Sunday, January 22, 2006

New PR Tactics for the Word-Of-Mouth World

Bloggers are opinion leaders. They can influence brand awareness, set customer expectations and reward or punish service delivery or lapses. I buy these arguments. What I’m not sure about is how to address them to get the best spin for my clients.

In one instance, I searched Technorati, Ice Rocket, Sphere and Google’s Beta Blog Search tool to identify people blogging in our category, industry or product category. I built a list of 65 people and personally e-mailed each of them. I wrote a straightforward e-mail identifying myself as a representative of the company, soliciting their opinions and offering a free product trial. Five responded. Three took the trial. Nobody wrote a syllable about our product.

The next time I sent the same universe a press release announcing a product innovation. The release resonated with several trade papers and consumer reporters. My “press” mailing yielded several inquiries, a small wire service story and three product reviews in desirable specialty magazines. The bloggers remained on radio silence.

Since then I’ve been mulling the problem – how do you reach out to and influence bloggers who can in turn influence your customers and prospects?

Then I read an essay by Andy Sernovitz on iMedia Connection which opened my eyes to a radically different approach to these citizen journalists. He essentially argues that you need to join their party rather than invite them to yours. Like journalists, bloggers set their own agenda. Those seeking to influence the agenda have to intersect it on its own terms. Influencing their posts and their audience requires following their threads, commenting on their posts and presenting your product or your point of view in their context.

You still have to be forthright, upfront and clear about who you are and who you represent. You cannot disguise yourself or pretend to be an uninterested civilian inserting product or brand references. But it’s about aligning what you are pushing with what they are thinking, talking and writing about.

Sounds right doesn’t it? I’ll give a whirl and report back.


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