Monday, March 19

Proposing New Choices: SHIFT

The Society for New Communication Research released a SHIFT Communications (SHIFT) designed "Social Media News Room" template that seems to succeed as a starting place to ask questions rather than receive answers.

Before I consider the merits of the template, I'd like to clarify that SHIFT Communications is a San Franciso-based public relations agency that seems to be working hard to take a lead position on the social media front. As such, I can only commend them for the effort and hope visitors read this post for what it is and nothing else: a point of dialogue.

With that said, I would be remiss not to point out that, much like Web site templates, one size is unlikely to fit all. This newsroom template design seems to be most suitable for people who like buffets. There's nothing wrong with buffets per se, but there is a lot to be said for controlling the experience like a fine dining establishment. So I am thinking that what seems to be at risk is losing sight of the first priority of any communication: a clear message.

I felt the same way when I saw SHIFT's 2006 Social Media Release template. There is so much going on that I couldn't help but to wonder what the intent of any communication tucked into this format would achieve. It begs to be questioned. Will we overcomplicate communication by paying too much attention to the delivery and not enough on the content? Are we to resort to sound bites and bullets so our messages become a bed of nails that have no impact? Does the future of social media relations (if we call it that) mean abandoning all the lessons learned from the past by attempting to start over from scratch? Are we trying so hard to reinvent the wheel to a point where it no longer functions like a wheel (or does it make more sense to add rubber to our preexisting models)?

For social media releases, I propose the future needs a simpler approach: send a one or two paragraph news summary and a link to a longer blog-embedded news release that includes other delivery and cross reference materials. After all, if you cannot capture someone in the first two paragraphs (preferably the first sentence), then the rest of the information doesn't matter much anyway. Keep it simple.

The same goes for newsroom templates of the future. While I respect Todd Defren's, principal of SHIFT, position that "all visitors should be able to easily pick-and-choose, receive-and-share only those content aspects that are relevant to them, as individuals" has merit, I'm also wondering if too many choices might be just that … too many.

I think we can all relate to the idea that buffets, like cable service with DVRs or Tivo, require more effort to review than it does to enjoy the choice. However, that is not to say that SHIFT is doing anything wrong. On the contrary, SHIFT is doing something, which is much better than nothing because, like it or not, social media is changing the way we employ communication.



Unknown on 3/19/07, 5:00 PM said...

The beauty of a template is that you can use what works for your organization, and completely ignore what doesn't. ;)

Thanks for the kind words...

More so than anything else we are trying to spur companies to think about how technology empowers them to converse and share with their stakeholders. Technology, tools, templates - all are merely a means to an end.

(That "end" being "the end of B.S.!")

Rich on 3/19/07, 5:57 PM said...

Hey Todd, thanks for dropping by and leaving a very appropriate clarification comment.

I agree with you and again commend you on taking up a challenge that so few seem willing to consider. Absolutely you've included elements that can work!

Rich on 3/21/07, 11:51 AM said...

Famous First Words:

You can find a recap on the SMR when presented to public relations professionals right here.


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