I had the good fortune of attending BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas this past weekend, and the honor of taking over a “Lightning Round” session for SHIFT’s principal, Todd Defren, who was unable to attend.
The session was titled “Digital Symbiosis: How Bloggers Can Benefit from PR and Vice-Versa.” I hoped to learn as much as or more than the audience, as there is no way I can presume to be inside the heads of more successful bloggers, and there were some really bright PR practitioners in attendance.
I was not disappointed, as early in the session, as I tried to explain that PR agencies should not be selling on their relationships alone, and opened the idea of whether relationships work well as temporary ones based on the story at hand, or as ongoing, well-tended back-and-forths. A blogger in the audience made it very clear that his preference is not to hear from PR people only when they have news to pitch, but constantly, as a relationship.
The tug of war for PR people occurs in scale; how is it possible to have close relationships with the hundreds of bloggers an agency person may be asked to pitch across a number of clients? That question was echoed by, among others, my good friend Alexa Scordato (who now works for Porter Novelli). Part of the answer is: bloggers don’t care, nor should they. A blogger will only care about the one relationship, not the many others the PR person may be trying to maintain.
This thinking dovetailed nicely with a thought from Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang in a previous session that day, when he said a company’s customers don’t care if they are speaking online with someone from product, marketing, or another department. To them, it’s customer service and they want their problem solved. That turns the customer relations process on its head, and so it goes for blogger relations as well.
In preparing for the session, I made many notes, even lists of possible benefits for both sides in the PR-blogger relationship. Rather than using the notes, I was happy to boil things down as the conversation went: PR should focus on story telling rather than “selling” their idea, and bloggers should see PR as a resource from which they should squeeze every bit of information and connection they can. Is that too simple? Perhaps not.
A final note: I just want to thank Chris Brogan and Chris Pirillo, who encouraged me not to use my slides when I mentioned I wasn’t sure I should. I took that as gospel from two people who should know, and it worked.
Final final note: I had the chance to talk with ZDNet blogger Jennifer Leggio (“Mediaphyter”) about the session on the “Quick-n-Dirty” podcast she co-hosts with SHIFT client Aaron Strout. You can link through to the podcast (which covers a bunch of other related topics as well) from here.