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Five Questions for Yahoo! Canada and Fleishman-Hillard

Yahoo! Canada recently launched The Kick, a social network for soccer fans in Canada.  As part of their launch program, Yahoo! Canada used a Social Media News Release (SMNR) to share details with mainstream journalists and bloggers alike.  One Degree recently sat down with Hessie Jones, marketing manager for The Kick, as well as David Jones, Julia Stein and Michelle Book from Fleishman-Hillard Canada, Yahoo! Canada’s PR firm, to discuss the use of the Social Media News Release.

One Degree: How did you decide to use a Social Media release for announcing The Kick?

A few months ago, we did a traditional press release for another Yahoo! Canada property.  We received from commentary from bloggers that we could have done a better job.  So, in planning the launch of The Kick, we wanted to make sure that the online channel was integrated into a comprehensive PR program.  How and where you reach people largely depends on the specifics of your audience.  For Canadian soccer fans, they are largely online; sports like soccer have a passionate fan base but is not well represented in the mainstream media..  We wanted to reach them and their advocates where they live – online. 
From a content perspective, The Kick is an online community – so why wouldn’t we use a social media news release?  Plus, Yahoo! has a number of social media tools –, Flickr – at our disposal and it made sense to take advantage of these tools in pulling together an announcement.

One Degree: Did expanding the announcement to a social media release necessarily mean that you’ve expanded your release channels?  E.g. Are you including more bloggers in your release process?

Yes. We are expanding our outreach to bloggers and online outlets in general. At FH, it’s called Online Editorial Outreach or OEO. It’s a major push and something that not everyone is comfortable with. It takes time to get people on board and to understand how the blogosphere works for and against us as publicists and corporations. We’ve been reaching out to bloggers and including them different events for Yahoo! for about a year, but for this release specifically, we expanded outreach beyond marketing and trade blogs to soccer and other sports bloggers.
We didn’t do any outreach to traditional media for this site. Since it’s a place where we want to see a community evolve, we decided to pursue other channels and get the conversation started online to keep a momentum going. So far the response is positive, we’ve started some relationship building with niche players in the space, we should see some coverage and incoming links soon.

One Degree: What are some of the particular challenges in pulling together a Social Media News Release?

Writing a regular press release is fairly simple, a one or two person job.  Clients approve it and then someone calls up Canada Newswire and it gets sent out.  In a perfect world, could do this in a couple of hours.  There is a law of diminishing returns .. because it is so easy, everyone does it.  No real way to stand out or identify as unique.  For a Social Media News Release, there are more people involved because there is a technical component.  Yes, there is a template for the SMNR, but it needs to integrate with the client’s web presence and look like part of their program/site/brand.  You want it to have some longevity.
The cost of an SNMR can be 3 times the cost of a traditional release, though over time, we expect that costs will likely come down.  It can also be tough to get the client out of the "tomorrow" mindset that comes with a traditional press release.  Expectations need to be managed about when results will happen.

One Degree: What is the next step in the evolution of this strategy for Yahoo! Canada? 

We’re waiting and watching to see what happens with this release.  We’re putting it out there to see what happens and we’re excited to see the response.  Yahoo! Canada will use the social media press releases more often. We still want to use both traditional and online outreach for some programs sometimes separately and other times in conjunction. We do now realize that we have to have some links available to bloggers for everything we do.
Realistically speaking, the SMNR is really an electronic press kit with some social aspects to it.  We already have most of this information ready to go.  We can use the form of the SMNR to make it work harder and make it more measurable.  And ultimately, by providing this detail, it helps the journalists and bloggers out – which is what we should be doing from a PR perspective.  SMNR’s can build relationships.  And frankly, journalists are going to start to expect this type of content, to have it readily available. We’re still on the front end of that curve, but at some point, that will flip and it will be the expectation, not a bell and whistle.

One Degree: What is your advice to other companies who want to start using Social Media releases?

A couple of things …
First, be aware that your first SMNR will take a little longer than a traditional release and more people are going to be involved.  This should just be a start-up cost, over time it will even out, but just be ready for the initial up-front investment.
Second, and this is something that we’re in the process of creating now but should have done at the outset, create something that people can take with them and then connect back, e.g. a blog badge.
Finally, just test one out – definitely get your feet wet and pilot one. Pick something that has content that is interesting for bloggers. Put it out there and see what happens!