Recently, Chris Brogan wrote about the launch of a new social media press release utility called PitchEngine that promised to “End PR Spam“. In his post, he mentioned that I might have some thoughts on the matter, and I do.
If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to witness the event, did it actually happen?
The same thing could be said of a social media press release (or any press release). Even if I build a better mousetrap and have it up on the internet with links and video and images, chances are pretty good that everybody won’t be posting my release to their Facebook profile and reporters won’t be clamoring to cover my announcement. Why?
It’s the distribution, stupid.
The problem with press releases, social or otherwise, is one of distribution AND content. Having compelling content is always an issue, but if I have great content and poor distribution, nobody will ever know about my great content.
While having an easy-to-use utility for building social media press releases is nice, PitchEngine will never be able to fulfill its promise to end PR spam until it addresses the issue of distribution.
Currently, the PitchEngine RSS capability allows subscribers, in this case presumably journalists and bloggers, to subscribe to the entire feed of every press release uploaded onto the PitchEngine site. This sounds good in theory, but that decision would be akin to subscribing to an entire feed of PR spam in the hopes of sorting through mountains of irrelevant pitches at the chance at finding the singular pitch they had been searching for. Forgive me if I don’t think this is likely to catch on. Am I missing something?
The only way PitchEngine can even come close to its promise to end PR spam is through:
Subscription customization – That means an individual RSS feed for each individual brand/company, or an aggregator that allows subscriptions to specific categories of multiple companies into a single feed. A tech writer probably doesn’t want to sort through endless pitches about beauty products and vice versa. Since the service is still in the alpha stage, the beta stage promises, “An unprecedented media PR management app that allows journalists and bloggers to filter the content you generate and pick and choose what they want to see,” just how that will work is yet to be seen.
Journalist/Blogger Outreach/Publicity – Although this will probably require a traditional press release and/or (ironically) some heavy-duty pitching in the form of unsolicited e-mail to get the word out. It is imperative that the content creators i.e. journalists/bloggers be on board, or the appeal will fizzle quickly with PR people. What I see likely to happen is that rather than legitimate PR efforts, you’ll see a lot of direct sales types jumping on the “free” aspect of this utility to build something that looks like a social media press release but is really just a sales pitch. I’ll take an unsolicited PR pitch over an unsolicited sales pitch any day of the week.
E-mail plugin – It’s not enough to be able to e-mail a link to someone to get them to look at my press release. If they don’t want to read a pitch in their inbox, why would anyone click on a link to read a pitch elsewhere. Social media press releases on PitchEngine should have the ability to be integrated into simple HTML that looks the same in the body of the e-mail as it does on the PitchEngine website. Oh, wait, but that might actually encourage PR spam…
At the very least, if these things are too complex to integrate, there should be an option to download an HTML version of the social media press release from PitchEngine to integrate into their own website and/or e-mail template for distribution. I’m also not sure what kind of business model PitchEngine creator Jason Kintzler has in mind, but I can’t help but think of ways he could benefit from all of this potential traffic to his website and I’m not so sure that bloggers would rather be hit with advertisements while fishing through press releases.
Don’t get me wrong, from what I’ve seen so far, I really like the utility for building a basic social media press release, but at this point, I don’t see it being able to live up to its promise to end PR spam or serve as a meaningful service to the industry until it provides, or at least enables, real distribution.