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- How Blogging Can Get You Press Coverage
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Blogging ROI Archive
For anyone wondering how blogging can help your company's brand awareness and thought leadership profile via press coverage, here are a few real life examples of how blogging has helped generate press coverage for my business.
In August I posted some advice on the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread. Last week I was contacted by Vawn Himmelsbach, a writer from ITBusiness.ca, an electronic news outlet owned by IT World Canada. The reporter, told me that she found my blog post using Google's regular search (not blog search). Last week Vawn published her story called "How do you stop a disgruntled employee blogger?" and if you read the piece you will see that I was quoted heavily throughout the story.
Here's another example. In March 2007 I asked "Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?". That lead to a call from a reporter Tony Kontze, a reporter for Investors Business Daily and this story called "Writing Blogs Can Be Hard, So Get ‘Help’". Unfortunately, you can't read this piece without setting up a trial subscription but if you do you will also see that the reporter cited me repeatedly and gave me the last word.
How did I do it? Very simple. In both cases I took questions that I was hearing over and over again from my target audience and tried to offer my own insight and perspective on the matter. I laid it out there and cited a few related posts that helped make my point. Days, months or years later a journalist does a search in Google, finds my post and says here's a person that will give me a good quote or two. I made their job very easy. How is this different from traditional PR and media relations? I'm not a PR expert but I think reporters like to dig things up on their own but they're not out there pounding the pavement, their using the instant and relevant gratification of your typical Google search or the more timely search power of blog search engines like Technorati.
Simple things you can do. Talk to your customers, and monitor the blogs. At conferences listen to the questions that people are asking the 'expert panel'. Talk to your sales people and people on the front lines with your customer. Figure out what the reporters in your industry are going to be looking for in the next 2 - 10 months, pounce on the issues surrounding the big hairy questions and make sure you post it on a blog that does a decent job at getting indexed by Google.
Now, it may seem like I'm taking this opportunity to toot my own horn, and I am, but here's my point. I'm a big advocate of blogging but I don't blog every day. In fact my average blog post is about one per month. However, my blog posts deliver relevant search traffic to my site, get me invited to speak at conferences, inlinks, and del.icio.us social media bookmarks and quoted in major and minor publications. Here are two clear cases of how blogging can help put your business (in this case a small company) in front of journalists at the critical moment when they are conducting their research and looking for relevant voice.
Tags: blogging strategy, IT World Canada, media relations tactics, Online PR, press coverage, reporters, Vawn Himmelsbach
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Viral Marketing
According to the new PR wiki there are over 130 corporate and business blogs and more than 8% of the Fortune 500 is blogging. To borrow a line from Abram Sauer's recent post titled Connected?,
"If you’re not already one of them, you’ve probably thought about it. And it just gets more tempting."
I’m sure it’s tempting but I think most big companies would like to put consumer generated media back in the bottle. Why? Because it’s stripping down their control of the message and putting them in a position to act. In this new world, one consumer's opinion can outweigh anything the company can say about itself. Companies are now in the tough position of needing to act and risk getting it wrong, or ignore and seed the conversation to the consumer and possibly a more aggressive and agile competitor. The good news for people who want to see more corporate participation in social media is that it's definitely something that's on the radar now and I believe will see more investment in this area starting this fall and into 2008.
This is my anecdotal perception of what's going on; Social media awareness has reached a point where marketers know it's something they need to budget for. They are searching, gathering information, downloading white papers, going to conferences and talking to vendors about services offerings, options and of course, costs.
With four major clients (Spherion, True Jeans, Appistry and a TBA) I've been marketing and selling social media services since March, 06. However, I would say there has been a big up tic in interest since last spring. A lot more companies are calling me to investigate doing something with social media (either monitoring, blogging, commenting, or podcasting mostly). In July I participated in a Frost and Sullivan Marketing East Conference attended by hundreds of senior marketing executives from fortune 1000 companies. Many of them were asking questions that indicate to me that they are beyond the 'what is a blog?' stage and into the 'what should our strategy be?', 'how','how much' and 'when' phase. Here are some of the questions…
- What different tactics would an industry leader take vs. a new entrant in the consumer generated sites?
- Any advice on how marketers at big companies can convince corporate compliance that blogging is a good idea?
- What is the best way for a company to handle a bad Consumer Generated Media thread and how can you avoid this from happening in the first place?
This suggests to me that 2008 will be a major year for corporate social media strategies and initiatives. I think that the adopters that come on in 2008 will
drive force even reluctant companies (possibly kicking and screaming) to budget for it and then finally participate in 2009.
Why are companies reluctant? Large companies want to see statistics, but social media participation is hard to measure and ROI is difficult to predict. In my experience this is also a catch twenty two because even when a company has bought into social media services, there are no guarantees the company will allow a vendor to implement a tracking system that will properly measure ROI. From personal experience I've had trouble getting IT to dedicate the minimal required effort to implement the tracking.
Another part of the reluctance on the company's side is concurrently, online marketing departments are hitting a stride and comfort level with more predictable, measurable and systematic online marketing tools such as search engine marketing and online ad sponsorship. Now marketers are being prodded to use their marketing brains to crack consumer generated media, which, at its core, is a culture that is the opposite of PR and marketing spin. It’s a new job for marketing and communications managers. This post Google world makes me wonder if marketers will ever have a 'cushy' job. I can imagine them thinking thoughts like:
- 'Oh great, now I've got to monitor bloggers because what they say can impact my business.
- 'My CEO needs to be blogging if we want to maintain our thought leadership position.'
- 'My product developers should be encouraged and empowered to blog too.'
- 'Let me go home at 5pm and spend some time with family for goodness sake.'
Don't get me wrong. I'll be the first person to tell you that some companies should not blog or engage in social media. A lot of companies are simply not ready to take the leap. My advice is to take baby steps. Social media monitoring is something that should be within reach of any company. Here's what every company should be monitoring.
Unfortunately for the companies with deep pockets, the reality is that participation in social media is more than just doing a little homework and then spending like you’re Vonage on a pre-IPO market grab. Once you understand blogging culture and what social media participation for your company really means, you realize that (in many cases) making it work requires a grasp of blogging best practices, goals, strategic thinking and a cultural shift that stretches beyond the boundaries of a marketing and communications department.
Take it for what it's worth but I think that starting in late 2007 and by the end 2008 we will see a surge in the number of companies either dipping their toes in by increasing their blog monitoring efforts, or getting up to their waists by combining some sort of monitoring and participation effort (with either textual blogging, podcasting, video blogging, social network participation, a combination of all). I'm not saying all of them will be successful but I think it will be the critical mass or tipping point that will make corporate social media strategies a standard part of business by the end 2009.
I think that 2007 and 2008 will produce a wide range of brand name companies participating in social media. This will produce a few high profile case study reports that garner widespread business media coverage beyond the blogs into mainstream business media. Mainstream media is already providing a steady drum beat about how the customer is in charge.
If you want some signs of the tipping point, check out this passage from Perry Evans at Evans INC’s blog post titled Against the Gain. It summarizes s The Sunday NY Times article on how AOL is struggling to shift along with online consumer behavior.
"To simplify, searching isn’t so obviously the center of the future universe. The old adage of browsing is rapidly taking on a new life form - call it social, call it exploring, call it stumbling - consumers are rapidly adopting new forms of information navigation that do not follow the paradigm of Search. Media is in a fundamental shift beyond search into personal and community exploration and interaction, and it feels (to me) to be approaching a tipping point.
Perhaps the future no longer belongs solely to the Search Box?"
I also have a theory that for every company that enters the blogosphere there will be three more competitors saying ‘Oh shoot, now we’ve got to get in there too’. What would that create? Ideally it would be a collection of consumers and company personalities maintaining a dialog that is mutually beneficial. The reality will be more of a mix between (to borrow a phrase) clued in socially responsible companies (participating, adding value to the conversation and helping consumers) and clueless (companies that are not aware of social media culture, benefits and best practices) companies trying to inauthentically game the system.
I wish I could use a less pompous term than clueless. However, I've spoken to some companies that are paying people to find blog posts that relate to their products, and then drop in a comment that says nice things about their products as if it were a real consumer. This kind of tactic is a threat to social media because it will drown out the real consumer generated dialog. The good news is that this particular company was willing to listen to me when I told them there was a more authentic way to go that would probably result in better results (But I digress). Ignorance is bliss but this tells me that education is very important to the future success of corporate social media strategies.
Here's Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson reading a chapter from their new book called How to Do Everything with Podcasting. Download the 22-minute conversation here or listen below (MP3, 10Mb). There is a section around minute 4 that i will paraphrase
'Exactly what can podcasting do for a business? To be frank that's the wrong question. Podcasting should be applied as should any communications tool as a solution not a goal in and of itself. No business should ever begin the process of creating and launching a podcast with a statement that sounds like this... By God, we aught to be podcasting. Instead it ought to come up in discussions about ways to reach audiences to convey particular messages or to address specific situations and problems'.Listen to this podcast now:
To me, this 22 minute listen is a great way to start the education process. Burn it on a CD and give it to your CEO to play on her ride home from work. Maybe when she's done she will subscribe to the For Immediate Release Podcast - which is another great first step. Is it possible to have two first steps? Hmm, let me think about that :)
If I’m right then social media is an opportunity for some companies to take some risks and gain ground with consumers while the other guys are contemplating their navels. The companies that do it right will prescribe to this philosophy that I lifted from a March 2000 interview with David Weinberger about 'Cluetrain Manifesto'.
"Companies that erect a fortress storefront on the Net and send goods out for sale, but immediately hoist the drawbridge at the first sight of a peasant rebellion, will fail. Only those businesses that "decloak" and engage with consumers online will have a fighting chance of succeeding."
That's all I've got for now. I know there's a lot here to digest but I really want some feedback. I'm sure there is someone out there who can pick on some of my thoughts. I know at least one person.
Tags: cluetrain+manifesto, corporate+blogging, markeitng predictions, online+PR, social+media, tipping point
Filed under: Blogging ROI, Blogging Strategy, Blogging Tips, New Communications, Social Media
Recently i was asked by a prospective client to help explain social media to her senior executives in a way that they would understand. She asked me to keep it to a page or two. I wanted to get across the benefits of social media but I also wanted to address some common misunderstandings that people have when it comes to participation and measuring ROI. Here's a version of what I gave her with all the company references taken out. I'd love to hear any feedback. Best regards, Stephen >>>
Corporate Social Media Strategy
One of the strengths of social media is that it attracts enthusiastic and influential community members into publicly accessible & searchable networks. Within these networks, people share thoughts and observations and engage in conversations, sometimes directly coinciding with a particular need for a product (like a discussion where someone mentions difficulty in finding a good Internet access provider in the area, for example). Other times, the conversation may relate more to practical issues that identify a person or group as part of a certain target market or segment (for example, an active blogging community discussing farming conditions in a region, or broader farming related topics). These conversations not only provide insight into the community at large, but also provide an opportunity to research, target, and positively engage with an audience.
Strategic monitoring of and participation in consumer generated media conversations represents a competitive edge for companies trying to:
Build a closer relationship with or understanding of the customer
Improve search engine rankings, increase brand awareness
Establish thought leadership.
Stay in front of issues
Learn from customer insights
Monitor for consumer sentiment about their brand.
The beauty of a social media strategy is that all or some of these benefits can be accomplished with a single strategy. It all depends on goals and resources.
Also see: Corporate Blogging Survey Executive Summary
Misunderstandings in Social Media
The value of social media engagement is often misunderstood by people who are accustomed to a mass marketing approach or online media metrics. One of the common mistakes companies can make when attempting to tap this opportunity is to perceive this access as way to jump in and talk about their products or value proposition and create linkage to a particular promotion. It’s easy to realize why this approach is wrong if you understand that the reason people read blogs is to find real opinions and to know what their contemporaries are thinking. Blog readers generally approach blogs in this way:
Blogging is an opportunity to take part in a conversation or start one.
Bloggers are willing to hear from your corporation but they don’t’ want ‘corporate speak’ or a sales pitch.
They will appreciate it if you respect their community.
In a crisis situation they want you to address their concerns even if you don’t have the answers.
The third attribute, respect, is an important tactic to keep in mind. You show respect by researching the topic and community before entering the discussion. Readers will be more receptive if you can reference previous comments or posts from the community to add insight or thought leadership to the conversation that is already active in their community. Essentially, a great social media strategy focuses on becoming a great corporate blogger
What Successful Bloggers Do
Blogging is more than just writing. There is a lot of legwork involved with putting a post together and promoting it after it has been published.
Here is a fictitious successful blogger named Amanda B. Reckondwyth (thanks Car Guys). Amanda is passionate about her topic, she knows her community and monitors over 60 related blog feeds on a daily basis. She’s looking for conversations and comment threads that intersect with her or her company’s interests, monitoring news, industry buzz and specific bloggers that she regards as authorities to an audience that she cares about. Amanda is also watching for specific keywords. When she sees a blog post, comment thread, or something in the news that sparks her interest, Amanda writes a blog post about it or visits the respective blog and leaves an insightful comment.
If Amanda writes a comment, her name and URL are attached and provide her with a link, credit and visibility.
If Amanda writes a post, she will cite (provide a hyperlink to) her sources, categorize it, add keyword tags, and publish. Automatically this then pings the social media search engines and alerts the people that have subscribed to her blog’s feed. The post is also picked up in the major search engines.
Before or after publishing, Amanda may also do some outreach to notify certain bloggers about the post and solicit their input.
Amanda knows her audience and therefore her comment or post addresses something that is more likely to generate attention and discussion.
Because Amanda is a successful blogger, her community knows who she is. She has the credibility within her community, thereby giving her content a better chance of propagation.
The bloggers that she has reached out to have now publicized the post’s existence to their audiences and it is attracting readership. People start to comment and Amanda stays engaged with the conversation until it has run its course.
Finally, the posts and ensuing threads stay online as content that can continue to draw attention in the future.
Success breads success. The more successful Amanda is in her blogging efforts the more people react and pickup on her stream of thinking. Practically speaking this creates a snowballing increase in readership and blogger citations (links) and all the other benefits of a successful social media strategy.
What Should Every Company Be Monitoring @ the NewPR/wiki
Blogging Success Study we conducted with Northeastern University
Measuring Social Media Success
Many marketers will look at the engagement as simply an interaction between finite groups of people (two or several) that may be viewed by tens, hundreds or thousands of people over time. Basic online marketing metrics such as unique visitors, impressions, search traffic, conversion rates will only tell part of the story.
With a strategic approach, each engagement will be designed to support multiple goals at once. Successful encounters can result in a number of benefits ranging from heightened brand awareness through word of mouth buzz, to customer insights that improve your products. Here are some suggested methods for measuring return.
Goal: Dramatically Increase volume of leads from the website via organic search.
Measurement: Set tracking cookie on incoming visitors to the blog down to specific conversion points.
Goal: Dramatically increase company’s brand awareness and thought leadership presence.
Measurement: Track brand mentions via traditional and online media sources, and blogs. Also track requests media interviews and speaking opportunities.
Goal: Dramatically Increase volume of leads.
Measurement: Set tracking cookie on incoming visitors to the blog down to specific conversion points.
Goal: Optimize the blog to give it the best chance of attaining top organic search positions for the most relevant keywords.
Measurement: Weekly website position reports compared with benchmark web position reports.
Goal: Dramatically increase online link popularity.
Measurement: Improved search engine rankings compared with benchmark web position reports.
Goal: Improved connection with the customer.
Measurement: Benchmark and analyze the volume and content of comments on your blog and on blogs that you do not control.
Also see these posts regarding Social Media and Blogging ROI:
Calculating ROI of Blogging is Easier than it Looks
Mounting a PR Case for Blogging ROI from an SEO Perspective
Blogging ROI Proof is for Pansies
For all you PR bloggers and blogging skeptics out there, please file this post under further proof that blogging can lead to a credible media citation and ROI. In my last blog post, I asked Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?. A few weeks later a reporter, Tony Kontzer from Investors Business Daily called to request an interview with me. Last week this article titled Writing Blogs Can Be Hard, So Get 'Help' appeared in the online version of Investors Business Daily's technology section. One more thing, the reporter actually quoted me correctly and gave me the last word in the story. Pretty cool ah?
Check out the story. Kontzer offers some reasons why companies start a blog and highlights the choices companies need to make when selecting who writes the content. The story presents some alternate view points (from Nancy McCord, Mary Gillen, Debbie Weil, and me) on the questions that surround why blogs can be an effective marketing tool for business and the use ghost bloggers.
Charlene Li and her business blogging research team at Forrester Research have just released a ground breaking report titled The ROI of Blogging, The “Why ” And “How ” Of External Blogging Accountability.
The full 13 page report is literally a key for companies seeking to understand how blogging can improve their bottom line. I happen to be listed in the report as a contributor for my comments on Forrester's initial research, and my previous posts about how to calculate the Search Engine Optimization benefits when determining blogging ROI. It includes a detailed system for estimating Benefits, Costs and Risks.
To learn more visit Chalene's post titled New ROI of blogging report from Forrester. There you can find the highlights from the report such as the Benefits chart above and this full-blown Excel model showing how Charlene and her team painstakingly calculated the FastLane’s blog ROI in detail from 2005-2007. The report suggests building an ROI model like fastLane's for your own company blog and the competitor’s blog (if one exists).
The Report also includes
- sample values regarding the costs of starting and maintaining a company blog.
- A chart for showing how to risk-Adjusted for different scenarios (most likely, best-case and worst-case
Steve Rubel got an advance copy of the report. here's his summary of the report.
Charlene Li posted a magnificent and easily digestible blog post titled Calculating the ROI of blogging. In it she talks about the costs, benefits and risks of Blog ROI measurement. My favorite part is the simple chart of the blogging “Benefit” and “Appropriate measurement”.
“Greater visibility in search results” is high on her list of benefits, but I wonder if the SEO benefits from corporate blogging is being given enough play in the broader blogging ROI discussion.
Here's some advice if you’re a PR or communications person trying to sell blogging internally, find out how much Marketing is spending on Paid Search advertising and SEO. We’ve researched 140 clients of a local PR firm and found that 28% of them are spending an average of $21k per month on paid search(for more on this research, see A case for the ROI of Blogging).
Working with a annual budget of $252,000 ($21k x 12) leads me to believe that a case can be made for the blogging ROI strictly from an SEO (organic search engine optimization) benefit point of view. Start with making the SEO case and then add on all the other noted benefits (consumer education, pr, thought leadership, crisis, management, reach enthusiasts) as gravy.
Blogging is a long term strategy to achieve organic rankings on the most sought after keywords because...
- Blogs are search engine friendly.
- Good blogs produce an archive of fresh relevant content,
- Good blogs produce quality incoming links.
These are always the biggest challenges in producing SEO results for clients, but they are fundamental in blogging.
So what happens after one year of corporate blogging publishing at a frequency of about 3 posts per week. At the end of the year your company has substantially increased your fresh relevant content footprint by 150 interlinked keyword focused posts/ aka. optimized web pages. We're doing this for
one Spherion now and their blog has already garnered "41 links from 20 blogs" in their target blogging community. At this rate they will have 492 quality links by the end of the year. The fresh content and links will add up to a much better rankings for the blog and the Spherion corporate site since the blog is a subdirectory of the corporate website. Is Spherion achieving other benifits from blogging? Sure, but this post is strictly about the SEO benefits.
What is the investment/company dependencies for this? It’s going to cost a company about 20 – 40 hours in the setup phase and then 5 – 20 hours per week to write and publish 3 – 5 blog posts and deal with 6 – 10 comments. Add another 5 – 10 hours per week onto this equation for blog monitoring. Some companies may choose to augment some of this work and retain the assistance of blogging consultant, and that could range anywhere between $2k - $10k per month depending on scope and scale of the support.
Here's one way to calculate... If you're advertising in Google or Yahoo, or paying an SEO firm, figure out what a 1st to 3rd position on keyword X is already costing your company on a monthly Cost Per Click basis. A successful blogging strategy could generate free traffic on that keyword in 2 - 12 months. The less competitive the term the quicker you will see results. Duplicate that strategy/formula on 10 to 20 of your company's most important keywords and then double the totals(because Google is only about half the search market).
Healthy debate is good for Corporate Blogging. However, it highlights the challenge that blog evangelists are facing when educating marketing folks and CEOs. Most people aren't buying the coolaid without some Forrester report that undeniably proves ROI for corporate blogging. Proof is for pansies (smile).
No - proof is great. Last July we published findings of a 72 page Corporate Blogging Study that surveyed over 90 bloggers about what they're getting out of blogging. This year we're working on a new blogging study with Dr. Walter Carl and his students at Northeastern University.
Anyway, if a company wants a simple answer for how and why they can institutionalize blogging, they're not going to get it waiting around for proof about how other companies are doing it. Lazy marketing directors and their CEOs want to take their budget and spend it on a guaranteed return. I'm a lazy CEO too. I'd love to spend short money on big return. Show me something other than blogging that can help me get better search engine rankings and links, and boost sales, improve thought leadership, extend traditional PR and generate press coverage, strengthen relationship with my customers and help me build better products.
The thing lazy people have trouble with is that successful blogging is an oblique way getting potentially fundamental business returns. It takes a while to understand why this is true and it also takes an investment of ones time and money to develop a viable case for institutionalizing it or not. I am certain that blogging is not right for every company. However, companies just need to explore their potential opportunity and develop a justifiable strategy before they hold their nose.
Remember that it took mainstream corporate America's marketing departments several years to realize the value of search engine marketing. Does that mean that pay per click advertising was not effective before the days of enlightenment? No. Advertising in Google and Yahoo was really cheap in 1999 (about .05 cents per click), but arguably just as effective. Since 1999, CPC rates have increase at 35% per year. Over the last four years, the big advertising budgets poured into search. Average search advertising CPCs are up around $1.61 today. Need proof for that. Check out Google stock market valuation.
The point here is that blogging strategies are new and different. Blogs deliver a lot of intangible benefits. It's kind of like the old case for PR vs. advertising. Editorial coverage in a trusted media is more credible Advertising is spin. There are not many college courses in Blog Marketing now just as there weren't many courses in online marketing back in 1995 or even in 2000. Blogging and podcasting is the new new thing. Savvy businesses that want to see what it can be all about for them need to weigh investment and risks vs. rewards and make a call.
Filed under: Blogging ROI