Public relations firm CooperKatz & Co. has launched a new practice to help clients implement a communications strategy through blogs and other consumer-generated media.
The service will be led by Steve Rubel, CooperKatz’s VP of client services, who writes about the convergence of PR, blogs, and other “citizen media” on his own “Micro Persuasion” blog, which lends its name to the new practice.
“We think there’s an opportunity here for major companies to get engaged in the blogosphere, initially as a listener,” said Andy Cooper, agency principal. “Many smaller companies get this immediately and start paying attention. Many larger companies we’ve seen are not as tuned in yet. This is a way for them to get started by systematically listening to the conversations that are occurring, particularly the ones related to issues that are important to their business.”
CooperKatz will begin by conducting an audit of marketplace issues and corporate vulnerabilities faced by an organization and develop a plan to address these issues in an open and transparent manner if an incident arises.
“This initial service is about helping companies maximize the opportunity to listen and speak in a human voice in an increasingly transparent environment,” Rubel said. “We will serve as a company’s eyes and ears to its various constituents online so that it can communicate in ways that are most meaningful and relevant.”
Though tools exist for a company to search and monitor blogs on their own, Rubel believes CooperKatz’ analysis and expertise can help clients prioritize and understand the information so they can act on it.
“The best PR professionals have their fingers on the pulse of the public and know how to respond to and utilize that,” he said. “We have the expertise to engage these people in a dialogue and communicate in a human voice.”
Micro Persuasion strategies have already been infused into the agency’s existing PR services but can now be purchased as a standalone service. The first offering from CooperKatz’s Micro Persuasion practice centers around monitoring consumer-generated media, such as blogs, photo-sharing sites, and link-sharing sites, and incorporating them into a communications plan. It includes steps to monitor, analyze, plan for, and respond to issues raised in these channels.
“We see an opportunity to create a new kind of service that helps companies listen, prepare, and manage issues — as well as their overall reputation — in this emerging era of citizen’s media,” Cooper said.
Though people have been voicing their opinions on the Internet for years, blogs add a new dimension to the conversation. Because of the ease of setting up a blog and their interconnected nature, ideas tend to spread much faster to more people than before.
Rubel stresses the importance of treating bloggers with the same respect given to traditional media. Creating a dialogue with any media outlet — blog or otherwise — is a good strategy to put in place before a crisis strikes, he said.
Future services will go beyond listening, to include tools for influencing and engaging bloggers in dialogue and empowering constituents to spread the company’s message.
For instance, a company could identify “brand champions” who feel passionately about its product or service and are actively telling people about it. It could prove valuable for a company to get to know those people to nurture and expand the relationship, Cooper said.
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