With the preponderance of social media in the form of blogs or ‘mini-blogs’ (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, even Pinterest) there is an opportunity to revolutionise traditional media’s approach of taking a negative, divisive and conflict-fixated approach. Of course, it has been observed that conflict is what interests people, but that doesn’t always need to be the case. Not being negatively oriented would provide a marketable POD.

Journalists are the woolly mammoths of communication

One dimension of this discussion is the opportunities blogs in particular are providing organisations – through PR-driven brand journalism – to make a proactive, high profile contribution to discussions on key issues, including industry news. Large organisations especially have the resources to gain high SEO rankings because of their relevance to issues and topics of conversation.

They can therefore rival even large news organisations as a provider of content – analysis and thought leadership in particular, leaving the daily grind of ‘news’ to the old school woolly mammoths.

It doesn’t have to be either/or, though. The two paradigms can operate in tandem, just as they are evolving to do.

And why wouldn’t organisations do this (i.e. create reputation-building safe haven sources of information that goes STRAIGHT to stakeholders (i.e. unmediated – getting the message across without media bias)? As long as this is done with credibility, authenticity and with stakeholders’ interests in mind, it will make an impact and is already doing so.

This is taking an issues management approach. Intelligently done, it is an approach that can not only build reputation proactively, it can also provide a bulwark against negative criticism that occurs in a crisis situation, including from the woolly mammoths.

But it’s not just organisational blogs that are at play there. There is the 3rd party: the independent blogger. We’re coming to the new tiger in the jungle.

Public relations needs to be proactive in issues management

One strategic approach for brand journalism, especially when using a blog platform, is to frequently link to and address issues discussed by and/or relevant to influential, or potentially influential, bloggers (in the context of an organisation’s reputation and/or a specific issue). The organisation should be addressing these issues from its own perspective, providing insights and information that will be unique to it – thus helping with differentiation, SEO and thought leadership positioning.

Why should the woolly mammoths have all the exclusives, pray tell?

The recognition of the blogger’s perspective through taking this approach will make them make feel valued and respected, even if the organisation takes an oppositional perspective to them. This will definitely speed up the information flow in a crisis (i.e. potentially stamp out the brush fires of disinformation that can escalate an already explosive situation).

Would you say the same approach would work with traditional journalism (i.e. link to journalist’s stories on either their own blogs or media website)? In my view, it won’t work as well because the journalists are bred and paid to be difficult folk, taking the cynical, uber-sceptical position.

Journalists have egos. Who would have thought?

But there are exceptions to this rule, especially in vertical/B2B media outlets and, let’s not forget, journalists are people too and as such possess egos (often quite colossal ones) that will feel gratified and respected if an organisation links to their online endeavours and accords them recognition and respect when addressing their positions. So, in summary, it can’t hurt!

Non-journalist bloggers – tigers without manners?

Because non-media bloggers aren’t restrained by the same standards and regulation as journalists, they can put unfounded content and utter speculation on their sites, meaning the genie can escape from the bottle (even if the genie is a figment of the writer’s imagination or ego) very quickly. If the organisation has an established blog and possibly even relationship with the blogger, this fire can be doused extremely quickly.

PR content marketing is more than join-the-dots

As social media is such a well resourced and many-limbed conductor of contemporary crises and issues of a reputational nature, it is imperative that an organisation of any size cultivates more than just a ‘placeholder’ presence on a blog and other social media, as well as having a presence that talks not only about positive ‘pretty’ issues impacting on the organisation, but also about challenging and divisive ones.

For brand journalism to resonate with its stakeholders it needs to take this holistic approach, embracing a wide range of issues relevant to the organisation and its stakeholders’ interests, needs and wants.

Independent bloggers influence the media itself, thus giving their presence greater resonance. In an interesting summary articulated in a study in the Journal of Public Relations Research, which has influenced this post itself, it was stated that bloggers:

  • Act as ‘watchdogs’ to media by identifying inaccuracies
  • Remove barriers to information access that media might put in place
  • Upset the once dominant agenda-setting primacy of the media woolly mammoths
  • Democratise the sources of information and perspectives available to stakeholders to gather information.

All of this is true, of course. So now we have three sources of news and blogs:

  • Media woolly mammoths
  • Organisational elephants in the room
  • Independent tigers of the jungle.

Care to venture outside?

Stop press: Very soon a new, free whitepaper will be launched on this blog called The Holy Trinity of public relations: thought leadership, 3rd party credibility and strategic alliances. Spread the word! #PRholytrinity

What role do you think organisations should play in the provision of thought leadership, industry information and news – either through social media such as blogs or other platforms? What are your observations on the rapidly evolving tripartite sources of news and insights we have – media, bloggers and organisations? Where are we headed?

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