Using Blogs for PR

July 10, 2008

Over the last few weeks I have had a few direct approaches to review websites or products on my blog. This method of using blogging influences for companies to gain more informal PR has been growing recently (especially in Australia) however how is it really working for the companies and the bloggers involved?

Companies have to accept that asking the blogging community to comment on their product or service does come with a level of risk. Not all comments will be favourable and the company has to live by the statement “All PR is good PR”. In addition to this, it is a time consuming process to identify the appropriate blogs to approach with their request. You don’t want to waste time contacting blogs with small readership, rather focus should be placed on larger, popular blogs where maximum reach can be gained. Of course, for the average marketer, there are few tools available to assist in this differentiation.

Using blogs for PR is not a new concept and it has been used overseas for many years. See this example Stormhoek Wines. As a means of evaluating how this is working for Australian companies now, let’s take a look at the companies I’ve recently been approached by and see how their blog publicity is going.

1. e-channel online recently sent me an email, commenting on my blog and attaching their latest press release (about signing Fairfax Digital to their SEM software platform) for my interest.

Surprisingly when I search for e-channel online through either search engines or a blog search, I’m finding very few relevant results (this is despite having seen the article covered in the online advertising media at the time too). This either means their blog reach was relatively small, that bloggers didn’t pick up on the story, or that the bloggers that did aren’t getting their sites indexed.

2. Another company asked me to comment on their site (either positively or negatively) in return for a business listing in their directory.

I haven’t commented on their site yet, but when searching the blogs I can see that a number of people have. See an example here and here. In addition to this, clickfind keep their own blog which I think is supportive of the medium and what they are trying to do here.

3. Lastly, in a slightly less personal approach, an email newsletter I received from Anthill yesterday asked bloggers to help to build awareness of their cool company awards. In return, bloggers can get their URL published in the Anthill Magazine as well as listed on their website. This campaign was approached quite cleverly in that it appeals to a bloggers desire to “be noticed”. Check out the page with the conditions and Anthill also provide assets to help bloggers with their articles. Given there is also a timing push on this one, let’s see how the campaign is going 24 hours after the initial email send…

Anthill email request

Anthill email request

Well so far there are a few blogs who have taken up the challenge. Here are two examples:

The Anthill approach is certainly my pick of the ones reviewed as it is both meaningful and relevant to bloggers, provides tools to assist with the process and inform bloggers and is well executed.

Whilst companies may not be bowled over by the blogging take up, just remember that one blog alone could be getting 1000 people a day to view it, so the reach is possible. Like everything marketing, it’s all about targeting.

If you want to know more about how to leverage blogs in PR, check out this upcoming AIMIA event in Sydney.

Australian Corporate Blog Review – Telstra’s Now We Are Talking

April 17, 2007

Telstra’s BlogAs we continue our business blogging topic , we’ll start the blog reviews with one of the better known Australian business blogs – Telstra with their Now We Are Talking blog.

The Now We Are Talking site launched in 2005 and formed a destination where (amongst other things) staff from all different areas of Telstra post blogs on a range of topics. The site doesn’t look particularly “bloggy”. In fact it almost looks too “fun” and colourful to be a blog! The blogs typically contain quite long articles and cover a range of topics from future technology to pay phones. None of these specifically appealed to me as a visitor however one of the blogs “Blogtoon” did catch my attention (unfortunately this blogger is no longer continuing though – doh!)

Of the 14 blogs on the Now We Are Talking site only half have been updated in the last 2 weeks which is a low rate for blogging updates at best. Blogging is a serious, draining commitment and if you aren’t going to get addicted to it motivated to update, there isn’t a lot of point publishing irregular updates to a no doubt diminishing audience.

Content surrounding the Telstra blogs is quite corporate which indicates this site is a bit of a mash up between a corporate site, and a blog – a site trying to push industry information in a more informal environment. Still Telstra are calling it a success and we can only take them at their word.

Telstra may have not hit the nail on the head yet in terms of the optimal blogging mix, but good on them for having a go and more importantly, keeping it going. We’ll look at some other corporate blogs soon.

Why do Companies Create Corporate Blogs?

April 12, 2007

This week we take a look at why a business may choose to start a corporate blog. We have already considered why a visitor may be interested in reading a blog and this is always an important consideration. After all if your target audience isn’t interested in the content, there is no point.

So let’s take a look at why a business may want to create a blog:
• To communicate with their target audience in a less formal way
• To release information to a broad audience
• For internal staff communications
• To create a dialogue with your clients
• To allow feedback and comments from your clients which in turn can be openly responded to and addressed.

Businesses are now accepting that a customer will openly discuss products and services online and therefore providing a platform and somewhat controlling the environment to these comments (particularly negative ones) becomes appealing.

But starting a business blog isn’t as simple as all that. Consideration needs to be given to what the blog hopes to achieve and how it will be setup. Will it be accessible via the company website or is it a personal blog of one of the company founders or directors? All businesses should be aware of the need to be honest and “real” on their blog. Creating a fake character, ghost writing or anything remotely dishonest in the blogosphere will be discovered and will ultimately hurt your brand. Just ask Dell.

So now we know what readers want and what companies want. Next we’ll look at some successful business blogs and see what is working for them.

Why do people read blogs?

April 3, 2007

Over the coming weeks we will spend some time evaluating corporate blogs and the value they can bring to a business as well as look at who is doing it successfully, and who isn’t. To start off though, like any communication we need to consider the reader and their role in this medium.

People read blogs for a range of reasons and I believe the top reasons are as follows:

  1. The blog provides a topic of interest and therefore is a regular reference point for the reader.
  2. The reader is researching something on a specific brand, person or company and finds your blog.
  3. The reader is researching a particular topic and finds your blog.

The ideal blog reader falls into group 1 listed above as they are more likely to be regular readers, have a real interest in the topics discussed and provide you the opportunity to build a relationship with that visitor. However all blogs have to develop readership in the beginning and that is more likely to be from points 2 or 3.

To connect with readers, your blog needs to have interesting, newsworthy, relevant (and sometimes controversial) content, be regularly updated and be easily found. More than this, it may need to reach the reader 3 or more times before it is noted as one of their regular reference points.

So do you have what it takes to start a corporate blog? In the next week we’ll look at some corporate blog successes.

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