Bloggers – PR Friends or Foe?

By: Michelle Van Jura, Fusion General Manager, West Coast

There’s no question that over the past five years technology has forced the world of marketing, advertising, publishing and PR to evolve at a highly-advanced pace. First the development of complimentary web sites for some of favorite traditional publications that included original content and separate editorial teams, next the introduction of DVRs and other time shifting devices forced advertising shops and advertising arms of publications to find a new way to gain mind share – enter online advertising, and now, the blog has taken over.

As a PR professional I have watched our industry evolve with the technological advances, from the days of snail mailed pitch letters and releases – those god awful mail merges (for those of us in the business for a while, I am sure you share my derision for this topic.) to the use of email for pitches and ultimately IM as a new communications medium. However, some of these advances are truly changing the landscape of the media and PR communities – specifically blogs, and I think as professionals, it’s our chance to not just jump on the bandwagon, but rather question the validity of this new media evolution and find the best way to approach it.

At our agency, we strive to instill within our team members the idea that we are a proactive vs. reactive firm, simply put, we offer our clients opinions and perspective on activities, truly trying to offer a value that any client would expect. Like many of you, my teams constantly hear from their clients that they want exposure in the blogs and ask us how to get it. Additionally, we are hearing more about 2.0 press releases. I typically offer the unpopular commentary that blogs and new fangled press release can deliver false measurements used to determine the success of a campaign. Also, unlike traditional media, blogs are largely opinion based and therefore, sometimes tend not to be held to the more ‘fair and balanced’ approach of more traditional media.

So, the question I put to you is should we bend to our clients desire in this matter and chase down bloggers as we would journalists? I am not saying that blogs are all bad, but rather questioning the amount of influence we are allowing them to hold today. Shouldn’t we expect bloggers, especially those that are affiliated with traditional print publications, to be held just as accountable as the non-columnists at said publications? Shouldn’t clients know the dangers of working with bloggers, as well as the benefits?

Although it is not my contention that blogs should go away, it is my contention that they have changed our game and as a result we need to determine how much they will continue to do so and find a happy medium in working with them, for the good of all.

The positives of blogs:

  • They offer more opportunities for your clients to gain brand recognition
  • Presented in a more discussion based format
  • Linked to other sites, creating viral attraction
  • Bloggers typically enjoy a very interactive approach to pitching and are often more receptive to controversial notions since they are less beholden to the powers that be.
  • Tight community that can make or break a concept
  • Provides user interaction and feedback

Approach with caution:

  • Even those blogs linked to traditional publications are opinion based or become columnists; therefore, stories are written in a first person manner.
  • Some blogs are seen as competitive to some of our key media outlets, so allowing a blog to scoop the traditional media might hurt your efforts for more coverage.
  • Embargoes – Unless bloggers agree to honor an embargo first, assume that information you send may still be shared in a different manner than news.

Tales from the world of blog pitching:

(All stories are from anonymous PR professionals)

  • As a PR professional, I was totally taken aback when a well-known journalist took a pitch letter sent to him and used the information in the pitch to write his own spin on the story. He took actual verbiage from the pitch and quoted it in his blog, attributing it to a company spokesperson, which I am not. Although, the pitch did not specifically use the word embargo, there was enough information to entice him to take a meeting and apparently enough for him to go ahead and write his story. The kicker is that the journalist informed me that even if it had said embargoed, he wouldn’t have honored it and that if there hadn’t been that amount of information, he wouldn’t have agreed to meet with my client. It’s a catch-22.
  • When a client launched their company it was the blog postings that they received, which gained them the most traffic to their site. One particular post even carried the discussion so far that a CNET journalist quoted the blogger’s comments in his own article on the company.
  • A journalist from a top-tier consumer publication took a meeting with the CEO of a company, assuming he was getting the first interview and obviously the first story. However to his surprise the CEO of the organization he was interviewing, was in fact a blogger himself and after the interview was completed regaled the whole thing on his blog. Essentially, this CEO scooped the very person he was trying to give his first break to.

Yes, the irony of this piece is that I am questioning blogs, their validity and how we use them moving forward from a PR perspective – all in a blog entry – HUMOROUS!

1 Comment
  • Kristine

    October 27, 2006 at 11:26 am Reply

    Hi Michelle…it’s Kristine from the New York office! Just wanted to say great post…it definitely caused the wheels to start churning in my head about this topic. I think that while this is a great outlet for us to utilize as PR professionals, we do need to approach this venue with caution! Since the content is allowed to be so opinionated it is important for us to make sure the blogger is on our side before setting them up with a client and then leaving the possibility for a negative post. I agree with you on all of the pros and cons to blogs and I think that each blogger should be approached on a case by case basis instead of trying to generalize them as a whole. I think there is great potential for good coverage when you have a nice relationship with a reporter who has a blog and frequently covers your client and is supportive of them. I know these are all points that you are aware of and I am just kind of thinking out loud here as I am very new to blogging and trying to expand my horizons!

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