Monday poll: Should PR firms establish dedicated blogging practices?

Blogging is changing the way companies and their audiences interact. Should PR firms set up specific practice areas to provide ‘blog relations’ or ‘social networking’ services? After all it’s a complex and ever-evolving area. Or should all PR consultants be blog savvy? Is it a risk to have these skills locked up in an ivory tower?

[Note to those reading this through RSS – the AJAX script which produces the poll doesn’t seem to execute in my reader (NetNewsWire), so apologies if yours is the same and you just see a blank space below. You can vote on the site though].

  • Good question, and one I’ve often wondered myself. I’ve voted yes, purely for the fact you mention – it’s a complex and ever-evolving area.
    I also think podcasting and video blogging are included in the whole blog relations and social networking mix so, along with blogging, there are other channels to consider.
    Although, not sure if I’d want to pigeon-hole myself in one specific area.
    My 2p 🙂

  • What PR companies need to establish is a commitment to R&D. Blogging is too narrow a parameter for a special practice – social media yes. New media technology – better.
    We need to innovate both in our understanding and explanation of effective communications in the era of fast-evolving, connected media and start developing our own technologies.
    Where are all the PR Web 2.0 mash-ups? There will be some good’uns soon – mark my words.

  • Yes – I’d include video blogging, podcasting etc in this mix, though at some point you start to transition into needing quite specific technical skills. That in itself will limit the number of people who can actually implement those channels. At least until the UIs and automation become more mainstream.
    Still, do you think agencies shd wheel in a blogging maestro as a discrete service, or is it just part of the program like AR, media rels etc? In fact, is it even discrete enough that you can have a separate practice? And if so how do you integrate that into ongoing programs to the level required? It sounds easy to black box, but implementation is another matter.

  • Anthony – good point. Now we’re getting somewhere. I think you are right – it’s not until you get your hands on the technology and start frigging around with it, that you start to see how it can benefit communications programs. That might just be something as basic as removing admin by having wiki-based extranets, or it might be something more fun like tagging relevant news pieces to distribute to clients via RSS, or it might be integrating video into Flash presentations, or it might be a reporting podcast which the account team records for all client contacts to listen to – or better still a vcast at the end of each week. This is where you start having some fun with it.
    There are probably lots more that I haven’t seen or heard of yet. And one of the challenges is getting client adoption once you’ve created the new approach. Some things work straight away, others need a lot of refining, but I think working on the medium can be as effective as tweaking the messages.

  • Morgan:
    I think a dedicated blog practice is way too narrow to be effective. It would be like having a “news release” practice.
    In reality, most clients should only need assistance in starting a blog — if it is to be successful, it must be their “baby” on an ongoing basis.

  • I agree – I’m thinking of something a little broader to include podcasting, vcasting etc, as well as ‘blogger relations’ for want of a better description.
    My personal view is that these shouldn’t be locked up in a small group, although the teams may need technical input, but that all practitioners should be conversant with these channels. Naturally there will be some with a bent towards it, just as there are those who are good a analyst relations, but everyone should have a firm grounding here.

  • It’s a tough one to call at this moment in time I suppose. But, as you and Antony both mentioned, it’s best to lead by example with R&D and actually toying with (and introducing) new tools yourself. For example, Niall Cook with Cogenz.
    If clients see you have a company blog, podcast, video blog, wiki etc etc then maybe they will see the benefit of each? Suppose it’s a case on educating clients on each medium and explaining the bigger picture. I.e. Print sales decreasing – online readership increasing.
    Audacious Communications are a dedicated social media comms agency:
    Not sure if they’re doing well or not, but thought I’d give an example.
    You’ve also got to ask the question: Should PR start creating content for mobile phones and the like? If it’s true that data speeds will dramatically increase in the coming years (thus allowing for streaming) and future generations of the Video iPod come internet enabled, should PR be working on creating (video) content for these too?

  • Well there are two elements here where these technologies might be useful. One is in developing ways to enhance the practice of PR ie reduce admin, increase response times etc. The other is in enabling new channels for client content to reach their audiences. The latter can only go at the speed of adoption by those audiences eg the Video iPod audience is quite limited and specific at the moment.
    But the former, I think has historically been where agencies have focused. If you are essentially selling people’s time – anything you can do to make that time more productive is good for clients, the agency and its staff.

  • So, not wanting to contradict myself (but being seemingly unable to do so) I would say that a wroking knowledge of blogs, and the blog/social media communities relevant to their clients should be a part of every PR person’s knowledge. Soon it will be.

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    Monday Poll: Should PR firms estabish dedicated blogging practices?
    Morgan McLintic asks: Should PR firms set up specific practice areas to provide blog relations or social networking services? . Or should all…

  • Hi Morgan,
    Our firm has established a branded “Blaze Social Media” practice. However, because it’s mostly the most senior people in our firm who have become enthused about social media, we’re using it as a platform to proselytize internally about the importance of everyone engaging with these new tools. So, our practice doesn’t put social media in a silo. Instead, it is for us the “revolutionary vanguard.”

  • Joseph – Sounds like a good approach – I certainly think that those at the top of the firm should encourage others to learn these skills, though I’ve found there are experts at all levels in the firm. This change gives newbies a chance to mix it up with the senior team in terms of knowledge and understanding – and to make a name for themselves in the process.

  • jon leach

    There are some precedents for all this “digital change” in the advertising world. To summarise, they went through the “separate unit” phase but now seem to be getting to a “we all need to do this” philosophy.
    Full analysis here (sorry this may not be a link – still getting to grips with all this!)

  • Erm, yes and no… The consumer is still the same just interacting in different channels so the old school PR sensibilities dissapear but you also need a team that understands blogs and social media from how to manage conversations to building the blinking thing. They should be in the same building though and talking to each other 🙂