Washington author David A. Price reviews “The New Influencers” by Paul Gillin, former editor of Computer World.
Mr. Gillin’s primary focus is blogs. For him, this community is as much a Lockean as a Hobbesian one. True, blogs have no standards organizations or governing bodies, but there are norms nonetheless, enforced socially rather than bureaucratically. Bloggers, for instance, are expected to credit their sources (with a link, if possible) and to highlight revisions to their posts instead of making them furtively.
From a corporate PR point of view, Mr. Gillin says, amateur bloggers differ greatly from journalists in both substance and style. For one thing, they are free of the newsroom rule to seek both sides of a story (though often the old media seem to follow it more in form than in substance). Looking at a study comparing coverage of Wal-Mart by bloggers and by traditional media, Mr. Gillin observes that bloggers were far more likely to write on the basis of personal experiences with the stores. When they did weigh in on broader matters–e.g., Wal-Mart’s economic or environmental effects–they were vastly more negative than their old-media counterparts.
Even so, Mr. Gillin makes a persuasive case for companies’ reaching out to bloggers–a strategy that political campaigns and film studios have pioneered. Consumers are increasingly turning away from print media, skipping TV commercials and ignoring 1990s-style cost-per-thousand banner ads. But they are still seeking information, and many are embracing social media. As in the Sony BMG case, moreover, blogs can help a message make the inter-species jump from ordinary citizens to journalists.
Mr. Gillin notes a few key rules for a marketer trying to win coverage from bloggers: assume they are knowledgeable (as avid enthusiasts tend to be); be frank about negative information (they will react badly if they feel they’ve been deceived by half-truths); and be available to respond to questions nearly around the clock.
Well, being an institutional blog, we see ourselves as more Montesquieuian, but all of that seems like pretty good advice.
Of course, that same advice will be out of date in a year. Nimbleness also counts.
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