The internet has created a global marketplace, not only for goods and services but also for thoughts and opinions. Businesses, both large and small, are becoming increasingly concerned by the proliferation of comments which can influence peoples buying decisions. Recent research suggests that PR agencies are aware that they need to engage this online chatter, but are unsure of how to go about it.
Tom Chandler, in his Engagement Principles blog, tackled the subject of the hesitancy of PR agencies to utilise blogging. He referenced research, highlighted on the Deep Jive Interests blog, which showed that:
while most PR executives believe in blogging as an effective tool to share information quickly and broadly (UK 70%, US 80%), and have a role in influencing public opinion and decision making (UK 60, US 70%), the majority do not have a blogging policy (UK 82%, US 88%), and only around a third blog for their own company or clients (UK36%, US 37%).
It would appear that many PR firms are still nervous about jumping into blogging headfirst, preferring to wait for others to test the water and then watch to see if they sink or swim.
PRs methodology shares some characteristics with that of the advertising world. Their tactics for influencing mindsets have generally been a one way, top down approach. In a world where everybody now has the means to share their opinions and experiences with millions of online consumers this approach now seems antiquated. PR, like advertising, needs to learn how to listen to what people are saying and to be able to have their clients voice.
Hosting a blog on your clients website offers an excellent vehicle for being able to respond to online comments and opinions.
Handling customer issues in a public format will enhance your clients image by demonstrating their transparency, expertise and credibility. People are then more likely to trust you, which is a requisite for an effective relationship with your marketplace.
Forrestor research offered some insight on the value of blogs in their recent report on bloggings elusive ROI. Their findings were attained from interviews with businesses with hands on experience, such as Dell, Southwest Airlines and Sun Microsystems.
Steve Rubel, both an experienced blogger and vice president of PR firm Edelman, noted from the study that the frequently mentioned benefits were:
Greater brand visibility in mainstream media and on the web.
Word of mouth marketing.
Improved brand perception.
Instantaneous customer feedback.
Increased sales efficiency.
Fewer customer service PR blowups.
All benefits you would hope to gain from a well orchestrated PR campaign.
Successful PR in the online world is about more than just generating buzz with a virtual store in Second Life. To get info hungry consumers to listen to your clients message you now need to trade in the currency of transparency and value. By utilising podcasts, wikis, blogs and RSS feeds, PR agencies have the means to communicate in a more open format, and in a manner which will allow their clients voice to be heard in the online conversation.