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Social Media Portal - Profiled - Jiyan Wei - PRWeb

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 15 July 2009

Social Media Portal - Profiled - Jiyan Wei - PRWeb - Vocus

Profiled - PRWeb - Web press release distribution and social media for PRs

Vocus logoVocus owned PRWeb talks to SMP about press release distribution and the impact of social media upon the industry

Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your full job title and role at

Jiyan Wei (JW): I’m the Director of Product Management - I drive product platform strategy and roadmap execution for PRWeb and support strategic business planning, partnerships, marketing and sales.  It is sort of like being the Sous Chef at a restaurant.  You work closely with your developers (cooks in the kitchen) to create a product and then support the waiters and waitresses (marketing & sales) who go out and sell the product.  Ultimately you report to the head chef (a CMO or CTO) and the owners of the restaurant (executive team, investors).  Photograph of Jiyan Wei, Director of Product Management at (Vocus)

SMP: Briefly, tell us about and its target audience

JW: takes an old tool in the PR toolkit – the press release – and turns it upside down.  Old PR is trying to hit journalists and media hoping they will write a story about you; PRWeb is about helping our clients get their message directly to the audience through the Internet. 

Because we primarily leverage Internet channels (instead of closed, proprietary networks) we are able to deliver a product at a significantly lower cost than many other “traditional” newswires.  This means our audience ranges from technically innovative global companies all the way down to your Main Street mom-and-pop shops, like plumbers, wedding-planners and retail stores.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the service (and after the acquisition)?

JW: Vocus (PRWeb’s parent company, NASDAQ: VOCS) a leading provider of on-demand software for public relations management, and tends to have some very enterprise-level clients, but the majority of PRWeb customers actually are small business owners and marketers.  These segments all have different requirements and determine ROI in different ways.  Developing a depth of understanding for these new segments and then building a product that would satisfy everyone was and continues to be one of the most challenging – and exciting – parts of building the service.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

: I alluded to this in the previous answer but we really have three segments of customers: PR professionals looking to innovate the way they get news out on behalf of their company or clients by focusing more on online channels is one audience.  Second, we have marketers – particularly search engine marketers – looking to build search visibility for their Web site, drive Web site traffic and ultimately drive customers.  Finally, we have the small businesses.  Like the marketers, these guys are looking to drive traffic and find new customers.  They are also looking to build credibility and visibility for their brand. 

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your service, and how do you do it now?

JW: PRWeb initially offered a free release that attracted a lot of first-timers who might not have ordinarily converted.  The quality of the free product also drove them to tell others and for a long time we have relied on word-of-mouth to build our base.  We moved away from the free model after the acquisition and instead focused on building happy, loyal customers through educational initiatives and enhanced product development although word-of-mouth continues to be one of our biggest acquisition drivers.

SMP: What separates your services to others out in the market?

JW: We differentiate from the traditional guys in our approach - we broadcast news online (instead of narrowcasting to media outlets).  Also, we tend to innovate much more quickly and this has allowed us to introduce many social media features like the ability to embed YouTube videos and synch up your PRWeb account with your Twitter account – and we make this easy and simple to do even for the little guys.  Finally, we are our price point is much, much lower than any of our nearest competitors which makes PRWeb a tremendous value.   

On the other side you have the free or cheap guys – we differentiate from them because our releases we have the resources and financial means to pursue and build a broad distribution and syndication network.  Many of the free services provide hosting of a release on a domain that gets picked-up by crawlers and have a more niche audience. 

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far?

JW: It’s been one exhilarating ride.  I have to struggle to think of a low moment.  Maybe the fact that there are no good restaurants in Lanham, Md., (where Vocus is headquartered)

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

: Probably PRWeb’s tremendous brand equity.  It’s great to go to shows and have people bring their friends by and say things like “I’m your biggest fan, I tell all my customers about PRWeb.”  Sometimes people just walk by and say “You Rock!  I use you guys all the time.”  That’s pretty cool.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities in the press distribution market?

JW: Innovation.  Search was the first big paradigm shift in news distribution that PRWeb leveraged to really enter the market and make a name for itself.  Social and mobile media  are  having a significant impact on news production and consumption and we are evolving accordingly.  Our own internal R&D model allows us to innovate a faster rate than many of the competitors so this challenge is probably our biggest opportunity as well.

SMP: What are the dedicated social media services that you offer your clients?

JW: Some of the features are that they can embed videos from video sharing sites like YouTube and Yahoo! Video directly into their news release, they can synch up distribution of their news release with auto-posting to Twitter, we have a trackback mechanism that will show them where their site is getting blogged about.  However I think the most significant value in the space is our traction in the blogosphere.  If you run a query in Technorati for the URL of various newswire sites you can get a sense for how often bloggers reference news on those sites.  Last time I checked you could take the top three “traditional” wire services and add them up and they still didn’t get as much blog traction as PRWeb. 

SMP: What are the benefits for your customers using the social media services?

JW: Increased visibility for their news content in additional channels.  Some will tell you that it will increase the likelihood of the news to go viral and there is some element of truth in that however I believe if a story on PRWeb is going to go viral it doesn’t need all the bells and whistles – it just needs a gentle push. 

SMP: What are your thoughts on the social media press release?

JW: I have a good relationship with a lot of the guys who have pushed it forward and have a great deal of respect for them -- and to the extent that it helps journalists and bloggers write stories I think it is great.  I don’t think it is the superhero of news distribution or PR and I think a lot of people get too caught up in the format and structure of the “social media release” template.  Just write good releases and engage in appropriate online conversations and you’ll be fine.

SMP: Many bloggers don’t like receiving press releases, how do you help your clients connect with bloggers?

JW: We have over 300,000 people subscribe to our news via RSS and a vast number receive our news via Google or Yahoo! alerts.  Many of these are bloggers.  For years now, we’ve taken more of an audience-focused approach to news dissemination and it has worked pretty well.

SMP: What other support services do you offer clients?

: We have an editorial team that our customers continuously compliment.  Sometimes I call them anonymously and act like a difficult customer.  I’ve never had a bad experience.  Not a lot of people realize this but through our amazing editorial team we offer copywriting and editing services as well as a service in which a human editor will actually work with you to optimize your release for search.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks and what impact is this having upon press releases?

JW: Twitter is a great way to inform others of news stories that are crafted and available in the non-Twitter Web (and yes there is still a non-Twitter Web).  I look at two areas of opportunity in social media: one, how can the news release facilitate relationships between different users who are active in social networks – such as between PR person and journalist, a seller and buyer or an investor and entrepreneur.  Many of these are still happening in an ad hoc fashion and I think there is an opportunity for news to help facilitate this relationship building.  Secondly, social media is really driving the adoption of video as a communications method.  News release services are going to continue looking at ways of further embracing video as it continues to grow.

SMP: What are the next moves for, particularly regarding social media?

JW: Well, we’re probably going to be looking into the two things I just mentioned

SMP: Top five tips businesses using press releases services should consider?

JW replies with

1. Think about your goals before you start crafting your release – who is your audience and how do you want to impact them? 

2. Think about “creating” a release instead of “writing” a release.  News releases have begun multimedia entities and often times video and images are better at telling a story than just straight text.  Think about how these other elements can create a synthesis that is much more powerful than a simple text release.

3. Optimize, optimize, optimize.  Use free research tools, such as Google Trends, to determine the keywords that are going to drive more traffic to your release and ultimately to your site.  Put them in the title, summary, body, etc.

4. Analyze after the fact.  Make sure you have a sense for your ROI and learn how to increase your impact on the next one.

5. Use PRWeb

SMP: Best way to contact you?

JW: Via my blog at or the PRWeb Twitter account:

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

: I ate a turkey sandwich for breakfast.  That seems odd but I don’t really have any breakfast food in the house.  I’m a bachelor.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

: I sent a bouquet of flowers to my parents for no particular reason – just to remind them how grateful I am to them.

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

: I typically am in the office from 8:30 until 4:30 or so.  I leave the office a bit early because my commute is a nightmare in traffic (I’m in DC…) and then work from about 5-7 at home.  

SMP: If you weren’t running what would you be doing? 

: I suppose if I wasn’t driving the product at PRWeb I would probably be working on a start-up.  Or working as a Sous Chef.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

JW: To Orange County.  That sounds like an odd place for a vacation but there was a good reason.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

: I’m boring.  I drink coffee and read my e-mail. 

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

JW: I suppose the ability to fly.  I’m really getting sick of everything that goes into flying commercial airlines.  It would also be nice to avoid dealing with the TSA cranks.

SMP: Are there any other sites/s that we should be aware of that relate to the above?

JW: Yes –, and are all great sites.

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