Blogging is just one of many factors that has changed PR. PR has other problems, but here are some suggestions in which blogs pay a significant part of a solution:
1. Listen. Really, really listen. Before you do anything, plug in to the conversations that are already going on about the PR profession and about your clients and their markets. If you completely disagree with what you read, don't respond with the idea of winning an argument. If you do respond, show that you are listening and considering the points being made, whether you like these points or not. You'll discover that a great deal of nastiness goes away, when people know you are listening. If you use a polite professional tone, chances are so will they.
By listening, you will also start seeing the blogosphere network, understanding who's most influential in your sectors, who your potential blogger champions are and what they write about.
This, by the way, can be a billable service for practitioners serving large clients. Being vigilant on what the blogosphere is saying about a client, can help them build bridges and extinguish fires before they burn out of control.
2. Feed the Bloggers. Before you start pitching bloggers, know what thy cover and from what perspectives they have overall. Of course, this is also what you should be doing with editors and analysts. Start leaving comments about what they write, leaving your clients out. Start sending the blogger, by comments, Trackback or plain old email, items that would interest them. Build dialog and trust before trying to extol your client's virtues.
3. Don't speak with one voice. The "one voice" concept has been one of the great mistakes of the PR culture currently fading. It is the concept that if anyone--an editor, customer, prospect, fellow employee, analyst, investor asks a question of any employee in the company, they will get the same answer in almost the same words. This one voice concept, dehumanizes perceptions of a company. This does not mean that a company and PR practitioner can't sing in harmony. But the diversity of thinking, of speaking and acting should come out. A little conflict isn't bad. A little dissent from a mid-level speaker, reveals attributes of the corporate culture that will help a great deal more than they hurt.
4. Be transparent. Let people know who you are and what you do for a living. Bloggers want to know where you are coming from, what influences you in what you say.
5. Be Out of Control. Do not attempt to control message or timing as most agencies usually do. Just let employees and the company infrastructure express themselves in their own voices and in their own ways. Just make certain they know precisely what is NDA. Sound scary? Perhaps, but the blogosphere has been proving that the more you trust people, the more trustworthy they behave.
6. Facilitate, then be quiet. Surveys show that spokespeople are no longer trusted in public sectors, official spokespeople, whether PR operative or famous athletes lack the credibility of a mid-level enterprise employee. The PR operative's job is to set up dialog between other people, and to let each party have a good general idea of what can be expected from the dialog. Then sit down and take notes. Or better yet, let the two talk directly without you in the room. That novel concept, will show that PR is not trying to be a ventriloquist through the mouth the client.
More to come