Despite the increasing use of social media releases(SMR)I find most often businesses still aren't aware of the term let alone how or when the communication method should be used. Here is a high level overview which may shed some light.
THE TRADITIONAL MEDIA RELEASE: A traditional media (press)release leads with news (what's new/different/timely)about your organization/product/issue and is designed to show journalists the merits of a potential news story. It's written as a print article would be with the most relevant information at the top and more objective in tone.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA RELEASE: A SMR leads with the most common Internet search terms and has the direct purpose of driving traffic back to your website. The title is also based on common search terms. Features of an SMR can include:
Key terms (called anchor texts): Terms/word combinations that are commonly entered in search engines such as Google and are hyperlinked back to their original source, or better, to a place on your own website.
Viral in nature: The ability to share, discuss or comment directly on the release or sites such as Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. are build in.
Photos and videos: Photos and videos with a caption can be embedded directly rather than sent as links or attachments. These too can be linked directly back to your website or a dedicated YouTube channel for further promotion.
RSS feeds: SMRs can be distributed to websites and blogs via RSS feeds. Depending on the content of the release and the key terms used, different websites will automatically select certain stories from these RSS feeds and feature them on their site.
Here are two SMR examples Brown & Cohen Communications & Public Affairs created using Marketwire's service for SwiftJet and Manchu WOK.
It is usually quite clear when one media release strategy should be used over the other: Is there a strong news hook for your release that is going to be attractive to print and broadcast media? Or, is this just important information that you would like people to know when they search the net? Sometimes the answer is both, and in these cases we often write both versions.