PR and Blogging in the Digital Age

The internet has created a global marketplace, not only for goods and services but also for thoughts and opinions. Businesses, both large and small, are becoming increasingly concerned by the proliferation of comments which can influence buying decisions. Recent research suggests that PR agencies are aware that they need to engage this online chatter, but are unsure of how to go about it.

Tom Chandler, in his Engagement Principles blog, tackled the subject of the hesitancy of PR agencies to utilise blogging. He referenced research, highlighted on the Deep Jive Interests blog, which showed that:

“while most PR executives believe in blogging as an effective tool to share information quickly and broadly (UK 70%, US 80%), and have a role in influencing public opinion and decision making (UK 60, US 70%), the majority do not have a blogging policy (UK 82%, US 88%), and only around a third blog for their own company or clients (UK36%, US 37%).”

It would appear that many PR firms are still nervous about jumping into blogging headfirst, preferring to wait for others to test the water and then watch to see if they sink or swim.

PR’s methodology shares some characteristics with that of the advertising world. Their tactics for influencing mindsets have generally been a one way, top down approach. In a world where everybody now has the means to share their opinions and experiences with millions of online consumers this approach now seems antiquated. PR, like advertising, needs to learn how to listen to what people are saying and to be able to have their client’s voice heard.

Hosting a blog on your client’s website offers an excellent vehicle for being able to respond to online comments and opinions. By having a centralised location for criticism you can prevent it from going unchallenged in other blogs and forums strewn throughout the web.

Handling customer issues in a public format will also enhance your client’s image by demonstrating their transparency, expertise and credibility. People are then more likely to trust you, which is a requisite for an effective buying/selling relationship.

Forrester research offered some insight on the value of blogs in their recent report on blogging’s elusive ROI. Their findings were attained from interviews with businesses with hands on experience, such as Dell, Southwest Airlines and Sun Microsystems.

Steve Rubel, both an experienced blogger and vice president of PR firm Edelman, noted from the study that the frequently mentioned benefits were:

  • Greater brand visibility in mainstream media and on the web.
  • Word of mouth marketing.
  • Improved brand perception.
  • Instantaneous customer feedback.
  • Increased sales efficiency.
  • Fewer customer service PR blowups.

All benefits you would hope to gain from a well orchestrated PR campaign.

Successful PR in the online world is about more than just generating buzz with a virtual store in Second Life. To get info hungry consumers to listen to your message you now need to trade in the currency of transparency and value. By utilising podcasts, wikis, blogs and RSS feeds, PR agencies have the means to communicate in a more open format, and in a manner which will allow your client’s voice to be heard in the online conversation.

3 Comments. Leave new

“PR’s methodology shares some characteristics with that of the advertising world. Their tactics for influencing mindsets have generally been a one way, top down approach.”

I really like this observation. It raises the question for me of how do mindsets created in an era of broadcast and mass markets change with the obvious realities emerging in our networked economy?

The value that lurks behind the resistance to change among PR pros and ad agencies alike seems to be that of control.

Networked marketplaces don’t allow for the same sort of control of message.

Good post, thoughtful and helpful. Thanks for enlarging the conversation.

Keep creating,
Mike

Mike,

Fear of the loss of control was indeed highlighted by a survey of 1100 PR professionals as the main reason they were hesitating to engage online:

http://www.bulldogreporter.com/dailydog/issues/1_1/dailydog_barks_bites/5773-1.html

There is an element of risk involved because of the possibility of negative comments. But failing to respond to criticism can be even more damaging – just look at what happened to Dell’s reputation when they tried to ignore online complaints.

Unfortunately for PR agencies, they aren’t in control of the message as they once were. But at least they have the tools at their disposal to try and at least influence it.

Matt.

[…] In a recent post I picked up a meme from Tom Chandler on the hesitancy of PR agencies to respond to the changes in their industry. The days of sending out press releases to journalists, in the hope of some brief coverage, are long gone. Now anybody with a PC and internet connection has their own printing press and a potential readership of millions. PR agencies need to move with the times and learn how to speak to the online audience if they want to be heard. […]

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