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Blogging for Public Relations: Linking, Monitoring, Outward Communications

Yes, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of blog posts and articles about blogging in public relations published every day, so what could possibly be added to the conversation that would be useful?

Well, believe it or not, significant numbers of marketers still debate whether they should blog and, if so, how. Most of us recognize that marketers should incorporate blogging in one or more of its forms in our public relations campaigns. It is just one tool among the many available to us, and it can be very useful. So, how best to incorporate it?

First, keep these concepts in mind – the power of linking, the value in monitoring, and the importance of monitoring.

LINKING

What is this secret behind blogging power? It is linking. Blogs often include links to other blogs and to resource information. Blogs gain followers who read posts and respond to or forward them with links to other blogs.

Here’s an everyday example of how this works. Let us say someone posts something on her blog that is thought provoking or unusually creative. Someone else reads her post and enjoys it enough to post it to his blog, saying, “Hey, check out her post; it’s great, and it fits our discussion.” If it is as good as he thinks, then before you know it, several of her readers and several more of his readers have posted it to their sites, and, like that old shampoo commercial, she told two friends, and so on, and so on…

Through this process, blog posts take on lives of their own and can permeate the messages and thoughts of a potentially unlimited number of people–one person at a time at incredibly fast speeds. In this way, bloggers have the power to not only raise awareness and provide third-party validation, but they can also influence search engine optimization (SEO) and overall web traffic.

MONITORING

Now that we have established why even one blogger can have a major impact on a company’s or clients’ reputations, it’s easy to see why it is so important monitor blogs. If nothing else, monitoring blog posts can remind you of what your audience wants or needs to know.

With hundreds or even thousands of new blogs each day, the process of monitoring them can be a time consuming activity, but, with online clipping processes, it can be incorporated into an existing monitoring program. Your budget will determine how much you can do; how much time and effort you spend.

I have found it to be cost-effective and efficient to narrow down the number of blogs monitored to those that have proven to yield relative posts. Make sure to monitor these AND watch for new ones via online services such as Google and Yahoo! news alerts, which pick up blog mentions.

Once you’ve started gathering quantitative information about blog posts—how many and where they were found—work on qualitative information. Posts can be extremely valuable to an organization that is sensitive to its brand images and the opinions of its audience, so pay attention to the significant trends in words and phrases, and work with decision makers to manage outgoing messages accordingly.

It’s also a good idea to monitor posts about the competition:

• Does your company or client get the same number of mentions as the competition?
• How do these comments compare?

OUTWARD COMMUNICATION

So, now you’ve recognized blogging power and decided to incorporate the practice in your public relations planning. What’s next? You will either set up a site or post to existing ones, or both. The same questions that you ask in other marketing decisions are also relevant to blogging:

• Who should write the blog?
• Who is your target reader?
• What are you blogging about?
• What benefits do you expect?
• What needs to be restricted?
• Where will blogging appear?
• When will bloggers do the work?
• When will the company see results?
• Why are you doing this?

The best posts are lively, relevant, straightforward, and, though informal, well-written. They showcase their owners’ distinctive voices, interests and expertise without crossing into overt marketing language. Leave the marketing pitches to the company web site; don’t bring it into your blog. Inform; don’t persuade.
Now that you have the planning and content figured out, what’s the best way to go about posting to other’s blogs?

Well, it can be done even as you are sending emails to mainstream editors and reporters. Tailor your blogger emails to their preferences: use links, real world examples and references to other experts. Think “sharing” rather than “pitching.” That bears repeating: Think “sharing” rather than “pitching.” Above all, resist the urge to use mass distribution techniques.

I would add that it’s also a good idea to post a few relevant and helpful comments to people’s blogs before ever posting something that you want them to investigate and comment on. Let the blogger and the audience know that you are familiar with the subject matter and that you are willing to give-and-take, so you won’t appear as simply self-serving.

Advertise your blog.

It’s not enough to simply launch a blog. As with any other form of communication, your audience has to know it is there. You need to promote it to gain an audience.
Sheila Ann Manuel Coggins, a blogger, book author and former contributor to About.com provides a very helpful list of the “Top 10 Tips on Promoting Your Blog” on the About.com site. She suggests:

1) Provide quality content. Whatever the topic or style, popular blogs are always well written. And good photographs and illustrations help.
2) Blog often. If your blog gets stale, blog readers will move on.
3) Provide targeted content. Define the type of readers you want and create content for them. This will give them reasons to link back to your blog on an ongoing basis. Do not to stray from your topics or style too much.
4) Use keywords. Search engines look for them. The more you use keywords, the better the chances your posts will appear in search results.
5) Participate in communities. Social networking plays an important role in blogging. Take advantage of the power of linking.
6) Get involved in other people’s blogs. Leave thoughtful comments (not just the ‘Visit my blog!’ type of comments) and try to respond to emails.
7) Mention your blog anywhere you can – in your email signature, in forums, on your business card and in conversations with associates.
8) Submit your blog to directories and registries.
9) Make sure you set your blog to ping tracking sites like Weblogs.com every time you make an update.
10) Consider making use of free and inexpensive advertising tools, including traffic exchange communities.

Once you launch your blog, make time to post often. People expect blogs to operate like a dialogue. They are online conversations. Like any great conversation, you have to keep it going by offering your own ideas even as you respond to others’.

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Donna St. Jean Conti, APR, is the president of St. Conti Communications (www.stconticommunications.com), a marketing communications consultancy in Mission Viejo, Calif. St. Jean Conti works with client companies and as a subcontractor to public relations agencies. She can be reached at 949-290-0622 or dconti(at)StContiCommunications.com.

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