they see in the Title Bar. Easy-peasy. A real no-brainer. Also, despite what anyone at SEOMoz thinks, meta tags are still important and here’s why:

You’ll notice that all the text in the search result that comes up when your search serves up as a result is content that Google didn’t so much have to find or scrap; rather, it simply serves up the text directly from the Title we wrote and also the Meta Description we also wrote in the form of the search result headline and description.

I hope the previous 2,500 words have done a pretty good job of explaining why we insist on producing a proper, well-produced, well-branded Social Media News Release (SMNR) — both philosophically, practically, and psychologically.

And because I really don’t know everything, please feel free to comment, contribute, share, and ask any questions you may well still have about the process, the evolution, and any technical details you might be unclear about or I have failed to cover. Thank you for your amazing attention span!Chris Abraham is a partner in Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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4 thoughts on “The Social Media News Release explained in detail

  1. Simple is better is what I always say. I always had the impression that people are more willing to scroll down more than they are willing to go to different pages of a website.
    I know that back in the days making your visitor scroll down was a no-no but I think times have changed and visitors aren’t afraid of scrolling down anymore.
    Allowing people to quickly share your content on the social networks is a great way to increase your traffic as many people find quick one button share very convenient. This way they can let they’re friends or followers find out about you and many of them will share it in their turn if they find that the content is of quality and so on.

    • I hate to admit that I have learned a lot from those inbound link promotional landing sites that sell ebooks and SEO software, but I have. People are easily distracted online so running the entire site in a simple scroll where all — or most — links are self-referencing anchors — really maintains the focus on the SMNR. It keeps people from getting confused, confounded, lost, distracted, redirected, or muddled.

  2. Bravo. Being involved with the smaller networks, this makes complete sense. More people out there should be paying greater attention to the details of SMNR. I think you expose the gap between success, and super success. Thanks for your time in writing and research. Well done.