Following my last class today I headed on over to the University of Virginia to take part in the annual meeting of the College Communicators Association. I was asked to talk a bit about how university public relations people might utilize bloggers as a means to build stronger ties with the general public. To be completely honest, I felt like a fish out of water, but I shared some ideas based on my limited interaction with public relations folks from various institutions. Here is a brief rundown of my main points:
Keep in mind that blogging is a self-indulgent and ego-driven activity. In other words, bloggers work to share their ideas with an audience and not the announcements of others. In other words, understand that your communique goes against the grain of what blogging is about.
Do your homework and look into specific blogs that might be receptive to you rather than sending out a mass email. The overwhelming number of blogs are not worth contacting because they do not attract an audience. Build a relationship with specific bloggers. A few weeks ago a major archival repository put out a video announcing a new exhibit. The video went to most of the Civil War bloggers, which resulted in me not featuring it on this site.
Look for the tell-tale signs of a thriving blog. Feedburner chicklets indicate the number of subscribers while sitemeter and statcounter will sometimes make public the number of daily visits and other relevant statistics. In the case of advertising you may want to request a Google Analytics report.
Focus on bloggers who are self hosted and have their own domain name since this suggests a certain amount of investment into the site. At the same time it is important to remember that you are asking for free publicity. The blogger has to get something out of the transaction. What are you offering to the blogger?
Make the pitch to the blogger as to why your information is relevant to the audience. Again, I receive regular emails from various institutions and only rarely do I respond and it is even rarer that their information is featured on this site.
Finally, the energy expended trying to reach out to other social media sites should go into crafting your own content and figuring how to effectively utilize the many social networking tools that are available. Create your own audience and understand why it matters.
I guess that sounds like something that Chris Brogan or the countless other so-called social media experts might say.