PRs on blogs – some rules of engagement

I really enjoyed the discussion at the Travel-rants Blogcamp organised by Darrien Cronian last week.

I particularly enjoyed the final debate, kicked off by Kevin May from Travolution.
He pointed out that around 20 of the 80 or so people in the room -
ostensibly to debate and discuss blogging about travel - were from PR companies or worked in PR.

thought this was fascinating. It shows that PR people - at least the
ones who are switched on - are increasingly aware of the way that blogs
form opinions about their companies and clients.

Several PR
people asked for input about what the rules of engagement should be for
interacting with blogs. There was some suggestion that PRs making
comments on blogs was something that the bloggers didn't like. I
totally disagree. BUT there are a few things I'd suggest to any PR
reading this and thinking of jumping on to the blogosphere:

1) Add value to the discussion.

you just chuck a comment on a post so that you can get a plug in there
for your company then that's seriously bad. I think this is where some
of the heated feelings in the room during this part of the evening came
from. There is nothing more annoying for a blogger than to feel his/her
blog is being used by someone else merely to promote other
sites/companies/brands. It makes me seethe!

2) Decide what perspective you are writing from - and disclose

you're commenting, make clear whether you are commenting as a PR person
stating a company point of view or as an individual making your own
opinions. (You might want to say "Disclosure: I work for PR company XXX
and the company we are discussing is one of our clients.) This is
another potential hot potato if you don't make this clear. Nothing like
reading a bunch of comments from someone you've not come across on your
blog before and following links back to find they work for a PR company
but haven't admitted it.

3) Don't try and control the debate in any way

You aren't dealing with a newsroom of journos who are about to write
a huge headline. Your reputation as a good PR company is not on the
line (well not at the moment, blogs just aren't THAT influential YET)
Resist the urge to kick into damage limitation mode and counter every
opinion if
the debate is a bit negative. Make it clear who you are, add comments
and get involved, but let the debate continue. Watch and learn a bit.
This kind of stuff is gold dust! It could tell you a stack of stuff
that you'd normally spend a fortune on focus-grouping. 

4) Be credible

you are serious about engaging with an on-line community - great! I'd
love more comments on my blog from all ends of the spectrum... but
particularly from people who I know are commenting because they are
passionate about what's being debated and have valuable insight to
offer. You gain that credibility by reading other blogs in the same
sphere, and commenting. Blogging is about welcoming opinions from all
and I most certainly do.

5) Consider starting a blog of your own

no better way to get your head round what works and what doesn't, what
makes people happy and what gets their backs up, what makes a great
post and what doesn't, than by taking the plunge and starting a blog
yourself. It's easy to set one up and believe me it will be worth the
investment - even if you only do it for 6 months or so and then decide
you can't keep it up. Whether this is a personal blog or a company one
needs some careful thought - and I'd encourage you to go through that
thinking process as you will begin to 'get' quite quickly some of the
subtleties of blogging. I have my personal blog and I also contribute to my company one.
I write about similar things, but I have to think a bit about my
audiences in these two quite different contexts and I have to be
careful about disclosing sensitive information (about clients for
example) on the company blog.

I really hope that this is useful
and doesn't sound patronising... It's most definitely offered in a
genuine and open way. Anyone got any other PR rules of engagement to

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