Friday, February 03, 2006

Blogging as a PR Tool-The First Taste

I’ve never had an interest in blogs.

The first time I heard about one was in the New York Times Sunday Styles section. A young woman in the city exposed her working and dating life in New York, attracting a significant group of followers. I meant to check the blog out, but never got around to it.

Months later, my dad emailed about a famous blogger, Ana Marie Cox, (www.wonkette.com) who recently spoke on a panel he attended. I didn’t understand how and why these blogs gained such attention—why would someone care to read a web diary?

As I began researching blogs, I found them to be more than a web diary, but a new channel of communication. Blogs have potential; it’s a small culture that I think can become a successful and competitive way for companies to promote their image or publicize a product in a tech savvy forum. Carefully.

For years I’ve enjoyed browsing Daily Candy (www.dailycandy.com) for interesting products, new restaurants and fun weekend activities in different cities. A self described “ultimate insider’s guide to what’s hot, new, and undiscovered — from fashion and style to gadgets and travel” the website now had nine editions that various cities.

There’s a strong resemblance between Daily Candy and some fashion and lifestyle blogs, although it isn’t a blog per se and they clearly state, “there is no pay for play.” I think as blogging expands a fine line will blur between promotional websites and blogs, advertisements and public relations.

Blogs can send messages in ways we haven’t before. Unlike broadcast news, magazines and newspapers, blogs lack the screening and censorship that limit what’s said and what’s not said. This could be a problem in regards to credibility for a company or individual. “Getting ink” is no longer exclusive—bloggers can throw a product or name into their posts easily and instantly.

Many P.R. executive’s blogs express views on media news through their posts, allowing them the opportunity to make an opinion separate from the company, yet with the company name tagged on. A blog can build their credibility or destroy their reputation.

It’s like a more formal and glamorized fusion of message boards and instant messaging. Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, (http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/) uses his blog to respond to ideas expressed in other blogs such as a story written by Tom Foremski in the Silicon Valley Watcher (www.siliconvalleywatcher.) In Edelman’s January 13th post, he debunks public relations fallacies proposed by Tom and speaks directly to him as he clarifies key points.

P.R. pros talking through blogs is like an informal and public form of networking. While private emails may be exchanged, fellow bloggers see their dialogue and evolving relationships.

Right now, blogs are just another communication tool in the P.R. toolbox. It’s too early to tell how significant of a role they’ll play, but it’s fair to say they’re worth a try. I look to blogs created by public relations pros such as Jeremy Pepper (www.pop-pr.blogspot.com) or Steve Cody (www.repmanblog.com) to see what approach they take.

One commonality that’s apparent in all P.R. related blogs is they know the news. Not only do these P.R. blogs address issues within their industry, they comment on politics and technology, and hit the P.R. implications.

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