Embrace technology as marketing tool

The effectiveness of broadcast advertising is at an all-time low. People are tuning out, turning off, and TiVoing through the "shout at me when you want" approach.

The effectiveness of broadcast advertising is at an all-time low. People are tuning out, turning off, and TiVoing through the "shout at me when you want" approach.

Consumers now expect what they want, how they want it, when they want it. And I don't think they'll ever return from that happy place.

In light of this, the real-life conversational interaction available through the use of a tool like a blog presents the perfect opportunity for PR pros to take control of a larger share of the marketing action.

Yet experience shows that PR departments and pros have been slow to embrace blogs and other new media tools as the powerful conversational marketing tools they are. You likely know this, but conversational marketing doesn't occur out of press releases, talking points, and company "spokespeak." PR pros need to grab a hold of the rush of technology in full swing today to take a deeper role in marketing.

Blogs, RSS, podcasting, videocasting, vertical search, and cheap data storage, blended with the almost ubiquitous high-speed internet connection, are changing the way customers get information and interact with the companies and products they know, like, and trust.

More important, PR pros are naturally positioned to harness these tools and alter the way customer relationships are built.

RSS, a soon to be mainstream new media tool, is a powerful content publishing tool, but it's also the best listening device available. Even if you don't publish a blog, you can aggregate and filter very specific kinds of information and discover what a 16-year-old in Australia is saying about your product minutes after it's been said. You know how hard you have to work for testimonials and user stories. RSS readers serve them to you on a silver platter, all day long.

RSS allows you to keep an ear on your competitors in real time, respond to and proactively promote word-of-mouth buzz while it is forming, and seize opportunities to address dissatisfied customers before they raise their voices.

Budget is always a concern in marketing efforts, but the cost of creating and publishing a blog is insignificant, particularly when compared with other forms of marketing. The ability to create one-to-many personal conversations with customers and prospects in a controllable space makes blogging's ROI among the most attractive of any marketing alternatives.

The open and honest communication possible in a blog conversation is nearly impossible to create in any other medium. When you start to use a platform like a blog to address what's right and what's wrong with your product, credibility soars.

Blogs remain the darlings of the search engine community and consistently allow websites to score much higher for important keyword phrases than static web pages alone.

When a company CEO blogs, it allows the market to see the real person at the helm. Blogging for a CEO is like taking a shift at the company switchboard, with the ability to have thousands of conversations at a time.

In terms of marketing to the media, journalists are some the leading consumers of RSS feeds. One of the quickest ways to get their attention is to blog. One of the best ways to make sure that the media gets your story right is to blog. When necessary, one of the best ways to take control of your public message is to blog.

The readership of many blogs actually exceeds the readership of many publications in number and, certainly, in loyalty. For a technology company, a positive mention on boingboing.net or endgadget.com is worth more than a feature in BusinessWeek.

Blogs are viral by nature. Every blogger networks with at least 10 or 20 other bloggers. It's just part of the culture. When you engage customers, networks, and supporters in this fashion, they become walking, talking company spokespeople in small, highly responsive networks.

Simply reading about blogging is not enough though. To understand blogs' impact, you must participate. To get a taste of the power of these new media tools, start by finding and reading blogs covering your industry, then set up a series of keyword-specific searches, such as news. google.com, and subscribe to these searches and blogs via an RSS reader.

Do this for two weeks, and you'll be hooked.

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system.

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