Not another post about the Social Media Release thingy

I have a Costco-sized, artery-clogging lump of text sitting in the draft folder, on the subject of the Social Media Release flapdoodle going on around Stowe's blog.

The incredibly condensed version of my thinking on this: whether a Social Media Release (SMR) format is something we need or not; one thing, at least, seems clear. It needs a better name. As a self-respecting PR person, how can I counsel my clients to adopt something for which the abbreviation sounds like "SMEAR"?

But more on all that shortly.

In the meantime, if you missed the first episode of Ira Basen's "Spin Cycles" on CBC Radio One this past Sunday, I'd highly recommend you check it out online. Excellent stuff.

One particularly interesting moment (for people who follow this kind of thing) was towards the end of the show, when Ira ran in a few quick minutes of a conversation he'd had with Richard Edelman, head of Edelman PR.

A little disclosure, first of all:

1. I'm a PR guy who happens to work for a company that competes with Edelman, so I'm conflicted here - I don't want it to appear that this is gratuitous harping or knocking copy;

2. I know and respect a number of the people who work for Edelman, here in Toronto and elsewhere in the world. Good people;

3. Two good friends of mine have been actively consulting with the Edelman organization in the last couple of years, helping them to steer their Me2Revolution initiatives;

So in other words, I have plenty of reasons - even more than I've stated here - to want to give Richard Edelman the benefit of the doubt.

Quite apart from anything else, I'm probably going to bump into him at AlwaysOn Media in New York next week. There's a good chance he could kick me in the ankles.

Without further fussing and twisting myself into knots, suffice to say this: I'm sorry, Richard, but when I heard the clip I couldn't not post it. As you've said, Edelman "is properly being held to the highest standard on transparency" - that's what happens when you attain the position of leadership.

Towards the end of Ira's first hour-long segment on the history of Spin, he turned his attention to the topic of "astroturfing", introducing Richard Edelman as one of the biggest critics of the practice. Here's my quick transcript of the relevant segment. It started with an excerpt of a taped interview between Edleman and Basen, cutting back to Basen's direct commentary for the last quoted section below:

EDELMAN: Oftentimes, PR companies use names of front organizations to say, you know, "People For A Better Energy Future" or something, rather than saying they're working for the coal industry. In fact, I think in today's world of the Internet and immediacy of information, you don't have the ability to have that kind of artifice. You've just got to say: "Here's my objective, here's my data behind it," and let the public decide who's telling the truth.

BASEN: So they're often called "Astroturf" organizations - organizations that are essentially fronts for something. Your company doesn't do that? You're opposed to that?

EDELMAN: I'm completely opposed to it, because I think it doesn't work. Leave aside whatever my personal view is - I'm into functionality and success, and I believe that the smartest clients today recognize that they're better off step-by-step making their case.

BASEN: Here's the thing about functionality. The reason why PR firms like these astroturf organizations is that they actually do work. Even Richard Edelman's company has been known to succumb to the temptation.

At this point, Ira - as you'd expect - proceeds to tell the story of the "Wal-Marting Across America" fake blog.

Ouch. It's not unreasonable to suggest that Ira led Edelman into that one - he pretty much hands Richard the quote he needs to make his point. Still, ouch all the same.