We’re back today with the final part of my
Q&A with PR Blogging maven Helena Bouchez. Given the incredible explosion
of blogs and the attention the bloggers themselves are receiving (Hello,
CNN/ABC/Fox, etc.: I’m available for bookings . . . ) I thought it would be
useful to ask one of the pros I know about how publicists should be approaching
this new outlet that’s here to stay. So I got in touch with Helena (whose name
is very movie starish, right?), principal of Helena B Communications (est.
2005), a PR firm that helps marketing thought leaders raise their profiles
among prospective clients and key opinion leaders, easing the new business
development process. She has developed and executed effective expertise PR
programs for creative organizations such as health care marketing firm Interval
(Minneapolis), luxury brand consultancy 400twin and visual communications firm
Decker Design (New York), bass guitar manufacturer Lakland Musical Instruments
Leslie: Do you think there will be some
sort of shake out in the blogosphere? In other words, do you think the cr?me de
la cr?me of bloggers will rise to the top while the others, those who can’t
really write, who just want free products, and basically neglect to follow the
rules, will disappear from the Internet?
Helena: I think the cream is already floating
to the top, especially with so many displaced journalists and other experts
starting to blog. Blogs that have value will continue to gain not only readers
but also the attention of key opinion leaders that will support and help popularize
them; those that don’t will remain obscure or be abandoned and become part of
the “space junk” of the Internet. It’ll be a form of natural selection. The
strong will survive.
Certain influential and authoritative blogs
already have become a critical conduit of information for journalists who are
now covering multiple beats and are looking to dialed-in bloggers to help them
quickly vet what is and is not news.
Interestingly, according to Technorati’s 2009
report on the “State of the Blogosphere” bloggers overall are in general a
highly educated and affluent group. And 60% of bloggers (surveyed) are between
18-44 years old. Three quarters are employed full-time. They appear to come in
four flavors: hobbyist, part-timers, corporate and self-employed. Each have
slightly different motivations, but the overall driver is their desire to share
their personal musings in the form of opinions, expertise and experiences with
Leslie: What do you think of the most recent
trend of companies offering to pay celebrities and very influential bloggers to
Tweet or blog on their behalf?
Helena: Whenever you pay someone to speak on
your behalf, the message becomes advertising, which falls within the old
paradigm of interruption rather than conversation. It stops being objective
third-party endorsement. In the current environment, where credibility and
authenticity is king, I question the value, unless it is part of a larger
communications plan that calls for broadcast (i.e. new product launch).
Celebrities rent their credibility all the
time in commercials and print ads, etc. so I don’t see much difference between
being paid to Tweet and being paid to hawk a product. Bloggers, on the other
hand, are in a bit of a double bind here as journalists who are looking to
independents (read: unpaid third-party endorsement with which numerous readers
concur) to call out the trends and events as real and newsworthy. If they get paid
for talking, it really does muddy their reputation and impugn their
objectivity. On the other hand, we all give away so much for free, it would be
nice to get paid once in a while! [Leslie’s note: here, here!]
Leslie: What other things are you seeing in
terms of blogging trends?
sophistication. The ability to sign into applications with Facebook Connect,
and additional tools, such as Disqus, that help communities form
more easily around blogs.
Helena:Additional integration and increased
Accurate tagging of each post also will become
a critical differentiator — the difference between being discovered and heard
and being that tree that falls alone in the forest. Twitter and blogging will
continue to be intertwined — 75% of bloggers surveyed by Technorati drive
readers to their blog posts via Twitter.
I also think we will continue see platform
upstarts, such as Posterous and Tumblr, etc. and others who want to help make
it easier for bloggers to create an attractive and functional site while
removing the obstacles to curating, sharing and relating huge amounts of information. Right now WordPress pretty
much rules, but it definitely has its issues. It’ll be interesting to see what
the rest of the year brings.