SEC Paves the Way for the Social Media Release

July 31, 2008Leave a reply

This week, the SEC announced signficant changes in how public companies will be allowed to issue press releases.  For some time, public companies have used newswires to ensure compliance with federal regulations.  Very soon, however, a company will be allowed to meet regulatory requirements through postings on its own corporate website or blog.

sec There have already been some excellent posts on the SEC announcement and what that might mean:

SEC Likely to Change Fair Disclosure Rules – No Need for Press Releases Through Wire Services? – Tom Foremski

SEC To Recognize Corporate Blogs as Public Disclosure, What This Means for Wires and Press Releases – Brian Solis

Because a company will no longer be restricted by the wire release format, many people are wondering, “Does this ruling finally usher in the Social Media Release (SMR)?”  I think it does.  In its most basic form, the SMR is nothing more than a news release, specifically formatted for online consumption.  If a company is posting a release on its website or blog, it makes sense to follow the SMR examples.  There is always the possibility that a company might simply keep the old text format or generate PDF releases, but I don’t think that will be the norm.  You’ll see rich HTML documents with plenty of links, images, and social media badges.  The SMR will become the standard for online news releases.

More importantly, distribution will change in many ways.  News releases will now originate on a company website and subscribers to the site (via RSS and/or email) will receive updates in their feed readers or email clients.  I think there will still be a need to publish news through newswire services.  Newswires can help a company “push” news out to various audiences when the “pull” services (like RSS) aren’t enough.  The important change here, though, is that we will designate the origin of the release as the corporate website.  This means that the newswires should adjust their workflow so that they can pull releases directly from their customer’s sites.

How will newswires change their workflow and pull news from a corporate site?  Document formats such as PRX and hRelease were specifically built for these tasks.  Rather than uploading an MS Word document, a customer will simply provide a URL to the newswire service.  The newswire will read the release right from the corporate website and import the information directly into its systems.  The original release is typed only once, posted to the corporate site, and the import process does the rest.  In fact, we may even develop auto-discovery features so that the newswire is automatically notified as soon as a release is posted on a company site.

These changes will take time.  The first step will be a review of the SEC rules when those are released in the next week or so.  There will be some restrictions on the use of websites and blogs.  There is no doubt, however, that these changes are coming, and the SMR will eventually become known as the “traditional” release format.

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