The PR Impact of Blogs
BeSpacific has a great post with a link to this interesting whitepaper: "Trust 'MEdia' - How Real People Are Finally Being Heard", with the subtitle, "The 1.0 Guide to the Blogosphere for Marketers & Company Stakeholders".
It's a good guide for companies who are struggling to understand the blogging phenomenon. My advice: Read the paper, and learn from the many mistakes companies have made by trying to cash in on blogging, or trying to control something they did not understand. Read the statistics on bloggers. Many are extremely intelligent, well educated, tech-savvy, and long-term Internet veterans. The ones you want to approach are not the cranks and fanatics who like to rant. That's the first reality check. Next, read the section on "Blogs Gone Wrong".
My advice for any company looking to leverage the blogosphere: Lurk and learn before you do. Understand the individual blog sites and bloggers' perspectives and passions. Don't market to them -- engage them. Don't approach blogs as quick hit marketing stunts, but as a longer term strategy and investment.
Transparency, trustworthiness, and integrity are king. Anonymous and "shill" blogs are dangerous -- it's only a matter of time before you are found out. Reputation damage is more costly to recover from than most realize. Consider the following guidelines I've put together:
- Be yourself. If you forget or ignore all else mentioned here, be genuine. Integrity is everything in the blogosphere. Always take the high road, and you won't have anything to worry about -- no damage control, no back-peddling press releases, public apologies, rebates, etc. Bloggers can sniff out phoneys in a heartbeat.
- Engage bloggers as you would a valued business partner. While bloggers tend to be quite generous in helping others, don't engage them with a "something for nothing" approach. It's a huge turn-off. If you're going to benefit from visibility from a mention on someone else's blog, be prepared to contribute something of value in return. Make it worth their time.
- Many established bloggers greatly dislike the "reciprocal links" type of request. We have been inundated with them. We're already highly visible and highly placed on Google. Obviously, that's far more valuable to the link requestor than the established blogger. So what's so reciprocal about it?
- Consider what will make it worth the blogger's time and credibility risk by endorsing you with a mention. Can you pique their interest with something novel or useful, or provide them with a truly free sample of your product or service? Bloggers love freebies, and they'll likely disclose that fact to maintain their transparency and credibility. Don't be stingy -- the one demo unit you give up will likely pay for itself many times over in ways you couldn't have paid traditional marketing channels a handsome amount to accomplish. If the bloggers like the product or service, chances are they will continue to blog about it, other bloggers will pick up on the posts and blog about it, and the circle of exposure widens exponentially. If you require that they return the unit, you've greatly reduced your exposure by orders of magnitude. If it's really the better mousetrap, giving it up it will sell itself many times over.
- Take the time to read and understand the blogger's perspective you'd like to approach. It's easy to offend someone when you don't know who they are, what they do, and their passions.
- Bloggers love being part of the "in" crowd, being "in the know" before others. Find reputable and influential bloggers and make them one of the team. Make it a strategic alliance.
Naturally, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. Avoid the "get rich quick" approach, and you just might receive more than you anticipated.
Posted by Jeff Beard