Weblogs & PR - it could be so easy...

It must be really hard for PR professionals to figure out how to use weblogs as an instrument for corporate communications - does anyone remember the notorious "Dr. Pepper Raging Cow fiasco" ?

Now a new approach is being tried: Guest Blogging !

Looks like a big PR agency is asking - spamming ? - prominent members of the blogosphere to let a certain someone occasionally post his views on their weblogs.

Mitch Kapor was one of the bloggers who received such a request and he has posted an annonymized version of the email he got on his weblog (via Dan Gillmor):
"Hi Mitch,

V.P. FROM VERY WELL-KNOWN VALLEY FIRM asked me to contact you. He reads your blog regularly and is wondering if you'd be open to him to posting an opinion? He has XX+ years of industry experience and his work at WELL-KNOWN VALLEY FIRM, involvement in the tech community and focus on customers makes him an interesting candidate to share a guest perspective.

At WELL-KNOWN VALLEY FIRM, V.P. is responsible for the company's business, strategy, technology and products focused on providing customers with disruptive competitive advantage through the COMPANY'S TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM.
Please let me know if you're interested.

Guest Blogging in general is probably a good idea. You can communicate to a large and focused audience without much effort. Only problem: this is a pull thing - you are invited to guest blog ! It might also be okay for the potential guest-blogger to personally (!) write an email to his would-be host in order to kindly ask for such an opportunity.

But using a PR agency to send out dozens of guest blogging requests sucks, because it makes it way to obvious that somebody is just trying to get a free ride !

With sentences like "He reads your blog regularly..." the email is trying to cover this up. But this only works, if the receiver doesn't get wind of the fact that the message was sent to many other people as well.

At this point it becomes clear how little this PR firm really knows about weblogs: people talk, you know ! Actually that's what blogging is all about !! And so it was only a matter of time before someone made one of these requests public. Now everybody knows what's really going on and we see the dawning of a brand new worst practice case in Blog-PR.

Really sad, because it's so easy to do this the right way !

Anybody from a PR agency reading this ? Here is a simple, straight-forward 3-step process you can follow: 1. buy a book and read it, 2.install a blog software on the server of your chosing and then 3. get your client to start his own blog ! If he got something interesting to say, people will listen.

And hey: don't even think about writing this weblog for him ! Weblogs are supposed to be personal and authentic. It is not just a new channel for reworked press material !! But there is still a lot for PR professionals to do: e.g. show your client how to write, get the word out about this new and exciting weblog and learn to use Technorati & Co.

So if anyone is looking for a way to wield the power of weblogs for PR purposes, this is it !

By the way, there is a funny side story to this: When Mitch posted the email, he tried to protect the identity of the person involved. But he underestimated the power of the Google ! Just try a quick search for the words "disruptive competitive advantage" "vice president" and suddenly the veil is lifted...

Hmm, I wonder what Mr. Bauhaus now thinks about his PR firm ? Well, let's just hope they don't have to cope with a Raging Bull there... ;-)