Commodity blogging

In an article about Mommy Bloggers on her Greenbanana blog, Heather Yaxley evokes the law of supply and demand, noting that “there are too many motoring writers and too few outlets for their words”. She raises a key issue that I don’t think anyone has discussed yet. Will the much heralded rise of the citizen journalist be undermined by the commoditization of the citizen journalist? If so, it seems to me that for a PR strategy to use bloggers intelligently, it will need to determine which blogger “brands” stand out from the pack and are compatible with the organization’s brand. Making good use of bloggers would then be a matter of cross-branding.

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2 Replies to “Commodity blogging

  1. Heather, Thanks for your thoughtful feedback. I totally agree with you. There’s just one point I’d like to clarify. Cross-branding isn’t exactly the same thing as endorsements. And to be honest, I’m not sure how/if cross-branding could work in the blogging world.

    Here’s a fabulous example of cross-branding from outside the blogosphere. The other day I saw the ad for the new iPhone on TV. One of the new features is that you can copy a telephone number from a website and paste it directly into the phone function. So they showed someone do that for Pierre Hermé — a high-end pastry brand known primarily for their “designer” macarons (cake-like cookies not to be confused with macaroons). The CEO of Pierre Hermé is a friend of mine, so I was particularly cuaght by the example. Anyway, the point is that iPhone has linked itself to a luxury pastry brand with a cult following, and Pierre Hermé has linked itself to a global brand with a cult following.

    To keep with your motoring context, I guess an equivalent might be links between the blog of a car company CEO and the blog of a Formula 1 driver or James Bond or Speed Racer.

  2. Thanks for picking up on this Kristen. I think that there a lots of commodity-related questions in relation to the role of “mediators” of communications, whether they are traditional journalists, bloggers or PR/media relations practitioners come to that.

    As it is easier and easier for organisations and individuals to communicate directly via online communications, then the mediator is no longer someone who simply has a gatekeeper role.

    When coverage in media was scarce and/or required money or expertise to access, then the value of those who fulfilled Lippman’s notion of qualified individuals was easy to see.

    So, those who wish to remain as a mediator need to demonstrate how they are actually adding value between the “seller” and “buyer” of communications.

    I believe that expertise – or credibility – is still a valuable asset for a mediator to offer. So to continue with my motoring media, they need to evidence this expertise. The specialists who have a real understanding of the motor industry and a wide range of modern (and historic) vehicles can do this when reviewing new cars.

    Simply providing a personal review (as many local motoring journalists or bloggers do) is no longer of value – indeed, I’ll take the perspective of an owner over someone who simply has access to information that I can obtain directly.

    Entertainment has value – witness the success of the BBC Top Gear TV guys. We’ll “pay” to be entertained – and indeed, that’s the reason why so many celebrities are asked to review cars (much to the annoyance of many traditional motoring hacks).

    Another role for the mediator is to make our lives easier – so undertaking a group road-test, helping us understand new technology or providing the environmental perspective, for example, might be a role that a mediator can fulfil.

    So what about your though on matching the corporate to the blogger “brand”? Well, I think a blogger/site has to build value for others first as a mediator and not just be a “brand” match.

    If the blogger has influence (through credibility or other added value assets), then yes, the PR person can look at whether or not it reflects the same brand values as the client.

    But that seems like a media buying perspective. And, that is part of the problem that the Mommy Bloggers seem to be encountering.

    They have possibly created a media space that the PR “buyers” now see as relevant to their brands and hope that by association, the blogger’s readers will become customers.

    But, when a blogger “sells” their media space without regard to their own valuable “mediator” asset, the bubble may well burst.

    I think that the problem here is that PR in this regard is simply a marketing tool. And as such, it can be seen as pimping the client.

    I’ve always thought the best PR is focused on building the reputation first, so that the mediators then want to write about you. Our role, then is to build the allure and desirability of the client (on authentic grounds), so that the outcome is advocacy/love, not a quicky product review.

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