Social Media Releases and the University Press Office

A couple of weeks ago, the BBC launched the production of a new OU/BBC series about the history of the web (The Web at 20: Digital Revolution).

Looking over the OU’s recent OU/BBC related media releases, I can’t see anything mentioning the launch event, although it did get a fair amount of coverage from several of the BBC’s technology bloggers.

My impression after the event was that here, if ever, was an opportunity to have produced a social media news release, a media release that makes content available in a form that bloggers and other online publishers can readily pillage for freely licensed embedded videos, images, social bookmarking buttons and related links to fill out their own post.

[Social media release template, from PR-Squared]

Now I haven’t done a trawl of Higher Education media sites to see how many have started experimenting with social media releases, though I do know that most HEIs don’t publish autodiscoverable RSS news feeds from their homepage – only 30.8% (41 out of 133 institutions) publish any autodiscoverable feeds when I last checked using the UK HEI autodiscoverable feeds link from Back from Behind Enemy Lines, Without Being Autodiscovered(?!). I’m not sure what the current state of play is with official univrsity Youtube channels though? My round-up of UK HEI official Youtube channels is probably rather out of date now?

On the government department front, there has been a little more exploration. A couple of month’s ago, Steph Gray reviewed the first Baby steps in Social Media News Releases that were being made by the now deprecated(?!) Department for Industry, Universities and Skills (DIUS), and helpfully identified some of the issues involved in piecing together and measuring the effectiveness of a social media release. Now part of BIS, that team’s experiments with social media releases continues, as exemplifed by the recent social media release for a white paper on A Better Deal for Consumers – Delivering Real Help Now and Change for the Future.

(For more general examples of social media news releases, there are plenty of links on Social Media News Room Examples. In the government sphere, Snapshot of UK govnt use of social tools – and Press Office involvement also has a round up of related activity from a couple of months or so ago.)

However, whilst reading @neillyneil’s How to write a corporate Twitter strategy (…and here’s one I made earlier) yesterday, a great summary of what’s involved in comms related tweeting, that also includes a round-up of current UK gov and traditional media twitterers, it struck me that maybe we don’t need social media releases at all, as such? Wouldn’t a social media release theme on a platform such as WordPress work equally well? That is, why should the press release look like the half finished article? Indeed, is there a reason for having press releases at all? And if there is, what’s the bst way of releasing them? Live feeds are one way, but I doubt that any HEI press offices have adopted them yet? (For a related example, see GovFresh, a site that collects together US Government live feeds.)

Or do institutions just need a social media strategy, with an aggregation site (potentially partitioned into different topic, or category, areas) that at any given instant in time essentially acts as a social media release for whatever is newsworthy at the time? In the same way that the Digital Revolution TV production will (allegedly) be producing rushes of content as the programme is produced, an institution’s social media news site could provide rushes of content – delivered via a templated theme – that can be taken and reworked by others. The release isn’t a thing in its own right – it’s the current state of the social media news site, the result of newsmastering by the institution’s press office of items related to newsworthy activity in the institution itself.

Wrapped up with that could be a press office strategy for news that breaks out on the web related to a particular institution. For example, here’s how the US Air Force apparently handle outbreaks of news about the USAF in the blogosphere:

In related news(?! ;-), the reinvention (or not?!) of the academic article continues: Elsevier’s Article of the Future pilot (don’t you just love that press release?!;-) demos one possibly way of presenting an interactive journal article. (Here’s a diffrent example form a couple of months ago: Academia 2.0: What Would a Fully Interactive Journal Article Look Like.)

Again, I can’t help wondering whether research schools should have a rolling social media news site that provides a living social media release about the most recent or exciting research going on in the institution at the current time that may or may not include snippets taken from ‘interactive’ journal articles?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

11 thoughts on “Social Media Releases and the University Press Office”

  1. I think you may be onto something, and so do some of the team here, hence our launch last week of something more WordPress-based with a longer lifespan:

    What I’m still not sure about is the audience for SMNRs, especially for policy launches. How many bloggers/social reporters/online journalists want those kinds of assets, and are they enough? What are we adding beyond materials on more standard platforms e.g. Flickr/YouTube/Slideshare?

    And the longer term goal may, as you say, not be an SMNR at all, but a blogging policy area, or even (toying with this idea at the moment) a cross-government platform for policy deliberation to help aggregate audiences as well as make links between issues. It sounds like rationalisation, but it shouldn’t be like that – it’s more like a sort of souped-up Write To Reply which goes beyond commenting and presents the full policy package in formats which people can talk about there or elsewhere based on the assets and nuggets provided. Hmmm.

  2. @lesteph “What I’m still not sure about is the audience for SMNRs, especially for policy launches. How many bloggers/social reporters/online journalists want those kinds of assets, and are they enough? What are we adding beyond materials on more standard platforms e.g. Flickr/YouTube/Slideshare?”

    What I originally started collected links for a post on social media press releases, I thought they sounded a good idea just because… But as I thought more about it, I came round more to th opinion of “yeah, and…. so what exactly?”

    Thinking about my own reuse of media, the reuse cases demonstrated by other people I subscribe to, and even some of the trad media’s online output (BBC and Guardian technology blogs, for example), it’s possible to see how we all reuse content that either we want to amplify further or comment on in some way.

    And looking at my own web stats, I can also see how much the influence links on twitter can have in terms of driving traffic to my site.

    This ‘amplification by 3rd party linking’ means that if a media release is actually in the form of a blog post, for example, then people linking to it through Twitter, delicious, facebook, or wherever, or favouriting or liking it in their feed reader will drive traffic to it. But how much traffic gets driven back to press releases, even social media ones, from links on social networks? (This is something I guess BIS might be able to report on?)

    The trad press release was fine for a news cycle that ran according to daily schedules, rather than real time, and sought to provide quotes that the media could reuse in their own copy. (My current default reminder of how this works is )

    The social media release is an updating of this to account for new media, but it may assumes that new media publishing works in a similar way to the old media? That is, it mayb mises the trick that new media publishers *want and expect* to link back to the ‘source’.

    How many items in the trad media link back, as a rule, to the originating press release?

    Are social media releases designed so that they can act as link targets for posts that draw on the resources contained in them?

    Traditional press releases seem (to me) to be designed to act as a source of material that other parties can draw on freely in their own publications (and as such act as part of a PR machine for whoever produced the release). The press release itself was not intended to be a part of the story.

    But for a social media release, maybe it needs to be desgined for people to draw on and use to illustrate their own posts, *whilst at the same time acting as a target link for those 3rd party posts*?

    In a world where ‘transparency’ is coming to mean ‘show us the evidence/where this came from’, the traditional press release (which was never intended to have a public audience anyway) is maybe showing its age?

  3. I think you may have nailed it there. Hence blogs (a finished article, so to speak) may be a stronger proposition than the raw material, ironically in these data-oriented times.

    That’s not to say the other argument for SMNRs – providing more engaging assets for cash-strapped media and others to use elsewhere – doesn’t still stand. But then the quality and targetting of those assets needs to be really good, and the ‘story’ needs to be happening elsewhere, not just via the SMNR itself.

  4. Interesting post. I think higher education establishments are getting better at using social media.I work for a firm, that amongst other things, specialises in social media consultancy for colleges and universities. I wrote a blog post about how FEs should approach social media that may be of interest. You cna find it at

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