Sunday, February 25, 2007

First Reason for Monitoring Blogs for Public Relations – And a Word About Reporting

Next installment of "Learning about Social Media from Your Desk"

There are at least reasons in public relations to monitor blogs:
• To find blog posts that mention your company
• To know what certain bloggers are saying about your industry
• To know what online conversations related to your industry or company

The first is both the easiest and the most obvious. Plus, you can easily justify the time you may spend on it. The nickname for this is “ego-surfing.”

The most time-consuming way to do this would be to go to Technorati, Blogpulse and Google blog search (or others) a couple of times a day and search for posts that include your company’s name, your CEO or client’s name, and a key product or brand name.

But why would you do this when we’ve got the power of RSS at our fingertips?

You can actually go to these services and create a unique RSS feed for your specific search terms and have the results show up in your RSS feed reader.

1. Today’s homework is to set up some RSS searches for your organization. Listen to Bryan Person’s how-to NewCommRoad podcast episode, “Ego-surfing with RSS.” It’s only 14 minutes. It will pay off fast.

2. The next thing to figure out will be what to do with what you find. The answer will depend on your processes and the volume of results you get. This year, in addition to my reports of media coverage, I started providing a separate report of blog posts. There were lots of practical judgment calls I have faced. For example, when a relevant post is on an influential blog that has lots of comments, at what point do you print it out as your file copy? I decided to include in my reports posts that mention our story but are on blogs that aren’t related to our industry. I did this because we are interested in whether or not people are talking about a particular social issue, so it doesn’t matter whether the issue is the focus of their blog or not.

And forget about trying to measure audience sizes. You can’t possibly. And it isn’t relevant anyway. The more important factor is which bloggers are more influential. You’ll start to distinguish those as you monitor them.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Online Searches of Media Coverage and Blog Posts Yield Varying Results

I was recently working on a report of media coverage for our board of directors. Thankfully, I don’t have to mess with column inches, gross impressions or any of those things. I just give them copies of articles and a list of coverage each quarter. This is the first time I have actually divided the report into “traditional media” and “social media” to distinguish and call attention to related blog conversations.

So that alone, I thought, was pretty hip. But there’s more to this story. It is well-known in the blogosphere that Google is the king of web site searching and Technorati is the queen of blog post searching.

But I’ve re-learned that there is value is using multiple sources.

I’d already set up Google’s cool alert feature to send me links to news articles that mention certain key words, like my organization’s name. But it misses a few here and there, so I also check Yahoo and Lexis.

A couple of months ago to monitor blog posts, I set up some Technorati searches that send results to me via RSS. Then each day, I checked and usually found no change – except for the story I shared with you recently.

But while I was working on my media report, on a whim, I decided to try Google’s blog search. Wow. I found a significant number of blog posts that I’d never seen.

Here’s my score card:

Number of articles in traditional news media identified by each search (January 2007)
Google Alerts = 5
Lexis search = 9
Google News search = 31
Yahoo News search = 32

Number of blog posts identified by each search (January 2007)
Technorati post search (via RSS) = 15
Technorati tag search = 1
Google Blog search = 30
Blogpulse search = 10

I am not promoting one service over another. In a different search, the results would be different I'm sure. I am simply grateful to these search services because I work for a non-profit and can’t afford the paid services (other than a mini-Lexis account). But neither can the average person in the social media space.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Monitoring Blogs without Going Crazy

So by now, you’ve been reading several blogs. But if you’re doing so by remembering their URLs and going to each one individually, you soon learn that it takes way too much time. That’s what aggregators are for (made possible by RSS feeds, as we learned in January).

Some RSS readers, like the Google or Yahoo home page you set up last month are real handy. But there are better options for monitoring several blogs at once. These include: Bloglines, Blogpulse and quite a few more. I personally first tried using Technorati’s watch list, but it was not the right tool for this purpose.

So for this lesson, your homework is to set up a free account with one of these services to monitor blogs.

Then, when you see a blog you want to keep tabs on, you’ll subscribe to its feed. Each day or so, you can go to that service to see all the new headlines of the blogs you are monitoring. It’ll tell you which ones have new posts. Some will even show you the entire text of each blog post, so you can quickly scan the contents. At any time, you can click to view a particular blog in a new window (e.g., to leave a comment). There are also features to save blog posts as “clippings” to refer to later and to share your blog list with someone else.

Below are steps for setting up a Bloglines, only because it’s the one I know best.

• Go to
• Sign up for a free account.
• Put a one-click subscribe button on your browser toolbar. (It’ll save you tons of time.) Click on “subscribe” and then click on “easy subscribe button.” Follow the instructions. I suggest putting this button on both your home computer and your work computer.
• Start subscribing to blogs.
• When you are ready to monitor, click on the “Feeds” tab.

There are other features to explore as you get more accustomed to the service.

Next time, we’ll talk about how to find blogs to monitor.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Two Free Webinars on Podcasting and Social Media

Give yourself a crash course.

Webinar: Podcasting 101 for Communicators and Marketers
Donna Papacosta, of the Trafcom News, is holding a free 45-minute webinar on podcasting. In her post announcing the webinar, she lists the following topics that will be covered:

• What podcasting is (and isn’t)
• How you can find podcasts pertinent to your interests
• How organizations are using podcasts for internal and external communications
• How podcasts are made
• How to sell the concept to your boss
• And much more.

“All you need are a phone and computer.”

The webinar will be held on Tuesday, February 20 at 2:00 Eastern. Send Donna an e-mail to see if there’s still space available for you. [date corrected CLG]

I never miss one of Donna’s podcasts. You will definitely learn something new and useful.

Social Media Webinar
Market Wire will be hosting several free social media webinars that will highlight general social media concepts as well as social media releases specifically. The webinars are free, but have limited space. Information is below.

■ Tuesday, March 13 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET
■ Thursday, March 15 at 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET
■ Tuesday, March 20 at 2 p.m. PT / 5 p.m. ET

E-mail Paul Dyer and indicate your first choice of date and time.

The Machine is Us/ing Us
One more cool thing… In her blog, Donna Papacosta directs us too a great online video that explains Web 2.0 and social media. In five captivating minutes digital ethnographers at Kansas State University demonstrate the development of the social media world. I am definitely going to be sharing this with my co-workers. Watch The Machine is Us/ing Us now!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lesson Two: Get Acquainted with the Blogs

In this lesson, we will explore several blogs related to public relations and communications as a way of learning more about social media. We will also learn how to monitor blog conversations related to your organization, client or industry. Later on in the year, we’ll expand on all this. I am not going to suggest that you start a blog at this time (if ever). So you can breathe now.

First, let’s talk about what blogs are in the first place. A blog is a type of web site. It uses some kind of blogging software to operate. You can use blogging software for other purposes as well without actually having a blog. So what makes a blog a blog. There’s some debate about this, but most I think would agree that a blog has these elements:

• Blog posts appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top.

• Blogs use RSS to send their headlines to people who want them.

• Most blogs enable comments to be made by visitors. Some bloggers chose to moderate those comments before they show up on the blog.

• Most blogs use tagging to help people find their content. Tagging is another term for keywords. When a blogger writes a post, he or she assigns certain keywords to indicate what the post is about. Readers who search for one of those terms will find the blog post.

Those are the structural elements. The main difference between a web site and a blog from an organizational standpoint is that a web site is the formal “official voice” of the organization and a blog is typically opinion, informal and conversational. Web sites are written by organizations, blogs are written by individuals. The result is that blogs invite two-conversation rather than the “traditional” one-way speak.

From a PR perspective, blogs can serve quite a number of communication purposes. Primarily, they can help you engage your key audiences. They can help you tell your story. They can be used to exchange ideas and learn ways to improve your products, services, etc. They can be used in a crisis to exchange information fast without having to fit it into your main web site’s structure. They can help you learn what your publics are thinking and what they care about. And much more.


If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously read at least one blog. I have a list of a few others that you might want to visit. But I’d really like to know what blogs you like best. Leave a comment and let other readers know too.

(in alpha order)
A Shel of My Former Self, by Shel Holtz, by Brian Person

Communication Overtones, by our own Kami Huyse, APR

Disruptive Conversations, by Dan York

Forward Blog, by a group of students, faculty and professionals, by Neville Hobson

Trafcom News, by Donna Papacosta

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Exploring Newsfeeds and Webfeeds

Lesson One Review – Learning About Social Media from Your Desk

So, we’ve reached the end of our first lesson in “Learning About Social Media from Your Desk.” In January, we learned a bit about using RSS (“indoor plumbing of Web 2.0”). How did you do? Leave a comment and tell about what you tried, questions you had or still have, or what you learned. It’ll help others.

In case you are among those who just found out about this tutorial, below is a review of this month’s lesson.

1. Lesson One – Learning About Social Media from Your Desk (January 04, 2007) Explore Newsfeeds and Webfeeds
First assignment: Set up either a Yahoo personal page or a Google personal page. And select at least three RSS feeds to watch over the course of this month.

2. More Learning about RSS (January 16, 2007)
Ideas for RSS feeds to subscribe to and a link to a video that shows you how to subscribe to a feed.

3. Using RSS in PR (January 22, 2007)
Extra Credit: Subscribe to specific search terms through Technorati.

4. Don’t Limit RSS to Receiving Information, Use RSS to Send Info Too (January 28, 2007)
Four ways to use RSS to send information.

Stay tuned for our second lesson coming soon…