Robert Scoble has an article out on the flattening of the press and the increasingly significant role of bloggers in reporting on company news.
Scoble writes: “Now every single one of us has the power to have “the exclusive.” It really is messing with PR team’s heads as they try to deal with this new world of 20,000,000 people who can make or break your PR plans. It was so much easier back when you only needed to deal with a few hundred or less.”
I posted a comment on Scoble’s post and am reprinting it here because I think Microsoft understands the power of the blogosphere and how to embrace it from a PR perspective better than any public company today. Their strategy to embrace bloggers through Scoble and Waggener Edstrom is smart business and smart companies would do well to learn and imitate.
Below is my comment on Scoble’s blog:
Microsoft is smart. They have already begun opening up their PR to bloggers. And if you don’t know anyone at WaggEd they have a very visible public blogger, Robert Scoble, who is pretty much accessible to anyone in the blogosphere big or small at this point. In addition to publicly posting his email and cell phone number on his blog, Scoble’s geek dinners are open to all and he’s really a pretty easy person for a blogger to get to know. Much of what WaggEd and Scoble can do is connect you with the right people at Microsoft for whatever story you are working on. Personally I think each and every company out there should be asking themselves, who in our company is our Robert Scoble.
In addition to being accesible, smart companies are also being proactive in recognizing the value of PR in the blogosphere in combination with PR in the mainstream press.
WaggEd/Scoble have put together two blogging dinners with Senior exec Jim Allchin that I have been a part of. In addition to just getting the press release and news like everyone else, we were also able to spend Q&A; time with Jim in the same way that the New York Times or CNET would. As my writing is focused on Media Center, I was able to report from a Media Center enthusiast’s perspective which is different than how CNET or Mossberg might decide to spend their time with a Senior Microsoft exec.
On Monday I had lunch with an exec from TiVo and was able to report on that as well.
Smart companies are realizing that even a small blogger like myself can be amplified. Slashdot picked up both my dinner with Allchin as well as my lunch with TiVo’s E. Stephen Mack on Monday, driving far more traffic than I would have on my own.
What’s more, given a few links on an interesting story, a blogger’s story oftentimes can end up on the first page search results for a company that they write about. Davis Freeberg wrote an article a little under a year ago for thomashawk.com on a Wedbush Morgan analyst opinion on Blockbuster vs. Netflix and now that article sits on the first page of search results for a Wedbush Morgan search. Similarly, my above mentioned posts on the press dinners with Allchin appear (for the time being) on the first page Google search results for a vanity search on Jim’s name (ahead of CNET, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, by the way, all other places where he has been quoted). Google and the other search engines are indeed great equalizers.
Although smaller tech companies don’t have the PR budgets of Microsoft, I think that they would still be well served to do some very basic searches and try to network with the top bloggers blogging about their company. By doing a Technorati blog search ranked by authority on your product or company, or even by typing your company or product name into Google with the word blog next to it, you will find who is talking about your company with a reasonable amount of authority.
Setting up group dinners, including top bloggers on your company as press equivalents in your PR, emailing these bloggers, inviting them to come tour your company and meet executives, etc. are all ways that forward thinking companies should embrace the blogosphere from a PR perspective in the future.
Microsoft already gets this and although I’m sure extra special care is paid to the Walt Mossbergs of the world by WaggEd, they have gone out of their way to include representatives from the blogosphere in their campaigns as well.
As bloggers though we also need to be careful with our new found role and responsibilty. If we are going to be treated as press we need to keep press embargos that we are given and report fairly and responsibly on the companies that we cover.
As for NDAs, I don’t sign them anymore and would encourage other bloggers not to as well. You don’t need to. There’s a whole big world of news out there and if that means that I won’t get to see some software early or be able to get a scoop review on it that is fine — I can always find something else to blog about. I can respect press embargos and the basic tenants of information that is on background or off the record and with basic journalistic rules understood and in place, an NDA should not be necessary.