Last Updated Apr 19, 2011 4:33 PM EDT
I'm certainly not of the school that tells you to jump on the social media bandwagon and adopt the latest shiny new toy, regardless of whether or not it's right for you. (Blogs have now been around for over a decade, so while they might still be shiny, they can hardly be called new, but that's a post for another time.)
However, when you are evaluating which tools to pull out of your public relations toolbox and which ones will most benefit your business objectives, are you only thinking about generating sales?
In his book, Social Media Metrics, online marketing guru Jim Sterne has a lovely little Venn diagram that visualizes the three yardsticks by which social media should be measured: increasing revenue, lowering costs, and improving customer satisfaction. (If you're trying to get your arms around measuring social media, by the way, I highly recommend that book, and no, Jim didn't pay me to say so.)
Most of the time, it's very difficult for PR initiatives to be linked directly to these three goals, which is why, when we start to measure PR (and social media), we fall into all sorts of traps (also a post, or several, for another day).
But what PR is great at doing is building up relationships; hence the name of the discipline. It is great at directing conversation, shaping thought leadership, and building reputation.
That last point brings me back to what I started out with, and why I think you should not dismiss blogging out of hand. Reputation.
A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with a friend after several months (let's call him Mr. X). Mr. X has been employed at a large organization for a few years, and has built up a great reputation in his field, much of which was fueled by aggressive yet strategic media outreach.
Recently, though, Mr. X was at the center of a controversy that questioned his ability and reputation. When I heard the story, I did what we all do; I turned to Google and, sure enough, there was news article after news article, blog post after blog post, even videos on YouTube that were damaging his name. According to him, these were misinformed and biased pieces because the various parties involved didn't release all the facts.
According to Mr. X, his employer did nothing to correct the misinformation that had started circulating. No "here's our side of the story" news releases; no comment on media/blogs (other than to say, "no comment")... nothing. And, as a result, his online reputation isn't looking too good.
It is only the fact that he has built up extremely good relationships over decades with key people in the field that is helping Mr. X keep his head above water.
Granted, I only know one side of the story. But I also know Mr. X very well, and he has no reason to lie to me. So I'm taking his word for it.
Now, put yourself in Mr. X's shoes. Suppose something similar were to happen to you or your business became involved in some kind of scandal, or customer service controversy. The media, as we all know, love scandals and controversy because they sell. And more often than not, they don't have the time to chase down the true facts, even though I'd like to think there are some media professionals who would rather do that than publish unverified evidence.
But on the other hand, if you are doing nothing to correct the misinformation, why would they even have an inkling that there's another side to the story?
Now, imagine you don't have recourse to large sums of money to go on a media tour, to issue news release after news release (though there are cost-effective ways of doing that these days), etc. What is the one media property you could tell your own story through?
It's a blog.
Sales don't happen overnight. They take time, they take trust, and they take reputation.
But if you don't protect your reputation, what chance do you stand?
Image: Paolo Massa via Flickr, CC 2.0
Shonali Burke is Principal of Shonali Burke Consulting where she helps turn businesses' communication conundrums into community cool. She opines on PR and social media at Waxing UnLyrical and is considered one of 25 women that rock social media.