Blogs as Marketing and Corporate Communications Tools

Santa Monica, Calif.- Oct. 17, 2005 -- Is there a place for blogs in the world of corporate communications and marketing?  That's the question members of the Software Council of Southern California sought out to answer at a meeting last month in Santa Monica at the Doubletree Hotel.
 
Blogs were for the most part, unknown five years ago, but today with an estimated ten million blogs on the internet, everyone seems to have at least tried it once.  Now, companies are beginning to evaluate how blogs could be used in their communication strategies to create an intimate, immediate, two-way relationship between them and the rest of the world.
 
Which is why the SCSC hosted "The Executive's Guide to Blogging," designed to teach the basics of emerging communication technologies such as blogs and podcasts and how these can be incorporated into corporate communications strategies as well as sales and marketing campaigns.
 
Phil Becker, managing partner of The Venture Group served as the moderator for the discussion, which featured three panelists-Eric Schwartzman (pictured above), Jason Ciesliak, and Chris Barnes-and their individual takes on what blogs are, who are using them and how can they help a company increase their profile.
 
Schwartzman, the Managing Director of Los Angeles-based PR firm Schwartzman & Associates, Inc., as well as Founder and President of iPressroom Corporation, began the discussion with an in-depth look at how blogs are being used and by whom.  Using his real-world experience of these technologies as the blogger behind Spinfluencer, and the host of the podcast, "On the Record.Online," Schwartzman walked through the basics such as how to start a blog, what to post, and how to get a blog read by other people.
 
He also advocated using blogs and podcasts as alternatives to traditional PR strategies since they directly reach target audiences with unfiltered content.  Additionally, blogs and podcasts are easy technologies to understand and implement, he added. "Essentially, all you need to do is add water and stir," Schwartzman said.
 
Cieslak, the executive director of Interactive Media at Siegel & Gale, offered up his first-hand experience from the marketing and branding perspective about how his company has used blogs for such clients as Sony PlayStation and what degrees of success these new campaigns brought to his clients and their products.
 
Cieslak also discussed how other companies, such as Microsoft and IBM, are using blogs to promote themselves and at the same time, to widen the lanes of communication with investors, partners and consumers.
As the director of business development for ExactTarget Email Solutions, Barnes showed the audience how to "get the word out" about a blog since an important part of having a blog is making sure people see it. Barnes advocated doing this by utilizing syndicating technologies such as XML and RSS feeds and by contributing to other relevant blogs.
 
Although the audience was filled with both blogger novices and experts, a common question arose: how can a company control negative comments on their blog, especially if it could hurt a product or the company's reputation.  The panelists were in agreement that being transparent on the blog and using an authentic voice are the keys to having a successful dialogue with the public, otherwise it is not worth it to even create a blog.
 
If and when negative posts and comments arise, Cieslak said, they should be addressed immediately, citing one's company's slow-moving reaction to a nasty report circulating in the blogosphere.  Schwartzman went one step further, and advocated using the blogs themselves to address any of these negative situations.  "The blog actually gives you another forum to address a person's issue with the company or product," Schwartzman said. "And by doing that on a blog, whether it be the company's or someone else's, you can address the problem and offer your official statement directly."
  
Do's and Don'ts of Blogging
By Eric Schwartzman

Do's
  1. Do monitor what others are saying on the blogosphere. Your blog is part of a larger conversation and nobody wants to talk to someone who doesn't listen.
  2. Do title your blog posts in no uncertain terms, if you want to use your blog as a marketing tool. Most people will find them through search engines, so let the key words and phrases that you want sending people your way be your guide for what to write about.
  3. Do think beyond the press release. Rather than assembling the facts in hopes of inspiring journalists to tell your story, tell it yourself in an interesting compelling way. Figure out how to tell it in a way that will appeal to your key audience.

Don'ts
  1. Don't post press releases or slick, over-written marketing copy to your blog. Nobody will care. Wear your bias on your sleeve, serve up a healthy dose of opinion and use your personality as a differentiator.
  2. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. A blog is not a marketing brochure. Just because you don't have a full-time copy editor on your staff, doesn't mean you can't post interesting ideas to your blog. What you have to say is just as important as your writing style, grammar and usage.
  3. Don't lie. If you do, you'll learn quickly that the blogosphere is self-correcting. Dishonesty is wiped out by social anti-bodies in the form of contradictory blogs with posts linked to yours. You'll be hung out to dry. If it's too late for you, hire a good PR firm and do a mea culpa.
 
media contact:
Eric Schwartzman
eric AT ericschwartzman DOT com