Tuesday, March 24, 2009

5 C's for engaging bloggers

Earlier today, I told a colleague that it looks like "engaging bloggers" is the new black: I'm seeing more attention being paid to the topic (and will be speaking on a panel about that topic for the Public Relations Society of America's National Capital Chapter in late April). Since blogging began more than 10 years ago, it's good that communications and public relations folks are focusing on engagement, rather than avoidance, standoffs or confrontation. While you're figuring out what makes sense for your outreach to bloggers, don't overlook the five C's -- commonplace, cheap and creative ways to help bloggers that will pay big dividends:
  • Camera snaps: Photo-sharing's one of the biggest trends in social media--and a missed opportunity for many organizations. As a blogger, can I easily find and illustrate my copy with copyright-free, useful photos of your building, meeting, conference, leadership, current projects? Be sure to create (and promote) photostreams on sharing sites like Flickr and Facebook (the latter is the most popular photo sharing site), as well as on your own website. Go here to learn how one institution, the Library of Congress, used photo-sharing to great result.
  • Codes: While someone will come up with a hashtag--a short identifying code used by posters on Twitter, preceded by a # sign (as in #biocon08 or #greenjobs)--if you don't, it's better to issue a hashtag for your issue, conference or meeting. Then, take the next step and clue the bloggers in: Promote the hashtag in your meeting materials, pressroom, even on the tables in your meeting rooms. It's not just a convention and a convenience--it tells bloggers and Twitterers that you welcome their posts about your event or topic.
  • Confab space: The meetup or "tweetup" for bloggers and Twitterers is a great way to bring high touch to high tech, letting online mavens meet and greet in person. If you're convening a conference, trade show, meeting or other gathering, make sure those who blog and tweet know whether you can make available space for an informal gathering. (Most of these are pay-as-you-go affairs, so a cash bar will work fine.)
  • Complete source documents: Skip the news release, as far as I'm concerned. Where are your complete reports, source documents and footnotes? Giving bloggers access to the full menu of material--sans the skimming promotional material--gives them the chance to delve deeply and write more than you'll ever see in mainstream media.
  • Credentials:Let 'em in. Offer bloggers the chance to register in your on-site pressrooms at events, or to receive online updates and advance materials. Yes, they may be your members, employees, competitors...but they bring a unique perspective to your efforts.

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