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Blogs: The Public Relations Tool You’re Not Using

Although blogs are now a fixture on the media landscape, the public relations industry still doesn’t know how to deal with them. Public relation firms are either afraid of blogs, ambivalent towards them, or they treat them like a high school newspaper. The following seven tips should help public relations pros deal more effectively with the ever-growing (and beneficial) blog phenomenon.

Don’t carpet-bomb bloggers with press releases.

Bloggers are like journalists in many ways, and one thing they have in common is that they don’t like being carpet-bombed with press releases via email. When they know that every other blogger in the blogosphere is getting the same press releases pushed on them at the same time, they mentally devalue those generic, mass-mailed press releases.

Target bloggers like you would journalists.

Pick the cream of the crop and give them an “exclusive.” If they bite, there’s a good chance that what you would have tried to accomplish by emailing 100 bloggers can be accomplished by communicating with one. Why? Because the beauty of blogs is the viral nature of them, which means that bloggers can do your work for you.

Start with the blogger, then go to the community.

When you’re responding to a piece on a blog, I think the best way to start the ball rolling is by contacting the blogger directly. Be clear about whether your communication is on or off the record, but understand that many bloggers don’t adhere to standard journalistic practices. Even if you try to go off the record, they may not respect those wishes.

With that said, consider your conversation from start to finish to be on the record, and proceed appropriately. Start by seeing if the blogger will give you the opportunity to get that on the record statement into the original blog post. This is important because many readers ignore the comments section and go for the meat, the post itself. From there, participate in the conversation in the comments section, and monitor it closely, especially during the first several days after the original post.

Engage in conversation, not spin.

Blogs are community-oriented web properties where readers are encouraged to engage in conversation. It’s not supposed to be a one-way street like the mainstream media. This is why it’s important to keep an informal, conversational tone when responding to the blogger and readers. Constructed and flat statements in a blog’s comments section will be called out as “spin” and you will be accused of not addressing the issue. Remember, companies and organizations are made up of humans, so act like a human, not a computer delivering a line of programming.

Stay calm.

Many bloggers are like cable television “news” show hosts. They build an audience based on a personality, one that is oftentimes volatile. Righteousness is embraced by blog readers, sometimes more than accuracy.

You need to stay calm, however. If you have ever had someone screaming at you on the phone or in person, you know that the best way to make your point is to let the person exhaust himself or herself. Don’t patronize bloggers or readers by suggesting that their tone is not appropriate for the situation. Instead, tell them you understand why they may be upset and move on from there.

Utilize the same resources for blogs as you would for a newspaper reporter.

If you make the CEO of your company available to newspaper reporters, make him or her available to bloggers as well. Granted, not every blogger has a sizable audience that demands the time and attention of your top executives, but leaders in their respective spaces deserve the same consideration that traditional journalists do.

Provide bloggers with resources.

Though traditional media websites are integrating video, pictures,  and other multimedia content more and more frequently, they’re still well behind bloggers. The web-only platform of a blog gives bloggers ample opportunity to integrate public relations content into their stories. It could be something as simple as a picture of your product, or something more complicated like a video slide show. Vibrant multimedia content is more interesting and attractive than a static press release.

Treat bloggers with respect.

When I ran a blog, I found it odd that public relations reps treated me differently than when I wrote for a newspaper. It was a point I brought up with many PR people, some of whom didn’t seem to understand that my blog actually attracted more readers than my newspaper column. You need to extend the same courtesies to bloggers that you do traditional journalists. Whether it’s something as simple as returning a call, or providing information in a timely manner, if a blogger goes to the trouble of reaching out to you, respond appropriately.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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