Last night I gave a presentation at PR Newswire’s Meet the Media event. I kicked off by asking the audience how many of them had come to learn how they could get their messages across to bloggers. At least half, perhaps two thirds, raised their hands. I then joked that, whilst it’s a good question, it’s not the first question they should be asking.
So I explained that the media industry, like PR, was trying to come to grips with the idea that people no long expect to be broadcast to, but want to have two way conversations. Conversations involve listening and I showed them how to do this using tools like technorati, twitter search, ice-rocket, etc. Then I suggested – and apparently scared one or two of them – that they might want to learn how to use RSS or even create their own aggregations using tools such as Yahoo Pipes or Xfruits.
Armed with the tools and methods for listening, PR people will be able to better understand, based on their own observations, that participation – open, honest, genuine participation – is by the best way to communicate messages within social media spaces.
One thing that didn’t come up until some conversations following the presentation and Q&A is that, rather than sending stuff out to bloggers, more Marketing and PR people should start setting up their own sites where they aggregate, quote from and link to the discussions bloggers and others are having about their brands. I call this a "link tap".
Most bloggers regularly look at their statistics using tools such as statcounter or google analytics. One of the most useful statistics usually captured by these services is where inbound traffic is coming from. Tools such as Technorati go a step further in seeking out and keeping track of who links to who in the blogosphere, and assigning an "authority" rating based on link popularity. If you quote from and link to a blogger, chances are they’ll know pretty quickly.
Not only does this mean they’ll probably have a look at what you’ve had to say, but they’ll also see that you’re trying to participate in the same conversation they’re having. It’s a bit like flirting – just as a batted eyelash or smile from across the floor of a crowded nightclub might intice someone to approach and have a discussion, a link acts as an aknowledgement that you want to engage.
The best way for a PR to approach bloggers: set aside your broadcast model, learn to listen, start to understand, be authentic and honest about who you are and who you represent and – then and only then – start participating in their conversation.