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the big blog company | Marketing & PR
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Marketing & PR

Blogs are about enabling credible communication... something the worlds of marketing and PR are sorely in need of

Blogs, Blogs Everywhere
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A weblog or blog is a web site where an individual records his ideas, observations and opinions, inspires comments from others and links to other web resources. The format is flexible (a personal journal, an interactive information management) and its style is informal - immediate and with personality. Blogs are public and searchable on the Internet. Blogging has revolutionised traditional on-line communication and is proving its tremendous potential to do the same in marketing.

Business-blogs offer organizations a platform where information, data, and opinion can be shared and traded among employees, customers, partners, and prospects in a way previously impossible: a two-way, open exchange.

A blog is what all “websites wanted to be” updated on a regular basis, contains content that is of interest to a select or target audience and is easy to update and change. Blog technologies can be described as “content management made simple.” Much has been made of the potential of blogs to renew involvement of people in politics and reinvigorate public live, especially in the UK by well-intentioned groups like Vox Politics and the Hansard Society.

Blogs are not democratic. Readers of blogs get value out of the content provided by the author, otherwise they would not visit it repeatedly. Participatory journalism and participatory democracy enabled by blogging does not make much sense to me since blogs are anything but democratic. I decide what goes on my blog, you don’t get to decide about it. What the readers and other bloggers decide however, is whether it is worth their eyeball and further involvement in comments. If you want to participate more, start a blog. The only ‘democratic’ feature of blogging is that anyone with a computer and internet connection has access to it.

Blogs are tools. Even if 99% were boring, self-indulgent blogs where feeding their cat was the highlight of the author’s day, one effective blog is enough to demonstrate that it can be a potent tool put to other uses. The fact is, there are many, many blogs that demonstrate just that.

There are two distinctive features to a blog:

- the format & style: elements such as permalinks, TrackBack, comments, blogroll and archives
- the social network: the blogosphere, including the niche(s) of the blogosphere into which an individual blog may fit

The network is a natural byproduct of the format and style. Therefore, we believe that these are the minimum criteria for defining what a blog actually is.

As a rule of thumb, we say that if you cannot link to individual articles, it is not a blog. Permalink rules. Otherwise, the format is that of a blog, but only at the most rudimentary, superficial level.

There is a lot more to the blog format, of course, but that is the minimum. The trick is to explain just how the particular format features and other blog functionality such as RSS gave rise to the blogosphere phenomenon and to many other aspects of online communication. Most people tend to judge a new medium according to the old one it may be vaguely replacing, no matter how different the new medium actually is. It takes time for them to see the full extent of the difference.

Further reading: Why Bill Gates backs blogs for businesses

PR is a solo voice, a blog is a choir
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So we come back to one of the main uses for a blog - medium. 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 yourself.

It’s not like PR and marketing does not need some serious re-thinking. There are some seismic shifts occurring in the industry:

  • Micro media is changing the PR practice (i.e. weblogs and RSS news feeds and the Vanishing Mass Market)
  • Fortune 500 companies are bandoning “the Universal Message” (McDonald’s marketing shift based on the idea that no single ad can tell the whole story)
  • Use of many stories rather than one message to reach everyone (McDonald’s new strategy of brand journalism)

The real potential of blogging is to give branding a new meaning. Blogs can be the perfect tool for an ‘emergent brand’, where the brand is defined by a company’s a behaviour and is an expression of an authentic identity to a degree much greater than current branding and marketing allows. This is not top-down imposition of branding-by-committee, but a genuine brand that comes from the core of the company.

Paradoxically, authenticity is very hard to get right and the entire practice of branding, marketing and PR has been the opposite: constructing an edifice, projecting an image on top of whatever was bubbling and sometimes festering beneath the high-gloss surface. Engagement was a no-no, hiding from the customer routine and style over substance has ruled the day. Fortunately, the edifice is showing cracks and there are things that sprout forth in those cracks. Blogs are just an example of the process. May they long continue ruining the varnish.

Give a shit. Basically, that’s what this boils down to. Consumers are not a vast collection of numbers on a spreadsheet or a nice collection of 5 categories with silly marketing names like “early, suburban adopter.” They are people with real concerns that will, ultimately, lead to a better product. Listen and give a shit. That’s good marketing medicine.

Blogs also seem to attract a valued consumer demographic. A study released by Jupiter Research last year showed that 61 per cent of Internet users who read blogs at least once a month have an annual household income of $60,000 (U.S.) or more. A recent survey conducted by U.S.-based Web ad network Blogads revealed 61 per cent of blog readers are over the age of 30, and more than 45 per cent spend five to 10 hours reading blogs each week. It would be interesting to link this ‘blog metric’ to the concept of ”prosumers”…

...there is a wider group which marketers sometimes call “prosumers”; short for proactive consumers. Some people in the industry believe this group is the most powerful of all.

Euro RSCG, a big international agency, is completing a nine-country study of prosumers, which it says can represent 20% or so of any particular group. They can be found everywhere, are at the vanguard of consumerism, and what they say to their friends and colleagues about brands and products tends to become mainstream six to 18 months later.

Such people often reject traditional ads and invariably use the internet to research what they are going to buy and how much they are going to pay for it. Half of prosumers distrust companies and products they cannot find on the internet. If they want to influence prosumers, says Mr Lepere, companies have to be extremely open about providing information.

Further reading: Blogs and public relations

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