Saturday, December 30, 2006

Like Construction Tools, Blogging Can be Dangerous to the Unprepared

Much has been written about the benefits of businesses getting into blogging. To some, it seems like a no brainer, like it should be an automatic part of your PR arsenal. If you’re not blogging, you’re among those who don’t “get it.”

Others who frankly are more in touch with the purposes of public relations know that blogging is one tool in a large toolbox. And each tool has its function. Nothing new there. But new tools can be dangerous when you don’t know how to use them. That’s a big reason more companies haven’t entered this arena. They’ve seen just how a mistake can turn into a nightmare.

Before you convince a client or your organization to dive into blogging, do some homework. Do lots of homework. Read blogs. Watch trends. Engage with bloggers. Set goals for specific audiences or stakeholders. Learn from others’ creativity and learn from others’ mistakes.

There is tons of potential in the blogosphere to turn around an issue, a business or even an industry. But faking it won’t work. Ethics aside for a moment, what may have been possible in other media, just isn’t in this one.

Noelle Weaver of Advertising Age has a great post, “What we should learn from Sony’s fake blog fiasco,” that discusses false marketing practices. There are many great resources online and off about how to blog effectively. But Noelle shares four lessons that are deeper than a how-to.

1. “Good advertising doesn’t rely on tricking, lying to or deceiving your target
2. “The consumer is smarter than you think, alternative marketing
tactics must be genuine, authentic and in today’s world, transparent.”
“Today’s interest in brand politics means that everything you do will come under
scrutiny from someone. See number 2.”
4. “Involve your consumer in the brand
conversation, give them the tools to do so and they will repay you four-fold.”

The real homework has nothing to do with the technology. As I’ve said before, for many this is a different kind of strategy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Planning Your Podcast Series

My organization has launched a podcast series designed for one of our specific audiences. We kicked it off in October and have several episodes under our belt. I thought it might be useful for others if I shared the outline of the planning document I prepared in advance for my directors. I did not have to sell them on the idea of podcasting, but I did have to map out a plan for how to get there. The text that followed each heading or subheading was no more than one paragraph (except for the list of related existing podcasts).

  1. Goal (big picture, does not mention podcasting)
  2. Strategy
  3. Objectives
  4. Tactic (This is where podcasting is first mentioned. e.g., Produce a podcast series [when] targeted to [who].)
  5. Benefits
    a. Benefits of Podcasting (adapted slightly from Eric Schwartzman’s list April 18, 2006 post – thanks Eric!)
    b. Benefits of Podcasting for my organization
  6. Details and Next Steps
    a. Frequency
    b. Sponsored by which internal project(s)
    c. Planned Topics and Schedule
    d. Staff Roles
    e. Equipment Needs (recording equipment, software, feedback mechanisms, web site)
    f. Preparation Timeline
    g. Policy Statements and Licenses (copyright, privacy policy, release form, music licenses)
    h. What do we call our podcast?
    i. Style
    j. Program Format and Length
    k. Production Process
    l. Feedback
    m. Sample Introduction Segment
  7. Promotion
  8. Measurement
  9. Other Related Podcasts (topical list from Podcast Alley)

Before I started writing my plan, I did some research by listening to PR and communications related podcasts and by participating in a webinar held by Shel Holtz. I also referred to the excellent book, Podcast Solutions by Michael Geoghegan and Dan Klass.

Once the plan was finished, we decided to deal with the technical learning curve by hiring a consultant to do the production portion, Byran Person. After we record each episode (on a $150 pocket-size digital recorder), he edits the audio, adds intros, etc. He also has advised us on several aspects of the process. We are very grateful for his assistance.

For any organization that is planning to start a podcast series and doesn’t have the expertise inhouse, I highly recommend taking this route. There are several very qualified folk who can provide this kind of assistance, and it doesn’t matter where in the world they live.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Read and Listen to Coverage from the PRSA Conference

PRSA’s International Conference is over, but if you couldn’t attend, there are a number of bloggers that covered parts of the conference, and Webmaster radio has a series of MP3s of some of the sessions and of some interviews.

And, better yet, all of the information is free!

I was thrilled to hear the entire session with Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, who spoke about the changes in the Digital World (MP3) and why PR practitioners should care. Heyward should know since it was in his tenure that 60 Minutes aired the program that about President Bush’s National Guard service using documents that turned out to be falsified. An outcry from bloggers forced CBS to take a closer look at this incident. Heyward talks about his in his keynote.

In the Webmaster radio list, there is also an interview with Katie Payne, who will be in Austin next week to talk about measurement of internal programs. A few of us are driving up togehter to attend and will post something about the meetup on this blog.

Lauren Vargas has a list of some of the better posts from the conference and other resources. I particularly liked Katie Payne’s post about repairing America’s image abroad.

Happy reading and listening!