Recently, I was explaining to someone why I wanted to shift the mix of my consulting business to include more blogger relations projects, both hands-on projects and strategic consulting to companies executing their projects themselves.
It’s simple. Nearly every organization, regardless of size, is going to have to engage in blogger relations. Because blogger relations is the evolution of customer relations.
I hear the objection … "But isn’t blogger relations just PR campaigns aimed at bloggers to get them to write about products and services? How can that be customer relations?"
Outbound blogger relations, or blogger outreach, is only one part of blogger relations. It’s also more, or at least should be more, than "just PR." Remember: the blogger is the customer. When companies engage with bloggers, they are strengthening, or weakening, their relationships with their customers.
For the moment, though, let’s step away from the outreach discussion and remember that an interaction can be initiated by either party in a relationship.
It is equally likely that a blogger — the customer — will effectively reach out to a company by offering an unsolicited opinion about the firm or its products on her blog. How a company handles this blogger-initiated interaction, whether it be kudos or complaint, is equally blogger relations.
In my personal experience, companies rarely engage with bloggers under these circumstances. I’ve mentioned a number of different companies here, both positively and negatively, over the past three years. So far, only one company has left a comment on the relevant post. Other bloggers report similar results. The question is, why?
Are the companies not paying attention, or do they just not know what to say?
It’s probably a bit of both. That’s the opportunity for companies willing to step up and really start talking with their customers. Wherever the conversation may be.
It starts with monitoring what people are saying about the company — on blogs, microblogs like Twitter, social networks like Facebook, Forums, your customer service or support lines — wherever customers talk about you, whatever else comes along. But it can’t end there, or even with solid outreach programs that offer relevant information to the appropriate people.
You have got to be willing to respond. To answer the question, acknowledge the comment, accept the compliment and address the concerns. Publicly.
That’s the challenge for blogger relations. Engaging with your customers on their terms as well as yours, on their turf as well as yours. Consistently and for mutual benefit.
Ready, set, go.
I’m off to BlogHer Business tomorrow morning, so blogging will be light for the rest of the week, although I will be on Twitter. I will try to get my posts up about the sessions on the train ride home Saturday. While you are waiting, check out:
- SciFi Sunday on Snapshot Chronicles, a review of the Stargate SG-1 direct-to-DVD film The Ark of Truth, and an action figure giveaway. I’ve got some extra SG-1 figures and rather than mess around with E-bay, I’m going to give them away on Snapshot Chronicles.
- Coaching Tips from the Simon Cowell School of Professional Development from client Caras Training’s blog For the Face of Your Business.