Blogs long ago passed the "next big thing" status marker for most areas of PR. Consumer practitioners obsess over what influential bloggers think of their clients' products; corporate communicators follow the chatter about a company's outlook; public affairs pros keep an eye on the political blogosphere.
In the field of IR, though, blogs have been slower to take hold. IR pros tend to be singularly focused on strict, mandated procedures for communicating most aspects of a company's financial condition and are not generally known for seeing "cutting edge" as a desirable thing. But feelings are somewhat mixed; some practitioners dismiss blogs as irrelevant, while others say the field is slowly changing to embrace more new-media methodologies.
Howard Zar, an EVP who heads Porter Novelli's IR practice, says blogs are only the latest incarnation of a hot, new technology.
"When the heat about blogging started, it reminded me of what happened when chat rooms began," he says. "People pay attention to them because they're not sure what's going to come out of them. They're uncontrolled, and people want to make sure they're not missing something."
Of course, Zar notes, interest in blogs varies on a case-by-case basis; companies with good transparency and low public interest will be less concerned about blog revelations than will more well-known companies.
Zar says he reads several Internet tip sheets, like FierceFinance and DealBook, which are synopses of major stories of the day. "That's very useful," he says. "You get a sense of what comes across other people's desks."
Erik Knettel, IR pro with Global Consulting Group, says via e-mail that blogs are part of a larger trend of instant communications.
"As financial communications operates in a fairly regulated environment, I don't necessarily see corporate-crafted investor blogs emerging," he says. "However, the trend of more real-time and interactive information dissemination in IR is powerful."
Some, though, are not enthusiastic. "The rough-draft, shoot-first, aim-later style of blogs," says Patrick Gallagher, SVP at Edward Howard & Co., "runs totally counter to IR best practices."
IR pros, by and large, have not adopted blogs as enthusiastically as other PR pros
IR is still adapting to the instant communication model embodied by blogs
Blogs read by IR pros may focus more generally on finance or on specific client companies