By Francis Moran
Blame it all on Alec Saunders.
By that I mean, Saunders is in good part responsible for our inflicting on the world yet another PR agency blog.
Over the past year or so, I’ve had several engaged conversations with Saunders, a tech company veteran and compulsive blogger, about the role this no-longer-new social marketing tool can play in a public relations company’s activities. There are two clear sides to that role.
The first, which I will address at greater length in a future post, is the role blogs play in reaching and influencing our clients’ target markets. On that score, I have never needed any convincing, and here at inmedia, we have included the right bloggers in our pitches for as long as there have been bloggers. But, as I said, more on this later.
The second role, around which I have long been much more skeptical, is whether a blog can be an effective outreach tool for a public relations agency or, indeed, for any company. Here, my skepticism lies not so much in the nature of blogs themselves as in the same sort of critical analysis I bring to the consideration of whether any communications tool is appropriate in a given situation.
Saunders thought me a non-believer. Not so. My thinking could well be summed up in the phrase, “A blog if necessary, but not necessarily a blog.”
By which I mean that, just as with any other communications tool, a successful company blog must be as effective as possible and must deliver a competitive ROI. Let me expand briefly.
To be effective, a business blog must excel as a communications tool. Among other things, it must be interesting, targeted, timely and frequently updated. If a company can’t meet this standard, it shouldn’t launch a blog. Same holds true for any other communications tool.
Many companies reach this standard and launch a blog without asking themselves the second, equally critical, set of questions, “What is the expected return from our investment of hard costs and personnel time in this communications vehicle?” and, “Is that return at least as high as what we would derive from an equal investment in some other tool?” ‘Course, they probably don’t ask this question about other communications options, either.
It was during a conversation with Saunders that a concept for a blog that would at least satisfy the first set of criteria occurred to me. He is a very strong advocate of the power of blogging, and he is utterly persuaded of the value it has derived to his company. He was also pretty sure that I had a lot of provocative and useful things that I could say through a blog.
Fair enough. But would I have enough to say, would it be of sufficient interest to enough people, and would I have enough time to keep an inmedia blog sufficiently current? As we explored the issue over a coffee one day, the idea came to me that I could apply the same editorial strategy approach to the development of a blog as I have to the development of many different publications — newspapers, news magazines and company periodicals — that I have helped create during my nearly 30 years as a journalist and communicator.
I’ll tell you more about that editorial strategy in a future post but, obviously, we are now persuaded that we can sustain a blog that will meet the effectiveness standard. Will it meet the ROI standard? We don’t know that yet. We do know what our evaluation criteria are, and we will be tracking our return against a clear set of benchmarks to see if this is working for us.
Bottom line: Blogs may be a new form of communications. But many of the oldest rules still apply. You’ll see a lot from me on this issue.