Products and Services
You know more about your company and your customers than anyone else. A blog can help you let the world know that. Communication with your customers and markets is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The Big Blog Company can build a strategy for this conversation that is tailored to your organisation’s challenges and targets, and help you find the right voice - your authentic, credible voice - in which to have that conversation.
Become an industry expert
Your customers are not the only audience out there. It may be very much in your interest to talk to your industry peers and the press, to establish thought leadership and expertise in your field. If PR is the art of spreading and managing a company’s messages across other peoples’ media by proxy, then blogging is using your own medium to disseminate those messages.
As well as a complete strategy for your company’s blog and how it will engage the network, we will guide you in the area of content generation, help you to select the right contributors for your blog, share our style tips, develop blog management guidelines and train your employees in the art, science and law of blogging. If needed, we can find an experienced blogger from outside your organisation, with relevant expertise, to kick-start your blog.
Man Bites Dog is based on the idea that ‘watchdog’ organisations - be they official regulators, private ‘consumer advocate’ groups, or extremist groups that target specific industries - should not just be reacted to, they need to be pre-empted when possible and actively engaged when that is not possible… and the means to do this is using blogs as a tool to implement a crisis response.
Taking the Man Bites Dog approach means presenting the company or organisation’s point of view in a crisis in an overtly confrontational manner. It is less a defensive attempt at damage limitation in a crisis and more a counter-attack on the group’s persecutors.
For example, British Gas might employ their own medium - their own blog - to explain that, far from what the mainstream media would have the public believe, they did not put up their rates in order to satisfy “fat cat” executives’ hunger for bigger pay packets. They could detail exactly which industry circumstances and government regulations forced them to take such a decision, and the lengths they went to for two years to avoid having to pass their increasing costs of doing business to their customers. Further, they could directly challenge those regulations and encourage customers to get angry about those rather than making British Gas the target of their dissatisfaction.
If it’s more complicated than “4 legs good, 2 legs bad,” forget it
In a soundbite culture, people who deal in serious and complex problems – especially scientific or economic ones – usually do not fare well in mainstream media representation. If the argument cannot be summed up in simplistic terms that require only scant knowledge of the industry, then regardless of the fact that you are right and the other side is talking rubbish, the perception is that you have lost the debate.
This is what happens when you rely on other peoples’ media to disseminate your message. Especially when your message is not simplistic enough for supposedly informed journalists to grasp, let alone the audience, you do not get a proper hearing.
A question worth asking
So what is the business case for not using your own medium – and one that allows for rapid and widespread distribution of your message – to say what you need to say, how you need to say it?
Being believed matters
In order to be believed, your credibility must be obvious and undeniable. Do journalists really help you on that score?
How many members of the public actually read your press releases? Of those who do, how many take them as gospel? More to the point, how many media outlets represent the content of your press releases faithfully, as you would have them do it?
Pre-act, not react
Don’t just wait for watchdog groups to attack you. Pre-empt their blows when possible and actively combat the foundations of their thinking and public image on a constant basis. Cultivate an authentic, credible organisational voice, free of slick PR-speak and emanating from an identifiable human (or humans) within your company or association. Spread the messages that underlie your and your members’ interests on a perpetual cycle, widely disseminating the right ideas on a grand scale, via the 4 million-plus blogs on the web. Then, when PR crises happen, have your say via your own medium, making the most of the credibility you’ve established with the public.
While it is conceivably possible to set up a crisis blog and maintain it without previous blogging experience (provided training on blogging best practice is provided), ideally the best crisis bloggers will be people who are already experienced bloggers and who understand the medium and techniques for blogging effectively: companies which already blog will find it easiest to blog to maximum effect in times of crisis.
Speed of light is the speed of right now
The rapidity with which you can tell your side of the story is crucial. For best results, you must operate inside the news cycle. Blogs allow you to do just that.
By the time the morning papers land in the front hedge, your blog will already have a measured, credible response there for all to see. Acknowledging issues and spelling out what you have done and are doing about them will go a long way towards blunting the ability of the media to present news as some kind of scoop. It also allows you to engage any disgruntled parties without using the press – other peoples’ media – as an intermediary. And journalists will have to use your blog as a source, driving even more people to read it and get your side of the issues.
Relying on others to explain why you are right will not work
As crisis PR firm Sitrick & Company‘s strapline says: If you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you. Instead of only having your say in media that belong to other people - and other interests - take your message to the people.
Make the most of a cutting-edge technology that allows you to reach a network that cannot be ignored.
Let the members of that network spread your message for you.
Make it easy for them.
It is imperative to respond to a PR crisis as quickly as possible. This means operating inside the news cycle, and not having to wait on your IT department to update your website with crucial communications.
Given the negative, cynical tendencies of mainstream media, the blogosphere can offer an alternative, more positive viewpoint of a crisis. Alice Marshall addressed this in commenting on Blogging in a Crisis for the Global PR Blog Week:
If the traditional media is negative, there is at least the possibility to get a completely different spin going in [the] blogosphere. Indeed that is what happened when the White House went after the Dixie Chicks. Traditional media were very critical of the Dixie Chicks’ pubic criticism of Bush, but [the] blogosphere became their champions, linking to Amazon sales of their CD, and keeping it on the best-selling album list for weeks.
The blog’s role in crisis communications is:
- to disseminate the facts, staying ahead of the news cycle
- to project a company’s message
- and to combat error and quash rumours
Risk communication is putting greater emphasis on transparency, information sharing, honest consultation and accountability. All four can be achieved and supported by a blog, which apart from these attributes also provides speed, enormous reach to multiple audiences, credibility, and ease of use. The latter means flexibility and information presented by individuals, using their own names, which gives a human face to the organisation. The most important assumption here is that any information is better than none from the point of view of the public/audience.
We call this stuck on the Tube/subway syndrome:
A Tube train stops suddenly in the tunnel, for no reason that passengers can discern.
Scenario A: No announcement is made, the train moves within two minutes but in that time the passengers have grown restless and are annoyed.
Scenario B: The driver immediately communicates with the passengers - even when he does not know why and how long it will be before the train moves again. He keeps them informed and engaged until he does have something to tell them. It may take the train longer than two minutes to move, but the level of annoyance will be much lower than in the previous scenario. The communication by the driver has diffused and lowered the customers’ tension.
A company cannot remain silent and communication is always necessary. Not showing up for the conversation does not count. According to Corello, the seven cardinal rules of effective risk communication are
1. involve the public as a legitimate partner
2. plan and evaluate your efforts
3. listen to specific concerns
4. be honest, frank and open
5. collaborate with other credible sources
6. meet needs of the media
7. speak clearly
Blogging as a continuous record of facts and corrections of errors in near real-time is valuable. In crisis management, a blog is not a journal of an indiviudal but a record of a company’s management of crisis. The problem in crisis is getting out facts - not opinions - and stating them as quickly and accurately as possible. Quashing rumours is also essential. Such crisis blogging should be done by one person directly reporting to the CEO, who should verify all the facts as they come in. Everything should be approved and no individuality should be evident from the blog. The individual blogging is there to provide a human face, not his opinions, as any information provided by the company in a crisis may be shifted by lawyers and other hostile members of the company’s audience afterwards.
Pre-crisis planning is now an even bigger part of corporate governance requirements as is an ongoing risk and threats assessment. A company may choose to have a crisis blog as one of the tools for crisis management. It may choose to use the blog only in a crisis, ready with the domain and with relevant training for the employee in charge of risk communication. Alternatively, they can use an existing blog provided that they have one. An ongoing company blog would have the advantage of an existing audience and make the reach of the company in times of crisis that much more effective. Either way, a website is too slow and does not enable fast, convenient and targeted linking, as well as the ease of use that blogs are known for.
Perhaps the most important part of real-time crisis management is for a company to stay ahead of the news cycle. If the company can’t get the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why) out before the news media does, it will forever be battling with rumours and corrections. Fast and competent communication will give the company in crisis the chance to add detail and slow speculation. The company can become the leader of the news on the crisis (as it should be) and its communications instead of becoming a flustered, sweating and evasive victim of the hounding media.
Communication failures, interminable email trails, and the cc and bcc maze can bog down the best projects. A blog, accessible to specified individuals and restricted from external/public view, can become the hub of information, ideas and expertise for individual teams or the entire company. Internal communication need not be a chore, if it is based on individual contributions presented in a dynamic and collaborative format. A blog is also a searchable, structured and categorised record of the project during and after its completion.
With an internal blog capturing information flows and interactions, everyone who participates and reads it comes to meetings up-to-speed and ready to get down to business. And new people can review the internal blog’s content and jump straight in with a clear understanding of how the project and/or the company evolved.
The Big Blog Company will evaluate the need for your team or company to employ internal blogging, and build a tailored strategy that suits your particular business objectives and challenges. We can also design and implement internal blogs, train your employees in how to use them, and guide your organisation every step of the way in maximising the collaborative and knowledge management uses of internal blogging.
One of the things a blog is characterised by is the ease and speed with which non-technical employees can enter and publish their content on the internet without the assistance of a staff of webmasters.
However, a company’s blog will often just be part of a larger corporate web presence. This sometimes means that a company will have an easy to update blog married to a bunch of static web pages that all require the services of a skilled HTML coder to edit in any way.
Or, at the other end of the scale, some companies have vastly expensive, ultra-powerful content management systems managed by a cadre of highly trained (and highly paid) technical staff who enable manipulation of the company’s web content.
There is a better alternative to both those situations. Why not use one of the inexpensive and easy to use content management systems designed for publishing blogs to power your entire web presence? We do exactly that for organisations, and can do it for yours.
Further reading: Social Affairs Unit, a customer for whom we built their entire web presence using blogging software