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Is blogging the new PR?

When I was writing debbidoo’s marketing plan I agonised about whether to offer company blog setups as an advertised service, or whether to just keep it as an ‘oh, and I can also…’ for existing clients.

On the one hand, I know the value of the blog as a marketing tool*. I firmly believe that every organisation should offer its stakeholders as many ways as possible to interact with it, and I reckon blogging is one of the best ways to achieve this.

On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how many clients would be interested in having a blog. This post by my old pal Suw Charman on Strange Attractor highlighted the seemingly slow uptake of blogging in UK businesses (though to be fair, the post is nearly two years old, so I imagine the list of blogging businesses has grown a lot by now); and this post at e-consultancy pointed out many of the excuses CEOs trot out for not having blogs.

Another consideration was the fact that although I can build a very simple website (like debbidoo.com), I don’t have the technical savvy to create anything other than a WordPress (or similar) hosted blog; if any of my clients wanted a blog that’s part of their existing website, I’d have to point them in the direction of Better Business Blogging, who offer several blog setup packages at very reasonable prices and provide a brilliant ‘how to blog’ course by email, absolutely free, which I’d happily recommend to anyone considering setting up a business blog.

I’d almost convinced myself that I should keep the blog setup service as an under-the-counter thing, but then I spotted a couple of posts at the NMK blog that made me think again.

The first of these reports that business blogging is on the increase in the UK, with 50% of business bloggers surveyed citing improved interaction with customers as a reason for blogging; while the second post reports that journalists are becoming increasingly irritated by PR agencies pitching irrelevant stories.

This quote from the second post made me prick up my ears:

“The advent of social media, blogging and citizen journalism will prove to be an interesting development for both professions, with PR officers having to adapt to this changing situation. Waddington underlined the fact that journalists are now more likely to pull stories from sources rather than have it pushed at them, completely making the role of the PR industry redundant unless it evolves.”

So, business blogging is on the up, and journalists are increasingly turning to blogs for their stories; two great reasons for me to carry on offering simple blog setups to clients that want them.

The comments from the second NMK post did make me wonder, though: is blogging the new PR?

After some consideration: nah, I don’t think so. Not quite; not yet. There’s more to PR than pushing irrelevant stories at disinterested journalists. Blogging may compete against the press release, but it won’t replace the genuine relationships that some PR agencies have with the media, and the benefits (opportunities to provide opinion pieces, for example) that those relationships bring.

The e-consultancy post suggests:

“The fact is that most PR agencies are not even vaguely qualified to advise you on blogging, or even about online PR.”

If this is true, then maybe there’s a huge gap in the market for a new e-savvy breed of PR agency. It’d be nice to think that e-volution has already begun to address this. Drop me a comment if you’re part of – or know of – such an agency; I’d be interested to know if it’s happening yet.

* By ‘marketing tool’, I specifically mean a process which enables me to identify and satisfy customer needs. The phrase ‘marketing tool’ is used very cynically these days by suspicious consumers and anti-consumerists, so don’t be surprised if I rant about this fact in future posts!

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