Blog ROI: Throw out that news release10 ways to maximize your blog's ROI: Part 3, an alternative to news media

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So far in this 10-part series, we've seen how blogs can give your organization a human voice, and provide valuable feedback from your customers. Now we're going to look at how they can open up a new communications channel to the world: one where you can tell stories that might not make front page news, but can still move your audience.

Many organizations have only two ways to talk to the public about the issues that matter to them: advertising, and mass media - often through a news release.

Ads, of course, cost money. So the answer is frequently to pump out news releases... lots of news releases. And any reporter can tell you that the vast majority of news releases that come across their desks aren't worth the three seconds they spend on the monitor before the reporter hits the "delete" key. The perverse result is that communications shops, seeing so few of their news releases ever making it onto the front page or into a newscast, try to increase their odds by... issuing more news releases.

A lot of communications professionals are more savvy and subtle than that, of course. They'll try to place op-eds in newspapers, get spokespeople clipped on the evening news, or talk reporters into covering a particular angle.

And sometimes it works. But the hard truth is that a lot of what you have to say isn't actually newsworthy as far as the mass media is concerned... even if it might be interesting to an important sector of your audience.

That's where your blog comes in. Your reflections on a news story that affects your organization can fit in perfectly. So can an anecdote about how customers are finding a new use for your product, or a behind-the-scenes look at how you're taking extraordinary steps to fill orders despite a weather crisis.

Stories that are too small to capture an assignment editor's imagination can still catch some precious attention from your audience. And a blog can be the channel that gets out a message that may not have any value to a metropolitan daily, but it worth the world to your organization.

Sometimes, your story actually will work for reporters. But for the times when it doesn't, here are some suggestions for using your blog as an alternative to mass media:

  • Understand the basics. Know your audience, your goals and your messageT before you even start to think about what channel to use - including your blog.
  • Show restraint. Resist the temptation to shovel everything your organization wants to get "out there" into your blog, and think of your blog's readers. Is this a story that will resonate with them? Will it entertain, inform or offer value to them?
  • Remember the medium. Blogs - nearly all of the good ones, anyway - are conversational and personal. This isn't the place for cut-and-paste jobs; an authentic human voice is crucial to success. And once you've posted, be ready to respond to reactions from your readers.
  • Equip your readers. Tools like feeds, social bookmarking tools and send-to-a-friend features can help them spread the word quickly and easily. And...
  • Respect your readers. They're here to engage with good stories, useful information and real people. For them, passing along your message is a by-product - something they'll do either because the content is compelling or out of loyalty to you.
  • Monitor the results and join the conversation. Posting something on your blog isn't the end of the process - it's just the beginning. You need to actively monitor the social media world for reaction to what you've said, and wherever appropriate, reply to it and keep the conversation going. That gives you two things: a new relationship with a blogger or commenter, and a way to begin tracking the communication impact your blog is having.
  • Keep the door open to the mainstream media. If one of your post has had real traction - a lot of comments, say, and a lot of links from the outside world - you suddenly have a powerful argument for an assignment editor's attention.

You'll know you're getting value from this channel when:

  • Your readership begins to rise, and you know you're reaching people.
  • Other blogs begin linking to you and reposting.
  • You deliver a message exclusively through your blog, and start hearing it repeated back to you through another channel.
  • Quotes from your blog start turning up in the mainstream media.

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