Social Media Releases
Public relations professionals have begun to harness the power and influence of social networking for promotional purposes through the use of social media releases (SMRs). This new way of conceiving a news release provides organizations an opportunity to share news in a way that reaches publics with information that matters to them, who, in turn, share with others through text, links, bookmarks, tags, and other forms (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009). As Scott (2009) put it, an organization’s primary audience is no longer a handful of journalists, but the whole world.
Because content from SMRs is shared among users with similar interests, SMRs represent a tacit third-party endorsement for an organization’s products or services. Solis and Breakenridge (2009, p. 117) suggested that the difference made by SMRs “lies in how people interact with it and discover it,
and also the tools they use to share and rebroadcast it.”
The toolkit for creating effective SMRs includes actualities and podcasts, B-Roll, video news releases, tags, bookmarks, and compelling photos.
Actualities and Podcasts
An actuality is merely the recording of a quote or speech from an organizational spokesperson made available to the media by the organization (Treadwell & Treadwell, 2000; Smith, 2005). Actualities are generally recorded in advance of their distribution and are an effective way of ensuring that the organizational point of view is presented to radio media, even if the media cannot physically interview the individual. Actualities can be provided on audio CD or made available to download through a computer as an MP3 file. Treadwell and Treadwell (2000) advised providing an accompanying transcript and background information to help journalists present the information.
Some confusion exists about what constitutes a podcast. According to Scott (2009, p. 70), “a podcast is simply audio content connected to an RSS feed.” Although the word was derived from Apple’s iPod, podcasts can be listened to on an iPod, MP3 player, or directly through a computer. Podcasts vary in length and format. Some, like the Baseball History Podcast, which is produced by fans as a hobby, are less than 10 minutes long. Others, such as the Sports Business Radio podcast, which includes interviews with industry executives, are nearly an hour long.
Scott (2009) noted that the benefits of podcasting from a marketing perspective include developing and regularly updating content that is directed at specific types of buyers. From a public relations perspective, organizations may find it useful to create podcasts of important news conferences or one-on-one interviews with coaches, players, or administrators.
Organizations frequently provide video B-Roll to television media as a means to deliver quoted statements or other visual information. A video B-Roll is a taped series of unedited video shots and sound bites related to a news story (Smith, 2005). A B-Roll is also sometimes referred to as cover video (Cremer, Keirstead, & Yoakam, 1996). Typical video shots may include behind-the-scenes video that a sport organization would like to release to the media. But the organization may not want to allow the media unfettered access to shoot. For safety reasons, a university that is building a new arena may shoot B-Roll of the progress inside the construction zone rather than have the media shoot it themselves.
An obvious consideration for the sport organization is performing a cost–benefit analysis of shooting B-Roll. An organization will incur a significant expense to hire a freelance videographer to shoot B-Roll. Additional cost is associated with editing the B-Roll into logical sequences and producing individual tapes to present to television stations. All this expense will be wasted if no station airs the video, which they are not obligated to do.
Video News Releases
Although similar to B-Roll, a video news release (VNR) has a slightly different objective. B-Roll contains unedited video that the sport organization provides to the television station in hopes that the station will edit it into a story. A VNR is a ready-for-broadcast package that the organization offers to the television station in hopes that the station will “plug and play” (Treadwell & Treadwell, 2000,
p. 263). Lorenz and Vivian (1996) advised keeping a VNR to between 60 and 90 seconds and preparing it to have the feel of a news story.
Organizations often have similar reservations about the costs and benefit of a VNR as they do about B-Roll. VNRs carry increased expenses because of the time necessary to edit B-Roll into video that matches the audio script. In addition, the organization may need to hire someone to record the voice-over for the VNR if no one within the organization is available to record it. VNRs frequently have a lower usage rate by television stations than does B-Roll (Treadwell & Treadwell, 2000).
The popularity of social media and video sharing sites has created an additional avenue for organizations to post their video news releases. By creating an official YouTube channel, organizations can easily share their VNRs with fans of the organization. Similar to standard news releases, these VNR postings should be shared across the organization’s other social media sites. Solis and Breakenridge (2009, p. 126) suggested that “online video is the next frontier for PR professionals, adding a new layer of engagement to any existing PR, marketing, and web initiative.”
An easy way to conceive of a tag in social media releases is to think of a filing cabinet that has several file folders. A tag represents an individual file folder on a specific topic that can be easily searched at an organization’s website or at a social media site such as a YouTube channel. As an organization’s content is published, several one- or two-word tags should be applied to “file” the SMR in a certain folder. As new readers discover the content, they can easily seek additional, related content.
The concept of geotagging uses latitude and longitude coordinates to add geographical identification to content such as RSS feeds, Twitter status updates, videos, and photographs. This feature can be useful for sport organizations that want to show the sight line of a particular seat in a stadium or along a race course such as the Tour de France.
Social bookmarking sites such as Delicious, Digg, and StumbleUpon permit registered users to bookmark the URL of a particular website and tag it for later use. These sites also allow users to share and rate individual stories and URLs. Ostensibly, higher-rated stories generate greater buzz for their organizations.
A sport public relations professional must have access to a reliable photographer who can capture the organization’s successes to be forever reproduced. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is definitely true in sport. Lechner (1996,
p. 157) called photography the “best medium to convey positive information in a story-telling manner with memorable impact.”
Sport public relations professionals use photography on a daily basis as a means to promote the organization. Photos are an essential component to the forms of organizational media discussed in chapter 5, such as media guides, programs, and posters. In addition, photography is a key component of the organization’s website, and social media sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa, and Facebook allow users to upload and share photos with other users or with no restrictions.
Two types of photos frequently used by public relations professionals are head shots and action shots. Head shots, or mug shots, are basic portrait photos of an individual commonly used in organizational media. The sport public relations person should organize a day before the beginning of the season to shoot photos of team members and coaches. Individuals should dress similarly to one another, perhaps in dress clothes or a team uniform (Lechner, 1996).
Action shots, as the name implies, are photos made during an event of some kind, such as an athletic competition or a press conference that the organization intends to use for publicity purposes in the future. A good rule of thumb for the
organization is to have a photographer present
at all official functions to capture the spirit of the event.
Because photos shot by photojournalists are copyrighted by the photojournalist’s news organization or the individual photographer, an organization may not use them for publicity purposes without consent. Therefore, a sport organization must either hire a permanent photographer to serve on its staff or contract with local freelance photographers. An organization that chooses the freelance route must consider several points when contracting with a photographer.
First, the parties must be certain to agree in advance on the pay rate. Some photographers charge by the hour, whereas others charge per day or half day. The organization must clarify whether the rate includes expenses such as travel and special equipment (Lechner, 1996). Often those expenses are in addition to the hourly or day rate.
Second, the organization must pay attention to the terms of the contract with the photographer. Of particular importance to the organization are the usage rights and ownership of the photos. The organization should strive for usage rights as broad as possible that permit the organization to use pictures made by the photographer in media guides, programs, websites, posters, and other organizational media without paying a royalty to the photographer. This stipulation may increase the hourly or daily rate charged by the photographer, but it will save the organization headaches and money in the future.
Usage rights should also clarify whether the organization can provide the photos to news organizations for publicity purposes. Finally, the contract should specify the byline to be used in conjunction with the published photos. Organizations typically provide credit to the photographer in the front of media guides or program, but doing so is less common in other forms of organizational media such as posters. Frequently, a byline will include both the organization’s name and the name of the photographer.
Third, an organization should get subject permission when using photos for commercial purposes. This point is generally not a problem for people associated with the organization such as coaches and team members, but it might be an issue for a prominent guest speaker or alumni who may want compensation for the use of his or her likeness. Photos made exclusively for editorial usage in programs, websites, and media guides are protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause (Lechner, 1996).