Monday, February 8, 2010

What is this thing called blogging?

By John Fisher

My students are reading Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deidre Breakenridge as part of a course on social media.  Two times a week they write summaries of chapters from the book. Although there seems to be a lot of duplication of ideas throughout the book, students are finding the book helpful in creating a better understanding of social media.  As they read they also are becoming experts on one form of social media they have chosen. They are also working in groups to begin conversations about issues or problems important to them.

For today's class students will have written summaries of Chapter 7 about "Blogger Relations." Solis and Breakenridge point to two mistakes traditional PR people make when dealing with bloggers.  One, they under estimate the power of blogs to persuade.  Two, they think PR should focus on the A-list bloggers like they focus on the traditional media elite.

"The difference between bloggers and journalists is only the medium they use to reach people," they say. Now that can't be true.  Journalists write for huge audiences, sometimes huge, huge audiences.  That's what the mass in mass media is all about.  Sometimes bloggers like me write for only one or two people.

Blogging, Solis and Breakenridge say, is "an important evolution not only in citizen journalism, but in publishing in general."  They add, "Similar to anything that has the capability to connect with and build an audience, blogging is … an online printing press with the inherent capability for others to discover and stay connected to relevant content and the communities that help them thrive."  Bloggers can't be ignored, because while their audiences may be small, they are important influencers with those audiences.


So why not focus only on the A-list bloggers, some PR people ask. Solis and Breakenridge write: "Although there is an A-list fir every market, and the A-list helps with the credibility of a brand, it does very little for generating new customers or enhancing brand loyalty." While A-list bloggers may reach large audiences, they may not be the true influencers of the customers you want to reach.  "The true influencers are the peers of your customers."  The magic middle may be the bloggers PR people want to join in a conversation with.  The magic middle, as defined by David Sifry of Technorati, are those blogs with 20 to 1,000 active inbound links.

So how do you rank bloggers?  You can use tools like those found at or to analyze the amount of online traffic.  You can use referring links via and find ensuing conversations (memes) by using You can see the number of subscribers to a blogger's feed through or (now owned by google).  You can get a feel for how well certain bloggers grasp the industry they represent using tools like and

Solis and Breakenridge end by suggesting PR people do their homework and develop real one-on-one conversations.  They say PR people can show their credentials by:
- Knowing who you're talking to and why what you represent matters to them and their readers.
- By packaging your story to their preferences.
- By being an expert in your in the field where you work, knowing about the playing field and the players.
- Positioning yourself as a resource rather than a spammer.

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