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Blog Monitoring � A New Role For PR

Identifying and influencing a target audience�s perception of clients and their brands has always been a top priority for high-tech public relations professionals.

In the past, a PR agency simply had to track coverage in a handful of major magazines and trade journals to gauge their client�s reputation among its prospects and customers, as well as key industry advisors such as analysts. But today, as the importance of social media continues to rapidly rise, understanding what the public thinks, wants, and needs requires a more complex and sophisticated monitoring strategy.

* Blogs Have Become Widely Popular

Blogs, also known as Weblogs, represent a new, revolutionary form of journalism. These online communication vehicles provide an information-hungry consumer audience with a steady stream of timely and relevant news and resources about the topics they are most interested in.

As the popularity and number of print publications declines (there were over 31,000 magazines available in 1999, but less than 23,000 published in 2005, based on a study by the American Society of Magazine Editors), the number of Weblogs seems to be growing at an unstoppable pace.

There are currently more than 35 million blogs in existence, according to Technorati, and that number is expected to at least double within the next 6 months. Technorati also claims that the blogosphere, the universe of available blogs on the Internet, is more than 60 times bigger than it was just three years ago, with approximately 75,000 new Weblogs being launched every day.

* Tracking Blogs Provides Valuable Insights

When targeted and monitored effectively, these blogs -- as well as message boards, wikis, and product review sites -- can offer a wealth of accurate and timely intelligence about consumer opinions, behaviors, and preferences.

By tracking these social media channels, PR agencies can gain the valuable insight they need to create relevant and high impact messages, and develop more successful high-tech public relations, branding, and marketing plans. Additionally, because opinions, comments, and ideas that are both positive and negative can spread like wildfire in the expansive blogosphere, this information helps firms implement PR strategies that enable them to effectively leverage online media to control their clients� reputations and images.

* What to Consider When Monitoring the Blogosphere

The objective of blog monitoring is two-fold. The first major goal is to find the Weblogs that cover topics and issues related to a client�s products and services, and determine what the link density of each one is. Those blogs with the highest link density are usually the ones with the widest-reaching Web networks, the greatest �mindshare� among the Internet audience, and the most influence over consumer opinion.

Once the most important blogs have been identified, the PR agency can then begin building relationships with the bloggers, to help ensure that their clients� messages, images, and value propositions are accurately and consistently relayed in any blog entries.

The second purpose of blog monitoring is to track references specific to the client. For example, blog monitoring can enable PR professionals to find and evaluate mentions of the company, product and brand names, or the names of top executives. This will help them continuously assess the company�s reputation, and the market�s perception of their products and services, so they instantly uncover any problems, and take appropriate action when needed.

* Tools to Help You Monitor Coverage

Many PR agencies outsource blog monitoring activities, much in the same way they currently use third-party service providers to track clippings and print coverage.

For those firms that choose to handle their own blog monitoring, there are plenty of tools available.

Any RSS reader can be used to subscribe to up-to-the-minute news and Web content based on common industry key words and phrases (these can be the same key words and phrases used in press monitoring).

There are also a variety of quantitative blog monitoring solutions, such as Feedster, PubSub, and Technorati that provide key statistics such as the number of blogs and the frequency of posts or updates. Or, qualitative tools like Blogdex, BlogPulse, Daypop, and Blabble which can help PR agencies track the context of blog entries and other online discussions.

Submitted by:

P. Headrick

SHIFT Communications is a PR agency specializing in high-tech public relations consumer public relations and social media. SHIFT has San Francisco and Boston public relations offices.




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