Weblogs for public relations
The ongoing NUblog–Edelman contretemps has prompted us
to wonder: Just how useful are Weblogs in public relations?
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.
- 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
- A Weblog is a clipping service. You can link directly
to a site that mentions the client and add your own annotations.
That in itself is a canonical form of Weblogging.
- You can add a rating (positive, negative, neutral) right then
and there and, with the right back-end jiggery-pokery, the
citation, annotation, and rating can all be instantaneously
“repurposed” into your central database.
- In the case of print-publication articles, hunting down an
online version isn’t hard. You can also copy and paste the text,
and scan in a story that only exists in print. For broadcasts,
now’s your big chance to enter a transcript. Even the chintziest
Weblog software allows this degree of content management, with some
admitted inelegance. (This looks like a job for Blogger Pro.)
- 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.
- 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
- Get your own site: Take the company name, append
.com. (Or use a hostname:
List all contacts and activity (as with the common calendar, which,
through jiggery-pokery, can be shared between the two).
- Hand out userIDs and passwords to journos. Heck, even
Webloggers, if they promise never to “chat.” Let the
journos comment on postings and pose their own questions. It will
come as a surprise to everyone that exclusives are not the primary
motivator of journalists; many’s the time that one reporter will
pose a question known to be of interest to all reporters. Let them
- Password protection keeps the
“uncredentialed” out, obviating the need for
mingling with the lower orders. There is indeed a temptation to
limit access to the A-list, but that would be ancien régime, démodé.
- 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
- 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.
- Blogs work better than mailing lists here: The fact of public
presentation limits the posting of true trivialities, and frees the
list from the crud of Microsoft Outfukt, with its
mailing-list-destroying defaults of use-HTML and
- 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