This installment in the PR 2.0 is a bit out of step with the rest of them but fell out of a discussion that I had yesterday evening with someone I had met from a consumer agency. As an agency they were being pressured by their parent company to move more towards blogging, online PR, joining in The Conversation, worshipping Robert Scoble/Steve Rubel/Jeremy Pepper/Dave Winer (insert favourite touchstone blogger name in here as appropriate) as the second coming of Christ etc.Two issues that came up and got my attention were: – What do you say to a client that wants to start a company / product blog? – How does digital culture and society link together?
What do you say to a client that wants to start a company / product blog?
First of all ask yourself will the client flame out in 12 months or are you in for the long haul?
If they’re a flamer, their funding is going to burn away like foam on the space shuttle’s undercarriage on re-entry, so you may as well bill them and be damned otherwise they’ll just throw it away on business-class flights or Cisco routers.
However if its for the long term the first thing that I think you do is fall back on consultancy skills and ask the right questions. The big one in this case being why? My own thought is that it is better to do nothing for the right reason than encourage the client to do something for the wrong reason. Although you have lost the mark-up on employing a digital agency to set up a template and a Word Press server you will have helped build a longer term relationship with the client based on trust and valued counsel.
Where you can sell blogging services even when you are discouraging your client from using blogging as a communications tool is by pointing out that the client from a HR perspective should have blogging guidelines in place because at least some of their staff will be participating in the online conversation.
You can then utilise your expertise and Google to find and adapt guidelines to suit the client’s corporate culture and business requirements. Voila! Two days of senior time that can be billed to the client.
They probably don’t blog about the company, but giving employees guidelines can encourage them to become company ambassadors because they know what is acceptable and what isn’t.
How does digital culture and society link together?
My take on this was that the online world largely mirrors the offline world, however it also exerts some influence as a feedback loop. A great example of this is the mobile phone: it became popular because it was convenient to use and fitted into consumers lives, however the 160 character limitation of SMS has given use a new written vocabulary and camera phones have facilitated the expansion of citizen journalism.
(Citizen journalism was about before in a less impactful way, the amateur photographer or tourist with a camcorder or the eyewitness phoning up a newspaper and recounting their story down the phone. The difference is that now the citizen has more control of the distribution.)
I think that there are generational differences in world outlook that also influence this: most bloggers are late boomers or generation X. Boomers are existential in nature broadcasting their views, gen X like the conversation and debate of the comment fields and generation Y have a different world view that is much more collaborative so social networking makes even more sense to them.
Looking at generation Y is their collaborative nature borne out of the technology world around them or inspite of it. I read an article a while ago that pointed out that just over a decade ago caller ID was pushing the bounds in privacy, whereas generation Y realise that they don’t really have privacy anyway.
Then again, the exhibitionism of MySpace could be also down the cult of celebrity show-it-all phenomena from MTV’s The Real World or the The Osbournes to Endemol’s Big Brother; or for all you Daily Express readers out there its just another sign of the end times in a decaying society brought about by the premature death of HRH Princess Diana.