Blogs are mostly pursued for private interests and therefore require not only a high qualitative and thematic range of topics, but also a very different relevance and coverage: from the private diary to investigative journalism, from lovesickness to cats or politics, from a few readers each week up to several thousand visitors daily.

Bloggers often demonstrate their tremendous expertise in the subject they cover, but this online activity usually earns them little or no money. For the majority of bloggers, what they are doing is a hobby, and is thus one of the reasons that they guard their privacy.

Some international corporations like Coca-Cola and IBM demonstrate perfectly how to be successful in this area, yet there are many that still don’t recognize the potential of blogging or create uncertainty with fake campaigns and attempts of blog-abuse.

A classic tool of public relations, sending press releases, is often classified by bloggers as an intrusion into their privacy or is considered spam - even if there is a thematic proximity to the blog. At best, the blogger simply ignores it, at worst he blogs negatively about the clumsy attempt at contact.

Social Media Releases instead of Press Releases

It is not about media relations, but blogger relations, which means direct contact with a more or less publicly occurring representative of the relevant target group. By no means, however, should the initial contact with a blogger be via a conventional press release, and as a rule generally not by personalized e-mail. Whoever uses the opportunity to present his concerns appropriately face-to-face (BarCamp, web montage, etc.) or at least by telephone in an open and transparent manner, usually has a better chance of being heard. Openness and transparency as well as authenticity can create trust. Relationships are built on trust as well and this is exactly or should be the focus of blogger relations: long-term relationships based on mutual trust.

Bloggers, in general, are not that open-minded about the traditional press release, on the contrary, they see it as manipulation or an attempt at abuse, so it is seldom easy to make up for this form of contact in the bloggers’ eyes. While this may cast a damning light on PR, it does open the door for social media releases to complement press releases, which are characterized by the following features:

  • Short, introductory and summary paragraph, followed by a brief bullet pointed enumeration of the news (no story angle).
  • Selection of quotations from various people on the topic.
  • Use of social bookmarking services to provide the reader with contextual information on the topic.
  • Integrating with or linking to a variety of multimedia content (images, audio, video, PDFs, etc.)
  • Various ways to contact the PR agency/responsible person (telephone, e-mail, Instant Messenger, Skype, Twitter Direct Message).

Some of the listed elements - such as the multimedia content – are not necessarily something new and those elements alone do not necessarily qualify the release as being "social", it requires a little bit more:

  • The social media release isn’t dispatched, but it can be received via RSS subscription so that no mailing list needs to be maintained.
  • The release is published as a customized blog, the social media newsroom, using a Weblog publishing system. Only in this way can it be assured that it pops up on the appropriate search engines (Technorati, Google Blog Search, blogato, etc.).
  • The multimedia content is not on the company's own hosted server, but on the designated Web 2.0 portals: videos on YouTube or sevenload, presentations or PDFs respectively on SlideShare, etc. with back links to the release to increase the perception of the message.
  • The reader has several opportunities for feedback and further utilization: bloggers can directly comment on the release. Furthermore, it’s possible to assess it positively via implemented buttons (like “Digg This”) or it can be used again it in a blog with just one click (such as Blog This!). There is no limit to the variety of feedback tools and forums.

Bloggers represent, as experts and multipliers, an important target group for PR or Social Media Relations. A thorough understanding of the blogosphere structure will result in success.

Since the PR industry has, so far, inadequately addressed the problem of blogger relations, the industry’s only chance not to fade away into insignificance due to social media is to learn the "rules" of the blogosphere through observation and active participation. It’s crucial to start an open and transparent dialogue with the new blogger multipliers that will create and sustain long-term mutual trust.

By Daniela La Marca