Author: McNeal, Brian

Social Media vs. the Professional Press Release; When to Use Which

There is a certain "Do-It-Yourself" attitude among a lot of bluegrass bands. I suppose, like a lot of things these days, it's borne out of need since doing something on your own instead of using a professional service appears to cost less. Sometimes we can get away with it and sometimes it comes back at us.

More and more we're seeing that environment in the news world with the release of band news on social media, which in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing or the wrong thing to do. But more and more it seems that social media is the ONLY place where we're finding those little gems of happenings in a band's world - the things that really make up a news story.

So with that thought in mind, I thought I'd offer some tips on using press releases and social media and hopefully, letting all of us get the better of each.

Social Media is everywhere these days and no matter which one is your favorite, once you get the knack, posting tidbits about you, your band, your business … etc. is easier than flipping on the light switch.

Problem Number One:
Social Media may seem like it's everywhere these days.

Make no mistake … if that's what you use in place of bonafide distribution of your news and event dates … you've short-changed yourself, your band, your business and most importantly, your career or the chances for a more successful career.

Problem Number Two:
Newspapers and other news outlets like magazines and broadcast entities are passé.

Well, the Mythbusters won't even try to tackle that one.

That type of thinking is what kept the Dark Ages dark for so long. We live in a world where changes are happening so rapidly, the Pony Express looks like a 400-year tortoise journey by comparison. There are still many thriving print and broadcast news outlets. The Internet is not the whole world. Also remember that most print outfits also have Internet Partner sites where some if not all of the content in the print version is available on-line.

In the world in which you live and work, it may seem as if everyone is on Twitter, or all of your friends are on Facebook, and so the temptation, because it's easy and effortless, is to post your news right there and then move on. That's probably PROBLEM NUMBER THREE.

Ever drive your car to work down a different street, one that you haven't been traveling on for quite some time, and see a world of changes? New things, places, people that you would never have known existed if you hadn't take that particular route are there for the discovery. The other side of that coin is that some of those new places, and folks are now somewhat familiar with you depending upon just what you did on the journey – like stopping for a cup of coffee or a tank of gas.

Maybe even you made some new friends on that journey and both of you are richer now.

Much the same scenario is true with the use of a formal press release except that when you use one instead of just a Social Media posting, it's like having a thousand friends drive down a thousand different streets and each one stops and talks to another thousand folks about you and what you've got going on. Mind you, these are folks who don't go down your street and so they never would have known about you if it hadn't been for the use of that press release.

These are the same folks who don't read your tweets or see your postings on Facebook because they aren't on your list.

The pastor said just the other day that if you continue to post everything on your social media page and do nothing else, you might as well just let him preach to the choir from now on. It's the same thing.

So when do you want to use a social posting instead of a formal press release? Would it be when your band is going to play a special show for the Presidential Inauguration or would it be when you're favorite friend just got their braces taken off and you have the first picture of their lovely new smile?

Ah, but you say, “I did write up a professional press release and I posted that on Facebook. Plus all of my press releases have their own dedicated webpage and I have it posted on my band's news page.” All of that is very good, but still very passive. And NOT ENOUGH!

You can't expect news editors to go looking for your news and even if they did, would they accidentally stumble onto your news or would they miss it all together? It's much like hiding your light under a bushel. You know it's there but no one else does.

Now, how about the best of both worlds? You might want to use a press release AND a social posting after you've gotten some of your news published and you want to share it. Now you're not only disseminating your news but you're also telling your friends that the world is recognizing you by the fact that a bonafide news outlet published the story. You get elevated a notch in your own self-esteem too when comments start coming in about how nice it is to see you in the news.

I know there are media experts that will take many exceptions to some of my comments and adamantly love the use of Social Media as a replacement for sending news releases to recognized news outlets. There is a school of thinking that says "DON'T SEND everything!" "Wait for the really BIG News!" I

In other words, don't send something this week to the Wall Street Journal about the new song you just wrote for an upcoming album and then next week send them something about the local golf tournament where you helped raise $200 for a new street light in town and then the following week send them a release about your upcoming tour to the OK Panhandle where you'll be the first Bluegrass Band ever to play the "Panhandle Bluegrass Boogie" (that new song you wrote). Probably none of that would be news to the WSJ on the world-wide scale in which they operate.

But now here comes the really big news and your band has been selected by the U.S. State Department to accompany the Oklahoma Governor and the Director of FEMA on a statewide fundraising tour to aid Tornado victims. Now remember you've already sent three previous No-Account press releases and so chances are this big news that orninarily would get some attention may be overlooked - much like the little boy who cried "wolf" too many times.

This is why some media experts are in love with Social Media Postings as a replacement for the standard press release.

Probably a measure of prudent person rationale is in order for scenarios as just described. While theWall Street Journal may not be interested in a local golf tournament fundraiser, the bluegrass world is a much smaller world than that in which the WSJ spins and whirls.

The Bluegrass News Media however, may just eat up stuff like that since we operate in such a much smaller world. It stands to reason that the news generated from a smaller world is going to be less in total volume and therefore, the Bluegrass Media may be looking for just that sort of story. So if you want to get your band/your news-worthy deeds in the news, send it in the form of a Press Release. Don't make the news editors go looking for it on your social pages.

Then too, the casual, informal environment of the social media tends to let us all get sloppy with details and other important data that editors need before they even begin to think about using your story. Many is the time we've had to abandon an otherwise good story because we couldn't contact anyone for clarification in time to use the story while it was still "NEWS."

A formal press release template will not allow you to leave out those details. The WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN. And these days when our reach is so much more global than it ever has been, I like to also inclued another "W" in the mix....I add the word: "WORLD" to remind me that something so simple as 123 Washington Street might mean something to those on my list who live right here in town. But it means absolutely nothing to everyone else. There are probably a thousand or more addresses associtated with 123 Washington Street. But I can't tell you how many times we've received a band's E-Blast here with not much more than that. So the word "World" reminds me to include FULL location data.

Awhile back, one of my friends in the business thought about this conundrum and decided, from that point on, to always include the GPS Coordinates along with the full printed address in every press release where an address was important. There may be other ways to dress up your information but the important thing to remember is to make sure you include ENOUGH information for anyone to be able to know all they need.

Even a simple OUTLINE format can help you to remember to include full details.

There is a reason Dr. Hook's hit song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” was so popular. It's something everyone in the business covets. So any news coverage you gain is on the plus side for your career.

Posted:  6/22/2013

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