Gini Dietrich

Using Twitter to Disseminate News Without a News Release

By: Gini Dietrich | October 17, 2012 | 

I’ve never been a fan of the news release.

I’ll go ahead and put it right out there.

I think it makes PR pros lazy and clients too controlling. And it typically has no real effect on whether or not a journalist covers your story.

In fact, earlier this year, I wrote, “No One Cares About Your News Release” when asked if it was OK to post your news release, verbatim, on your blog.

Can you imagine if we did that here? How quickly would we lose you? I’d venture to guess it’d be in masses.

That is because most news releases (and I say most because some people actually understand the value of telling a great story in a news release format) are dull, boring, and full of technical mumbo jumbo that no one cares to read.

Heck, by the time it’s finished, you’re probably bored with it.

An Interesting Case Study

That’s why I was so interested to read Peter Himler’s, “Can Twitter Displace the News Release?

At first I thought, “Nooooooooo!” and then I realized it’s actually a pretty interesting use.

Earlier this month, Ruby Cramer wrote in BuzzFeed:

Just before noon today, about 20 lawmakers and public figures were tweeting about the economic benefits of the DREAM Act, which offers some young undocumented immigrants the possibility of citizenship. The spate of #DREAMeconomy tweets — organized by the Center for American Progress to promote their study out this morning — were a notable example of what is fast becoming the new press release for a media and political class that lives on Twitter.

But that’s not really the story. The story is which influencers and notables tweeted – and spread – the story.

They included:

  • New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (309,000 followers)
  • Former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (1.3 million followers)
  • Former U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (239,000 followers)
  • Actress Eva Longoria (3.4 million followers)
  • Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas (21,500 followers)

CAP, the organization responsible for the study, did not issue a news release. They did, however, provide lots and lots of content and a cool infographic showing out the DREAM Act can benefit the economy.

This isn’t about politics or whether or not you agree with the DREAM Act. This is about a very interesting and cool way of using Twitter to disseminate news.

Twitter and the News Release

But you notice, still, there is not a news release attached with this case study.

Rather, they created some really good content, they built an infographic, and they approached influencers asking them to donate a tweet or two.

In fact, it follows the same model Razoo and YUM! Brands used with World Food Day yesterday.

So why is it only non-profit organizations are doing this?

It’s not new. It’s not innovative. But it is different.

We’re all accustomed to doing media and blogger relations, to working with influencers, and to creating content.

So next time, rather than painstakingly writing that news release no one will pay attention to, why not think about your news in a different way?

Get your influencers involved. Give them all the resources they need. But don’t pretend to write the story for them through a dull and boring news release.



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About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I’d love to look at this from a national/global vs.local perspective. Depending on the community, I’m not sure how well it would work on a hyperlocal level. We did a very successful fundraising concert several years ago with nothing but social promotion. So for a discreet event it worked. But for something that is more of an idea, program, or concept, I’m  kind of curious…

    • @KenMueller I lean toward the opposite. I think it’d be more effective at a hyperlocal level. If you found the right influencers and gave them everything they needed without their having to do a ton of work? Yeah…I think it’d work really well.

      • @ginidietrich that’s what I’m going back and forth on. Around here Facebook would have to be much stronger than Twitter, but they can work well together. I’m just thinking of various scenarios, and how people react.

        • @KenMueller So replace Twitter with Facebook. It’s not about the tools. It’s about getting your news out there in different ways.

        • @ginidietrich yeah. I’m just thinking out loud with some specifics in mind.

        • @KenMueller  @ginidietrich
           I would agree with you, Ken, on the local part as far as Lancaster County goes. I know maybe a handful of people in the area that consistently use Twitter. And even Facebook isn’t as popular here for this kind of promotion. I’ve searched for several local businesses and non-profits online, and many of them don’t have any online presence. Oh, the PA Dutch…

        • @emilykantner  @KenMueller KEN! DId you pay Emily to post this?!?

        • @ginidietrich  @emilykantner NO! You know I would never do that. I didn’t even know she was from around here until today, and as far as I can recall, we’ve never met. In fact, just after seeing this, I friended her on Facebook. 
          She’s just smart. We ooze smart around here.

  • patrickreyes

    Oh @ginidietrich how I wish you worked in the auto industry…

    • @patrickreyes Oh PR. We do. Just not in Detroit. Tell them to call me!

      • patrickreyes

        @ginidietrich One day when I get to that level, I’m hiring you for sure AND I support the virtual office!

        • @patrickreyes I knew I kept you around for a reason!

  • ginidietrich

    @jenniferwindrum Morning sunshine!

    • jenniferwindrum

      @ginidietrich Hey chica. How the heck are you? Good to see your sweet, smiley face this morning!

      • ginidietrich

        @jenniferwindrum I’m hungry, but that’s not new. Howz you?

        • jenniferwindrum

          @ginidietrich I’m hungry toooooo! Doing great. 15 days until crowdfunding campaign kicks off, soooo a bit crazy. Again, nothing new. 🙂

        • ginidietrich

          @jenniferwindrum Is it only 15 days?! Jeez.

        • jenniferwindrum

          @ginidietrich I know. Tell me about it. Freak-out time.

        • ginidietrich

          @jenniferwindrum Nah – you have at least a week before it’s freak out time

  • I used to be anti press release, but then I realized there is a place for it in this wacky world of PR. And not just because most of the clients I deal with come from a time when press releases were the only way to spread the news.
    There is value found when you can share with a member of the media your news under embargo, because all of the information they need is right at their fingertips.(Or share a link at a later date to some info they might need to round out their coverage.) Additionally, if your company retains a media site, the releases can live their as a constant source of information.
    From my perspective, which is the environmental side of General Motors, we’ve actually reduced the number of press releases we write because we have a blog to disseminate information, and we never re-post a release. Some news that may have been a press release in the past is now punched up to serve an online audience.
    So while we have reduced the amount of news that goes out as a release (again, on the environment side) we still see the value in writing them.
    Also – what @patrickreyes  said.

    • @bradmarley  I’d venture to guess, though, you use them in very specific ways…not every time GM decides there is news to share. And it sounds like you’re using the social tools to engage people in new and different ways without posting your news release. Yes?

      • @ginidietrich You would have to define “specific ways.” I mean, we write them and distribute to our media list and GM’s media site. So, in that regard, it’s not too different from what other companies do.
        However, we do use social tools to engage. The main GM social networks will share our blog posts when it’s relevant to their audiences. And we find that our stuff gets a lot of traction that way.
        But we still see our news releases copied and/or altered (slightly) on some of our target news sites. (And, yes, we count this as coverage. There is  no skill needed to get this type of coverage. My daughter could do it. But that’s an entirely different comment for an entirely different post. I digress.)

  • This gave me an idea…thanks @ginidietrich ! After this weekend I will put it together and show it to you (no, it’s not a news release). Hmmm. My thinking cap is on.

    • @aspinchick I was thinking of you when I wrote about using a news release to tell a story…just like you did with your Norwegian story. I like it!

      • @ginidietrich Aww thanks. I will get on my other idea and let you know how it works. You’ve inspired more thought.

  • Yes, yes and YES! Wish I would have read this before I wrote my blog post this morning! I may shamelessly mention this in my lecture tomorrow!
    Good media relations is about packaging information into a great story. Sometimes that can be in a news release and it can be effective in the right circumstances. But, if you can find another way to put the information and resources into the hands of influencers, leaders and decision-makers to spread the word, that’s even better. You don’t necessarily need a news release to spread a story – you need compelling information. Period.

    • @lauraclick I think we were writing blog posts at the exact same time! And when you asked the question last night, I hadn’t decided what I was going to write about today.

  • EricTaubert

    @ginidietrich Great post, Gini!

    • ginidietrich

      @EricTaubert Thanks Eric!

  • LouHoffman

    Interesting case study.
    I suppose to use a news release or not use a news release depends on the objective (I think that’s the “rub.”).
    The news release still offers a good tool for link building.

    • @LouHoffman Hang on, I have to think for a second. Ah yes! Barry Moltz wrote a blog post for OpenForum that said the news release doesn’t even do that anymore. I almost disagreed with him (I tend to think like you do, from an SEO perspective), but decided we haven’t done one in so long I might not know the latest stats.

      • LouHoffman

        @ginidietrich  @LouHoffman It’s been our experience that a news release crafted the right way (journalistic style, keywords, etc.) still generates link lift. An announcement on our new U.S. GM prompted a post on the topic, “The News Release: Friend, Foe, or Link Builder” at The upshot is our “tame” announcement got syndicated on Reuters which produced valuable backlinks since search algorithms don’t distinguish behind syndicated content and original reporting on media properties. It would be valuable to see the stats from the various news release distribution services on syndication in blue chip media properties (like Reuters) as well as correlate what drives the syndication. All the news release services like to tout syndication, but in overall terms. A zillion no-name properties have little impact on SEO.

        • @LouHoffman Really great case study! Thanks for sharing it.

  • I think the “release-free” style is tailor-made for non-profits (not that it can’t be effective for commercial companies, too).
    The #1 factor for me is the passion of your network to spread the word. When there is a charitable/social cause you believe in, you are more likely to spread news regarding it than, say, quarterly financial statements.
    Everyone isn’t a brand ((c) geoffliving  ) – we are content distributors. And when we have a vested interest in ensuring more people know about a cause/fundraiser/newsbit, we will share it.
    Basically, I have trouble saying the news release is down for the count, even though it has been reduced from THE way to communicate to A way to communicate.

    • @MikeSchaffer I’m a person, and non of the above mentioned labels. Thanks!

    • @MikeSchaffer I’m not a brand or a content distributor. I’m just a dude with a loud mouth. Who is listening to Black Sabbath today. That is all.

      • @geoffliving Let me rephrase – people distribute content of all sorts, both purposefully and unintentionally. No labels required.

    • @MikeSchaffer  Your latest conversation link has me curious. I’ll be headed there next. I don’t disagree with you. I just think, as a whole, we rely waaaaaaay too much on a news release when there are more effective ways to achieve our goals that are more fun, too. Sure, it wouldn’t work for an earnings report, but I think it could for just about everything else that isn’t closely regulated.

  • jennwhinnem

    How did you know I needed this?

    • @jennwhinnem Um, because I live in your head?

  • I’d be very curious to see what kind of response rates Twitter is really generating. That is not to say I think it is dead or dying but it is being used by so many to broadcast that it appears to me that real engagement has dropped.

    • @thejoshuawilner I think it depends on if you’re broadcasting or engaging. If I look at our content, alone, it’s still one of our biggest drivers of traffic.

  • FYI… going beyond that… WGN-TV no longer subscribes to the Associated Press.  It canceled its subscription in favor of… wait for it… Twitter.  The news desk and producers all use Twitter for breaking news alerts.
    –Tony Gnau

    • @T60Productions Are you serious?? I had no idea! That’s awesome news.

    • @T60Productions I am curious what sources are they using to obtain state/national/world news? Are they aggregating this from Twitter?
      We get lots of ideas from Twitter, and of course include social media in our breaking news alerts (and sometimes provide news exclusively through social media).
      Maybe I’m daft, but I am not understanding how Twitter can serve as a replacement for the content (and the “permission to use”) being AP member provides.

      • @ClayMorgan They subscribe to all the major TV news networks as well as a lot of the newspapers and online news sources. Twitter is really just a source for breaking news to make sure nothing’s being missed.  WGN subscribes to CNN so that’s the main source for information on national and international news.
        –Tony Gnau

  • In 2005, I received a message that could have just as easily been a Tweet:
    “Your county is number one in the state in preventable cancer deaths. Call me for details.”
    It was an email from the PR person for a cancer treatment center and you bet it got my attention (I was editor of the local paper).
    The PR person could have put together a pretty good press release, but it wasn’t necessary. One short email and suddenly my reporters are doing the work, and of course his client is included in the series we produced.
    Twitter’s like that. Those little nuggets of information – and they have to be solid and appeal to me – can send me into the newsroom screaming for a reporter or photographer. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of “junk” to sort through, and that makes it tough.
    I worry when people want to make blanket statements. Twitter has its place is the distribution of news. So does Facebook or LinkedIn. So does the local newspaper, the metro business journal and the local TV station. Each has different needs and the audience of each is looking for different things from different platforms – and each of those platforms deliver content differently.
    That is the challenge for communications professionals today – you may need a press release anyway, it just doesn’t work well for Twitter.

    • @ClayMorgan I love it when you stop by because you add such an interesting perspective. Thank you.
      I think the issue really is about knowing when the tools are appropriate for use, including the news release. I really do hate news releases because they’re overly sanitized, but they can serve a purpose if done well.

  • DailyBrew

    Social as a news channel RT @ginidietrich: 2 interesting case studies about the use of Twitter to share your news

  • kristathomas

    @jmlpetersen @amprog @SpinSucks indeed! great job!

  • StorchMurphy

    @ginidietrich Interesting perspective as always! It’s definitely another way to think about releases? But, I am still a firm believer in the press release’s utility, provided it is written well; especially as it pertains to niche products, the majority of medical devices, products without mass consumer appeal, or smaller companies that don’t have celebrity or high-profile champions who use Twitter. That shouldn’t be too surprising given that I pride myself in content production.
    However, the stats I’ve seen say that most Twitter users fall firmly in the mid-20s and have between 50-200 followers. Many of those followers are probably not thought leader material. And, many of the tweets aren’t exactly earth shattering.
    I do, however, like the idea of using Twitter as adjunct therapy for press release distribution! 🙂

    • @StorchMurphy We actually talked about this at an event last night. Your influencers don’t have to have thousands or millions of followers on any of the social networks. A person who has 100 followers and people listen to what he or she has to say is far more influential than one with 100,000 followers and less than one percent are motivated to take action when he or she asks. It’s really about finding the right people for your product, service, or industry.

      • FocusedWords

        @ginidietrich  @StorchMurphy Absolutely spot on Gini.  I recently used Twitter to help a non-profit client promote a special they were running.  The information was spread a lot further than a press release, that may or may not be picked up, would have been.

        • @FocusedWords  I love it!

        • FocusedWords

          @ginidietrich One thing that I neglected to mention.  I did DM my influential followers and asked them to help.  They came through.  After all, what good is having influential followers if you can’t use them from time to time?  😉

  • ginidietrich

    @janesmallfield At least in the form they’re typically used

  • MKofsky

    @martinwaxman @ginidietrich totally depends on your industry.. No?

    • martinwaxman

      @MKofsky @ginidietrich It does if there are disclosure regulations. It’s also a habit-too many people use it as a crutch

      • MKofsky

        @martinwaxman @ginidietrich That’s fair. I think it’s an interesting idea.. though it may actually require more effort to craft messaging.

  • torprchick

    @martinwaxman we haven’t done a traditional news release for any of our consumer goods clients in more than 5 years!

    • martinwaxman

      @torprchick That’s forward thinking

  • celiabelgraver

    @gussilber How about being courteous: pick up the phone and talk to the person instead of blindly sending a release?

    • gussilber

      @celiabelgraver In principle, yes, but most journalists of my acquaintance don’t like being pitched to on the phone.

  • FocusedWords

    My question….Is it possible that news post on Twitter will receive more attention depending on the number of retweets it receives?  Seems to me that if you see an item that is retweeted repeatedly (assuming that you know the retweets are real and not a bot) the interest in the item is higher and therefore worth a story.

    • @FocusedWords You know, if it’s done well, I’d say yes. For sure!

  • _Ormsbot

    @susanborst @SpinSucks would certainly make for a much shorter release!

  • GregDevlin

    @jenniferbourn @ginidietrich That’s a great article! Thanks!

  • schneiderb

    @Mktadvice4schls Thanks Simon! Hope you are well.

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