At Ad:tech Sydney this week I’ll be chairing the panel on Blogs as a Marketing Tool as well as the keynote session on The New Media Mix. My esteemed colleagues on the panel will be Mark Jones, IT editor at the Australian Financial Review, business coach and blogging evangelist Des Walsh, and Fred Schebesta of Freestyle Media. Given the topic is blogging, it seemed appropriate to have a conversation rather than a series of presentations. We had a conference call to discuss what we’d talk about, and agreed to have a single presentation for the panel, using five screenshots to illustrate the topics we’ll discuss.
The five dimensions of Blogs as a Marketing Tool are:
1. Advertising on blogs
Advertisers now have an additional medium to reach potential customers, in addition to the usual array of newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, outdoor etc. Blogs readers are affluent, influential, and highly targetted – this is a prime demographic. Yet there are almost no Australian blogs that are attracting advertisers. We use a blog on the Sydney Morning Herald as a starting point for conversation, as blog readership in Australia is still heavily overweighted to traditional media websites. There is advertising on the blog, but the SMH is using the same ads as the rest of the site. Individual bloggers can sell Google Adwords or other aggregated advertising, or sell directly to advertisers that are highly relevant to their readership. Blogging networks make it easier both for bloggers and advertisers to match up. So, what should advertisers be doing about advertising directly on blogs?
2. Corporate blogs and marketing blogs
Australia lags massively on corporate blogs – I lamented the sorry state of corporate blogging back in November 2005, and things have barely moved forward since then. Telstra had then just launched its nowwearetalking.com website, which includes blog by staff members. For all the criticism of the website, they are still the reference point for corporate blogs in Australia, since almost nothing else has been done on this front. So how should corporate blogs be run for effective customer and stakeholder communication? What policies and other risk management is required? And how can blogs be integrated into promotional websites to improve stickiness, customer engagement, and search engine performance?
3. Promoting to bloggers
Since bloggers are so influential, how do you effectively influence them? This has been a juicy discussion topic in the US and Europe for the last few years, but has been barely touched in Australia. Here we use Stowe Boyd’s blog post on social media press releases of a couple of weeks back, which generated a massive discussion on how PR and marketing people should communicate with bloggers. Any reasonably prominent blogger gets frequent (or continuous) approaches from PR people. How can you effectively access these significant influencers?
Since blogs are so influential, why not create your own, where you can control what gets said? (Those pesky bloggers are even more fickle than journalists and editors!) There’s some good competition on this one, but the walmartingacrossamerica blog, created by Wal-Mart and their mates at Edelman PR, won the gurnsey for this one. Astro-turfing is the practice of making it appear as though there’s grass-roots support for a product or company, but it actually isn’t real grass-roots… Australia’s most prominent PR blogger Trevor Cook has helped kick off an anti-Astro-turfing campaign. So if you can get away with it, is this really a bad thing? What are your chances of getting away with it? How can you create a real – instead of a fake – groundswell?
5. Blogging ethics
Have you ever bought lunch for a journalist? How about slipped them an envelope with some crisp dollar bills? Bloggers are regularly getting gifts in the mail, invitations to junkets, and now are being offered money to write about products and companies. Payperpost, the most well-known, now has a disclosure policy that says bloggers must disclose that they’re being paid to post on a particular topic. Some of their competitors are not being so circumspect. So should you pay bloggers to write nice things about your company? Is this different from what you do with journalists? Where is the line between being nice to an influential writer, and bribing them?
It promises to be a great conversation! As for the keynote session, I’ll write up the interesting parts of our discussion afterwards.