I often get asked whether a company needs to do both PR (public relations) and blogging. My answer is a resounding “yes”. In the transition from mass marketing to micro marketing,see Vanishing Mass Market] you need them both along with other tools to reach more finely tuned segments. It is very important to understand what each tool can do.
PR is a communications tool set that specializes in media relations – working with editors and influencers who analyze and write about technology. It is official voice of the corporation as developed by the PR department and reviewed and edited up the chain of command. Its intent is to inform, influence and promote. In the high tech markets, its primary audience is the technical, trade, national business media and analysts. There are well prescribed means of reaching these segments.
PR tends to be more formal and more structured than blogs, standardized throughout the corporation. These communications can come in the form of a press release, product brochure, backgrounder, white paper, or annual report. There are other important ways that a company connects with its publics, both on- and off-line, often included under the broader category of marketing communications, but for the purpose of this discussion I am going to focus on the analysts and media.
A press release is a good example of PR. There is a structure to a good press release. For a new product announcement, it would include what the product does, its features, functionality, application, how much it costs, and when it will be shipping along with a product photo.
A company can have the best products, the most innovative technology on the market, but if it can not effectively articulate that value OR if it is unable to reach its targeted market, no one will know about it, much less understand.
The purpose of business blogs is to stimulate conversation and interest in an organization, its products and services, and to deepen relationship between the company and its world.
A blog is more informal and freewheeling, the voice of the individual writing it from his or her perspective. Blogs can also used to educate, influence, inform. In addition that provide an invaluable tool for feedback and collaborate. However, there is no formal channel to a targeted audience. Indeed, your readers must find you, although RSS is on the way to changing that. Blogs can also include very important product information, but today is often used to respond to specific questions and concerns or present an individual’s personal viewpoint.
There is no formal structure for how a blog is written or what it must include, although there is a blogging etiquette. Rather the writer often responds to issues that he or she deems important or to feedback that readers give. A good example is the blog written by SUN CEO Jonathan Schwartz. And if you haven’t read it, it’s worth checking out.
Editors and analysts love a CEO’s blog as a more direct way to access the thinking and response of the head of the company. In a large company this access can be prized. But an editor or analyst will still want to read the company press release or backgrounder. Why? Because they are unlikely to find out the specifics of a product from the CEO.
Some companies are beginning to encourage their product managers to blog, Macromedia, for example, has done an excellent job in this regard. [See Why companies should blog] But at least for today, even these blogs tend to address specific issues AND require that the reader find the blogs on their own.
The new product release provides the basic background for what the company wants them to know. The best editors and analysts will use it only to begin their research.
In a world of more finely tuned micro markets, you need to use all of the tools that your communications arsenal makes available.