I was reading a story this morning from B2B magazine that the popularity of blogging by b-to-b marketers is waning. This is according to Forrester Research’s “How to Derive Value from B2B Blogging” report released Monday. A stand out finding is that 53% of respondents said blogs were either marginal or irrelevant in their 2008 marketing strategy.
Whilst not an expert and without knowing the companies surveyed, my gut tells me that the only reason for a negative response like this could be because the content is not relevant and is not driving conversations. I also imagine the reason for starting a blog in the first place was a knee jerk reaction due to the interest and desire to embrace blogging as part of a corporate social media program.
Forrester recommends that companies give it another go, employing a few basic strategies like honing their voice on other public forums, becoming a resource rather than espousing company rhetoric.
Are we going to see a decline in the number of corporate blogs – one would expect that technology companies would have more success, especially within the markets they operate and the topics relevant to their buyers. Perhaps I am wrong. But with blogging and other conversational marketing activities now part of an employee’s job description, are we forcing the issue and as a consequence, finding that there is little of no value because the content is probably not worth the effort. These results in this Forrester survey would suggest that is happening.
While I largely agree with the points Tom Foremski makes, I do have two quibbles.
First: the notion that “PR firms cannot claim to know anything about new/social media if they aren’t using it themselves.”
There’s no question in my mind that direct experience is tremendously valuable, however it seems to me that there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that, in any endeavor, outside perspectives can provide unique, valuable insight and trenchant analysis.
I think the tendency of some in the blogosphere to critique the MSM without having experience or training as reporters is a great example of this. Their critique is no less true and no less valid for their lack of experience in investigative reporting.
There’s also plenty of evidence, I think, to support the notion that an overly insider perspective can negatively distort and bias opinions. That’s how we get market bubbles. On balance direct experience is better than no experience, but I don’t think it’s an absolute.
Second: the notion that many PR firms only post “after meetings about what they will blog about.” This strikes me as somewhat apocryphal. It’s certainly not true in our case.
One final point, I do think most publicists struggle to blog – I know I do. I’m not entirely sure why but I think it may have something to do with the nature of our profession. We can’t blog about day-to-day work because it’s all supposed to be privileged – until its not – and then the focus should be on the client. It can be difficult to make the time, and the head space, to find other sources of material.
As technology enthusiasts it’s often easy to forget that technology is not, in and of itself, a solution to anything. This article in Slate on the potential negative impact of programs such as One Laptop per Child is illustrative. Here’s one key point:
“So what happens when good fortune delivers vouchers (and hence computers) into the homes of Romanian youths? . . . computer use also crowded out homework (2.3 hours less per week), reading, and sleep. Less schoolwork translated into lower grades at school—vouchered kids’ GPAs were 0.36 grade points lower than their nonvouchered counterparts—and also lower aspirations for higher education. Vouchered kids were 13 percentage points less likely to report an intention to attend college.”
The article also links to this CNET article from May reporting on a survey showing that one-fifth of all Americans have never sent an email or never used the Internet. That number is striking – but also easy to believe.
Why wouldn’t 60 million Americans reject the Internet? It is possible to live a pretty good life without unfettered, 24/7 access to everything from the most sublime to the most squalid output of human civilization.
That said, I think this all amounts to further evidence of the fracturing of the digital divide into digital subdivisions: increasing numbers of distinct groups defined by widely varying degrees of technological sophistication. (I’m further persuaded by the fact that it’s my idea).
As professional communicators, however, I think it behooves us to take note of this fracturing; the growing complexity that is coming to define how people experience and view technology. Today’s survey measures email use. Tomorrow’s, I have no doubt, will measure take-up, impact (and rejection) of social networking – won’t that be interesting.
For the past couple of years I haven’t been in a client meeting or industry event where “social media” isn’t mentioned. Forget “mention”: it has been at the core of the discussion. But in all these conversations, what hasn’t been covered is how traditional media, in particular tech press, is evolving, changing, adapting; and what this means for “traditional” tech PR professionals. Publishers like CMP (or better the former CMP) and IDG are changing. They have been “socialized”.
From now on, when I talk to a client or colleague, I’d like to make a distinction between social media and socialized media.
Of course I believe they are both very important, but they are critically different. And since all the attention has been focused on the first one, in this post I want to share some initial thoughts on the latter:
So what’s the net-net? As PR practitioners we are in front a very complex ecosystem, with a lot of moving parts. I think knowing and understanding the different motivations of all the players (the blogger, the journalist, the publisher, the editor) will make us better counselors and strategists.
Much has been said about the use of social media and I’ve heard several business to business technology companies either struggling with how to best harness social media or viewing social media as something that is too risky to adopt.
What I think lies at the center of this discussion is the need to really know the voice of the organization and the key attributes that factor into building the foundation that supports the voice.
That foundation should include a few key elements: a secure and confident understanding of the organization’s core values that ultimately define the brand; a compelling mix of core messages to support the company’s products or services; and a vision for where the company and industry are going.
From these elements – and quite possibly several other considerations – a social media strategy can be built that integrates the right tools, activities and campaigns that adequately represent the brand and help communicate with the company’s audiences.
I attended a Business Social Software Jeopardy Webcast hosted by Jive Software on May 28th. The Webcast three contestants – Bill Johnston – Chief Community Officer at Forum One Communications; Laura Ramos – Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research; and Jeremiah Owyang – Senior Analyst at Forrester Research and was hosted by Jive Software’s CMO, Sam Lawrence.
Overall the Webcast was informative, but what really stood out was the POST methodologythat Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang spoke about. POST stands for People (knowing your audience/ who you are trying to reach), Objectives (what are you trying to achieve?), Strategy (how your relationships will change from the activities) and Technologies (the tools you’ll use to achieve your goals for the effort). Following these four steps make a lot of sense to me, but they need to be built on a foundation that falls in-line with the company’s voice and overarching brand personality.
I do believe that there is a role for social media within any company or organization. How broad reaching the effort is, how “edgy” the tactics are and what tools and techniques are applied. The chief underlying rule to always keep in mind is that they must be built from a solid foundation and awareness of your voice.
Here are a few interesting current and past social media efforts from business to business companies that support their brands. The differences are obvious, but what is important is how they found their own voice and approach to meet their goals.
Some of these are well known examples, others may be new to you…
Cisco donthaveameltdown.com (I believe the official site has been taken down, but the viral video still lives on)
Know of any good B2B social media campaigns or activities? If so, please share them!
* full disclosure we currently represent Hitachi Data Systems, however we were not involved in the development of the Mr. T viral video series
Yeah, as in Wonka. Remember the scene? Charlie at the gates? Thousands upon thousands of fans standing in eager amazement as the gates were about to open. Would we see oompa-loompas for the first time? Gorge on chocolates to our hearts content? Just what would we do with the gates open?
And that’s a bit of the sensation I had as a tech PR professional upon reading that some mainstream media (MSM) are responding to the surge in growth and buzz (there’s a difference) in and about social media. They want some too (yes, get me some of that social media, but as a means to growth and buzz) so they’re opening the gates. Call it readership community! Collaboration! Co-creation! Whatever you call it, BusinessWeek and others want to let readers guide story topic selection; heck sometimes they’ll let them write the next sentence! They want to engage with readers, and in doing so cede the ‘we are the experts, we’ll decide what to analyze and then do the analysis’ mantel.
So like I said, at first the PR pro in me gets giddy. What an opportunity! More ways to suggest topics! More ways to influence! More ways to get the experts I want to see espousing with more air-time than your experts! Alas my clients will be heard!
But wait. Then the New Englander in me speaks up. The New Englander automatically furrows the brow and looks for ‘the angle’ in anything that looks good at first. There must be a downside dammit. And then it hits me. The thousands of fans at the gate. Some of them are maybe not evil, but certainly not upstanding. Let’s just say, they won’t be operating with transparency. They might just dupe those MSM. They might steer, influence and suggest too far. Why, with the news staffs shrinking, who will ensure that some bot doesn’t just keep changing names and suggesting similar topics that mislead a tag cloud of story ideas! Those poor unsuspecting MSM!
Then I decide, maybe the change actually lands somewhere in the middle. Of course BusinessWeek needs to socialize itself. They must innovate or shrink. They’ll succeed in places, fail in others. And after all, this is about conversations and relationships, and that’s why I got into this field 20 years ago. It’s a good thing, right? As long as those of us acting transparently traffic the rest of the crowd. After all, someone has to protect the Ever-lasting Gobbstoppers.
It’s a good thing. Right?
I am personally extremely excited to start this blog not only because it will be a platform to share our thinking and engage in conversations with a broader community but because it will be really broad. In fact we have contributors from our Tech Practice from all around the world: from San Francisco to Singapore, from London to Sydney, we have people coming together with a common, global passion. Not, it’s not soccer. OK. It is soccer. But it is, mainly, Hi-Tech PR.
In this venue we will share what we see in the world of technology PR and beyond. We will talk about trends, ideas, things we stumbled upon, questions we might not have an answer for (and maybe you can help us.). Experiences of working with colleagues from other practices and disciplines. What’s changing and happening in the different markets: locally, regionally or globally.
We didn’t want to have the point of view of just a few senior PR professionals. So I am particularly thrilled to have members at every level be contributors. Fresh air. A different perspective. Young. Old. Experienced. Opinionated. Thoughtful.
We want to make it easy to have conversations with our clients, competitors, industry leaders, students, fellow bloggers and not just among ourselves. We would love to see a lot of content, ideas and participation.
Join the conversation. Throw us a Tech PR Nibble!