Weblogs for public relations

The ongoing NUblog–Edelman contretemps has prompted us to wonder: Just how useful are Weblogs in public relations?

Well, very.

Let us assume, purely for amusement, that PR agencies have no idea what Weblogs are, and tend to lump any “uncredentialed” Web sites into a conceptual gulag shared with “chatrooms.” In other words, let’s assume that agencies equate Weblogs with teenage girls and porno. We have no evidence whatsoever that ancien régime agencies actually think this way, but work with us here.

An agency with a single client who boasts a significant Web presence, or a client whose products are widely discussed online (like cars), can use a blog for all the following purposes. And do keep in mind that Weblogs can be internal or external. Indeed, the intranet Weblog, like the compact station wagon or the left-handed mouse or the vegan Doc Marten boot, is a charming, useful, valuable subgenre.

  1. Replace the clipping service. Forget Tim Berners-Lee. The first Weblogs were clipping services, which conjure an image of well-dressed career receptionists with excellent hairdos trolling the pages of dozens of daily newspapers, dutifully snipping out articles on any of literally thousands of topics. (We used to work for government. The daily clipping-service report was 50 pages long.)
  2. Use a common calendar. Just keeping track of what events happened when, and which releases went out when, is a pain in the arse. Have a single person maintain a chronoblog, a Weblog of the chronology of public relations for the client.
  3. Get rid of the Pressroom subsite. We’re not proud here at NUblog. We’re not too proud to name-drop the Nielsen Norman Group. Even the précis of the august consultancy’s report on corporate PR subsites rings so true we shout “Hallelujah.” PR subsites are, in large part, a failure.
  4. Blog the competition. Set up a blog that does nothing but cover the competition. Interpret “the competition” as the client’s competition or as rival public-relations agencies. (We know where the real bitterness lies.)
  5. Blog across the hall. In a PR monolith, one tentacle doesn’t know what the other is doing. Let reps post whatever they want on whatever they did that day. Inculcate a culture of anecdotes. Company-wide procedures have to come from somewhere. Diktats from the boardroom are one dubious source, but an exchange of anecdotes (a form of brainstorming) makes you witness to a company-wide procedure as it is talked into existence.
  6. Rating ratings. Troll Epinions and its ilk for product and service ratings by real-world civilians, and blog them. Did you client even know these sites existed? (For extra credit: Hit the Google Usenet archive, now brought back from the dead.)

A voice rises from the chattering classes of “uncredentialed chatrooms,” and that voice asks “Don’t you know what you’re missing?”

Posted on 2001-05-02