From what I’ve seen, there are three basic ways to use blogs in PR. And they progress from low involvement to high involvement.
The first way to dip your toe in the blog waters for the benefit of your organization or client, is to start monitoring blog conversations about them. At a minimum, it’s interesting to see what people are saying. But sometimes, you can get wind of a potential crisis before it hits big. You might even be able to avert a crisis, by “listening” to what your audiences are saying in the blogosphere. The Dan Rather/60 Minutes II case is one oft-cited example.
There are several tools you can use for monitoring blogs: Technorati (is the Google of blogs), Bloglines, PubSub, etc. You just type in your keywords, like the organization name or product, and see what comes up. The key is to do this regularly. If you haven’t already, try it right now. What have you found out?
Another way to use blogs, is to pitch to bloggers asking them to discuss your organization or product or whatever. In some ways, this is similar to effective media relations. You target certain bloggers, get to know what they blog about, send them a pitch that is relevant to them, etc. You do not ever send a mass pitch to a bunch of bloggers. You have to develop relationships. I’ve haven’t done this myself. Shel Holtz is blogging about one of his recent blog-pitch campaigns. Another example is the 100 Geek Dinners in 100 Days event we’ve been blogging about during the last week. There are plenty of good resources out there to give you direction.
A third way to use blogs of course is to host one yourself. Your organization might want to host a CEO blog (like Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems, a customer service blog or a blog directly related to your core functions (like TV Guide’s blogs about TV shows. There are a lot of policy-type questions to deal with though before you start, like giving up your control of the message (as if you really had control to begin with), when and how to monitor comments other people make on your blog, who do you get to be your blogger, etc. This is one area where the PR blogs can be a great resource. By visiting them regularly and listening to some of their podcasts, you can learn about current cases where companies are doing things right and some that are doing things wrong with their blogs.
For example, the For Immediate Release podcast recently talked about Starwood Hotels’ launch of a blog, The Lobby, and how they initially “missed the mark” about allowing comments. (See The Hobson & Holtz Report - Podcast #129: April 17, 2006).