Individual blogs might lack the mass audiences of mainstream media outlets, but collectively they amount to a communications channel in their own right with an immediacy that conventional channels lack. And with 23,000 sites created every day, they cannot be dismissed as the preserve of hardcore geeks and must be factored into any credible media monitoring exercise.
So how should the industry respond? From an agency perspective, Ketchum announced in the US in mid-June that it was to launch 'Ketchum Personalized Media', which would offer consultancy on integrating blogs into a communications strategy. A timely intervention, one might think. The trouble was, Ketchum did not have its own company blog. Nor did any of the consultants running this new service. Fittingly, several blogs sprung up attacking the agency's credibility on the subject, which Ketchum allowed to simmer for several days without responding.
One blogger wrote: 'Ketchum is getting savaged by not responding and is creating a case study on how not to engage the blogosphere. PR in the blogosphere is about engaging people in a dialogue and responding rapidly to qualified (as opposed to crackpot) criticism.'
The lesson for agencies is, as with conventional media, to monitor what people are saying about clients, rather than bolt on a specialised blogging service. The wider lesson for all guardians of company reputation is to join the conversation rather than bury their heads in the sand.
Bloggers are not journalists. They do not check facts. And yet some have widespread influence and are read by journalists. Openness and engagement will gain the respect of the blogging community. Silence will only alienate it and threaten to turn a non-story into a crisis.
- Danny Rogers is away.