Session Notes: PR Do’s and Don’ts

These are my session notes from the panel discussion “Pr Do’s and Don’ts” at BlogWorld Expo.

Moderator: “We’d like this to be a very open and sharing session.” But then went ahead and asked a long list of pre-set questions. She was more than a little underwhelming, actually.

Intro the panelists

Mike Prosceno from SAP
Jennifer Cisney from Kodak
Henry Copeland from Blogads
John Earnhardt from Cisco
Joe Beaularier from PRWeb
Brian Solis from FutureWorks

Q: “What’s the difference between how bloggers cover company news versus journalists?”

Solis – more personal opinion and feeling than fact.
Earnhardt – blogs are more like trade publications in technology than anything else these days.

Q: “Does every company need to reach out to the bloggers in their space? What are the benefits?”

All: yes.
SAP: Another route to converse with the market. You’re talking to a microcosm with the market, allows you to have a 360 degree conversation. Financial implications, product development, how you bring that product to market. It helps not just get your message across but also listening and taking that information back with you when you go to market.
Cisco – you can really take the temperature of what people are thinking in successful posts.
Kodak – shows that “yes, we get it, we are becoming a digital company”

Q: “What is different about what you plan for blogger outreach?”

PRWeb – Don’t do it assuming that they’re going to be at your beck and call. These are human beings who may or may not like your brand, may or may not be interested. Ask permission.
Cisco – really, no differences. Get a knowledge base on the bloggers, learn who to deal with, how to deal with them.
SAP – recognize that people who are good PR professionals before web 2.0 will be good professionals now. It’s about relationship building and that has not changed. There’s a difference between dealing with ZDNet blogs and community bloggers. Some are looking for news, other are looking for interaction.
Solis – not many good pr people have good skills. It’s about figuring out who you want to reach and why. A press release should not be in blogger relations at all. Get involved by commenting, reading, figuring out where you want to be, then reverse engineer. Come up with stories that will matter to them. Personalization. Know how people want to be reached.
Kodak – OUTREACH. Don’t try and pretend to be something you’re not, that’s spammy.

Q: “What about bloggers who say something negative? How should you respond?”

PRWeb – Directly. Link to the negative comments, respond to them. Get a conversation going, ask for detailed feedback.
Blogads – it’s good to have the right enemies sometimes.
SAP – excluding sheer maliciousness, it can help you come to some consensus. Your friends will come to your defense.

Q: “What is the worst thing a PR person can do when coming to a blogger?”

Solis: Not reading their blog & not knowing why you’re going to that blogger.

[repeat of some information from the AM session]

Q: “Has the blog you started changed over time?”

Cisco – yes.
Blogads – Read Cluetrain manifesto, it got me blogging.

[Lost the train of conversation for a sec, conversation migrated to codes of conduct.]

PRWeb: it’s nice to hear from individuals speaking about their expertise, in a natural voice.
SAP: talking about building their conversation community. CEO wants to meet with bloggers now. Engage online as well as offline; face to face still matters. Comment threads can be just as interesting as the post itself.

Q: “How does a blogger get on the company’s radar?”

SAP: just like we get to know the blogger community, bloggers should take the time to get to know the people at the company.
Blogads: be careful of backlash, bloggers do not like to feel used.
Cisco: separation of church and state (ads and content) matters.
SAP: difference between private blogs and commercial blogs. Advertising is more appropriate on commercial sites.

Opening to questions from the audience. Finally.

Q: “How do you learn to be successful in this new space?”

Solis: A lot of PR people haven’t been groomed this (web 2.0) way and have been failing in public because they don’t know what they are doing.
Cisco: Doing a lot of internal training to help people get it.
PRWeb: there is hope. I was stunned at the number of new media, social media sessions at the PR annual conference recently.

Jeremy Pepper (in the audience) – so many people don’t get it, and it’s even harder with segmented teams & overspecialization. What happened to the generalist?

Solis – in a way outreach is a new form of customer support.

SAP – True PR should belong to everyone in your company. It’s about how every employee talks about the company. Try to understand the issue or problem and solve it, not to push a message.

Q: “Do you worry about companies who are bad actors soiling the space? Will that make things harder for you when dealing with bloggers?”

SAP – people will do it, I’m sure.
PRWeb – there will always be bad actors, you can vet them out without too much trouble. It won’t tarnish the opportunity.
Blogads – slightly less optimistic – look at PayPerPost. The low road is being taken and seems to be doing well.

Q: “How do you use a blog to become a thought leader?”

PRWeb: David Meerman Scott does this well.
Solis: Depends on whether you really are a thought leader. Your opinions might suck. But seriously, you need to promote yourself as well as have good content. It’s a process.

UPDATE: Jeremy Pepper also blogged this session.

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