Whether we like it or not, blogs are changing the PR profession.
A simple idea once used as an online diary for technology enthusiasts is now becoming a major communication tool for organisations large and small. Already, businesses around the world are using blogs as part of their communication strategy, and already we are seeing examples of how they can enhance or destroy a reputation.
Some critics would go as far to declare that blogs spell the end of the PR profession, as they cut out the gatekeeper role of the traditional media. In reality, they are just another communication channel that PR practitioners have to adapt to in an everchanging climate.
I started my own PR related blog – PR Blogger - in April 2005, purely out of curiosity. A lecturer at the University of Sunderland, Philip Young, uses internal blogs to communicate academic information to students, and this was one of the factors that prompted me to start my own.
In the short time I have been blogging, I am starting to understand how blogs work and am beginning to see ways in which they can play a part in PR strategy. There are examples where blogs have been used to help meet PR objectives and also how they’ve been used to damage reputation.
One of the most famous cases of a blog impacting an organisation was on September 14, 2004, a blogger (blog author) claimed he could unlock a bicycle lock made by lock manufacturer Kryptonite, using a ball point pen. He recorded himself doing so with a video camera and posted the recording on a blog. Within hours it had spread across the blogosphere (the term given to describe the blog network) and within days it was covered in the New York Times and the Seattle Times, subsequently costing Kryptonite approximately £5.5m in replacements.
Although blogs can contribute to damaging a company’s reputation, they can also enhance one too. There are many companies who incorporate blogs as part of their communication strategy, including Microsoft, Google, Boeing, Nokia and General Motors. Each has been viewed as a successful move.
Evangelists from the companies post information about new products, services or plans they are introducing and listen and engage in customer feedback on the blogs. If you can imagine a world-wide focus-group then this is how feedback from a business blog can be thought of. An example of the use of blogs as a feedback mechanism is when the Guardian newspaper recently had a design revamp. The broadsheet size was changed to Berliner format, colour photographs were used instead of black and white, and the editors decided to drop the popular cartoon strip, Doonesbury. Making friends Within days of dropping the cartoon it was reinstated after numerous complaints from customers on the Guardian blog – a blog set up to receive feedback while the newspaper was going through change.
Blogging is also a great way to make friends with people all over the world. I’ve never actually met them but people like Blake Barbera, an assistant account executive at the Horn Group in California and Piaras Kelly, a junior account executive at Drury Communications in Dublin, are just a few people I have developed relationships with through blogging.
One surprising spin-off is that what started as a casual curiosity has dramatically raised my own profile. I still find it hard to come to terms with the number of people who visit my blog. On average, I receive around 20,000 page views per week, mostly from the US and UK.
Try typing Stephen Davies into Google – you will get over five million results – and my blog will be top of the first page. An interview with BBC Radio hasn’t hurt either. Better still, as a result of running my own blog, the San Francisco vice president of Lewis PR has suggested a job is waiting for me at their London office when I graduate. That’s still a few months away but I have already completed my university work placement at the same consultancy.
This is a good example of how running your own blog can be an advantage when breaking out into the career world.
Blogs are a labour of love and there are no financial incentives, but at the same time they show people you have put a lot of your own time into gaining knowledge on a particular subject.
There are other benefits for students to get on the blogging train - particularly for those who choose a career in PR. It’s a great way of sharpening your news sense and polishing your writing skills – at least it certainly has made a difference for me. I once wrote a blog post asking what PR was like before the internet as I couldn’t imagine how people did cope without it. The response I received was that it has changed the profession a lot and will continue to do so due to the growth of broadband and the introduction of new consumer generated media like audio blogs (podcasts) and video blogs (vlogs).
Top tips for wannabe PR bloggers
Blogs are relatively easy to set-up and maintain and there are a number of free blog platform providers available on the Internet.
On average, I write two blog posts per day.
Make a name for yourself. Google indexes frequently-updated blogs highly which helps your blog to appear at the top of a search page.
Show your online CV to potential employers.
Share your thoughts with PR practitioners from around the world and read their opinions on the profession also.
Why not post me your thoughts at www.prblogger.com