Personal Technology

Integrating Web Communications in Public Relations Campaigns

What do you say to a room full of PR folks in five minutes to convince them of the importance of social software … blogging networks … word of mouth? You could begin with quotables:

"We have to convince journalists that the consumer owns the story," says Dan Bradley, vice president of broadcast news at Media General and former news director of WFLA-TV.

    – We Media

Blogging, I firmly believe, is the premier emergent marketing-brandbuilding-lovemarkcreating tool of our times! It is the premier way to have intimate-engaging-informative-WOWing ‘conversations’ with Clients and prospects!

    – Tom Peters

Or examples of how word of mouth have worked (or not).

Another tactic might be to counter current dismissals. A common meme: not many people read blogs. Here are data some from Pew:

  • 16% of all U.S. adults read blogs; this is 25% of those online (May 2005)
  • 17% of the American public regularly listens to talk radio
    (June 2004)
  • 23% of Americans under age 30 read a newspaper yesterday (June 2004)
  • 27% of cars in the US are made by GM (January 2005)

Do we write off talk radio as being unimportant? I thought not. Do papers strategize to boost their young readership, or just write them off?

Dismissal is not an option.

However, that argument is disingenious, because it rests on what I believe is a flawed assumption.

Now’s the time to remind folks that we need to separate the technology from the content. (This almost sounds like an XML talk!)

What I mean is this: blogging technology is to blogs what an offset printing press is to newspapers. We can use the printing press (blogging software) to create more than one genre of printed material. What do USA Today, The Seattle Weekly and this week’s Safeway circular have in common? Ink, paper and a printing press. But we don’t lump them together when we’re talking about declining newspaper readership, the growth of free weeklies or how to determine where to advertise food specials.

The best questions are audience-centered:  who is your audience, what media do they consume today and what media do you expect them to consume tomorrow?

The answers will help chart your technological course. I firmly believe that part of that course should involve — or at least consider — social software. But just as I wouldn’t advise everyone to hire a lobbyist or place a full page ad in the New York Times, nor would I automatically assume everyone "needs a blog."

What people do need (want, desire) is a voice. Blogging software (the technology) does that really really well. It’s transformative power is akin to that of Pagemaker on typesetting. No longer do I need to get my hands dirty writing code to publish my thoughts on the Web. (But I still can if I want to.)

But it doesn’t stop there: two more innovations are key.

The first is RSS — real simple syndication. This removes the burden of "bookmark and remember to check to see if there’s anything new" — because an RSS reader will automagically let you know when your "feeds" have been updated (based on your update preferences). Issues remain with ease-of-subscription, but I’m convinced the technologists will solve that problem.

The second is the ability to foster a dialog between author and readers through comments. This interactivity is central to the blogging phenomena, especially in the area of politics.

OH. That reminds me. Somewhere in that five minutes (hah!) we should
nail down definitions. I characterize something as a blog when it meets
these criteria:

  • Reverse chronological journaling (format)
  • Regular, date-stamped entries (timeliness)
  • Links to related news articles, documents, blog entries within each entry (attribution)
  • Archived entries (old content remains accessible)
  • Links to related blogs (blogrolling)
  • RSS or XML feed (ease of syndication)
  • Passion (voice)

What about a podcast? The Oxford English Dictionary says:

podcast noun a digital recording of a radio broadcast
or similar programme, made available on the Internet for downloading to
a personal audio player.

That definition, however, ignores RSS – which I believe is a key component. RSS technnology is pull:
I decide that I want this information — and as soon as it’s updated,
it comes to me automagically through my RSS reader (iTunes, for me,
when it’s a podcast).

Then there is social software (blogs, wikis, tags … BBs, email, listservs). More at Many2Many.

And no discussion of conversation and the Web in 2006 is complete without a reference
to Web 2.0! (Otherwise known as no fuss user-generated content combined
with automagic discovery/retrieval and transparent networks.)

A closing rant: think before you repurpose! I’d like to string up the person who thought repurposing 30 second TV spots as prequels to 60-80 second news clips was a Good Idea. [A nod to broadband and online news.]

On that note, I’ll close with a list of resources.

Blogs, People, Things To Read:

Projects to Watch:

Digital Media Blogs:


My Stuff

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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