Stuart Henshall had some kind words about me, my company and our clients last week.
Over the weekend we chatted about the state of marketing communications, and specifically, the concept of blogger relations. He went on to write another very insightful post yesterday, again drawing attention to how we at Comunicano tend to approach the needs of companies seeking to work with bloggers and social media types.
Sitting on all sides of the equation-blogger, agency and media member (or having sat as a client in the past) it is sometimes easier for me to draw the distinctions than those who only share one perspective. Stuart is clearly seeing all sides.
1-Blogger relations is not about generating PR by the pound
2-Blogger relations is not about giving away free stuff (products, services, accounts, etc.)
3-Blogger relations is not about mass. It is about those that matter, in essence it is not how many, but who
4-Blogger relations is about conveying a message to the customer and enabling additional commentary beyond what the official company line is that provides insight and even unpaid endorsement
Let me now address the value of bloggers
1-Media are paid to cover stories that meets the interest of their readers; they are filters and gatekeepers. They keep companies honest in the court of public opinion
2-Analysts are paid by their clients to provide insight and opinion. Their first responsibility is to their employer, then to their clients. They take briefings to be better informed and to provide informed opinions
3-Bloggers for the most part are not paid to blog, but blog to be both better informed and to inform others. Like reporters they bring a degree of filtering, but compared to consumer media, tend to be more granular in expertise, similar to trade reporters or industry analysts, and by nature cover a subject more deeply, but have a narrower audience of loyal and regular readers
4-Media Bloggers-These are bloggers who are usually paid by a publisher. They report to an editor, fall within guidelines set. They are the new breed of journalist, and blend the best of the traditional media, analyst and blogger mentality
Each of the above plays a key roll in positioning, messaging and story telling.
The Blogger is the Tastemaker, relying on their own intuition and knowledge base and then sharing their opinions.
The Media Blogger is the Trendsetter, they pick up on the buzz or help shape it.
The Opinion or Thought Leader is usually an analyst or a mass media type. They rely in part on Tastemakers and Trendsetters to help understand and sometimes to explain what is important and why. They bring it to a wider audience, help to humanize the story and usually carry respect by a large number of people based on the universe of potential interested parties.
The Followers--these are people who tend to ask others for opinions, or seek out opinion, on things before they act. Mass Market consumers are one example. If its at retail, they figure it has to be ok for them to buy. They are different than the early adopter who finds out from the Tastemaker or Trendsetter what's new and take risk. In some cases a Tastemaker or Trendsetter will be considered an early adopter.
Fundamentally at the heart of all of these segments are two key groups. The "Free It's Me Crowd" and the "I'll Pay For It And Take My Chances" bunch. The Free It's Me crowd jumps on and off the free ride as soon as something new comes along and while experimental, and helpful at making something better, they are not the ultimate customer. The Pay For It and Take My Chances is the real consumer (even in a business to business sense.) The distinction is very wide and very deep and helps shape the target audience's opinions.
In establishing Blogger Relations programs it is very, very important not to just be talking to the "Free Its Me Crowd." For consumers or buyers at the business level, it is very important to discern the reviewers with the "free its me" mentality versus those who "would pay" for something.
When we establish programs we work towards a happy blend of both, as that creates a fair and balanced program and reporting, which is far more valuable to clients, than just being all about only generating ink and web pages of coverage.
That's why receiving the "I would pay for this" or "this is something I would keep using" type of endorsement is step one, of thinking about blogger relations, but steps two through xxx has to be supportive of the concept of telling the story right, having it retold and then told by others to others in the same way over and over again.