March 2006

Using a Blog as the central Public Relations tool for a general or internal event can add really weight to the publicity and profile that it can achieve, as well as providing the perfect focal point for other marketing and promotional activities supporting it.

The Event might be a conference, a seminar (or a series of seminars), an exhibition, a Trade Show or a product launch, but the requirements of being able to distribute information as widely as possible remains a key factor. Only when people know about the Event and get information on it can they choose to attend!

What are the key elements which makes a Blog such a great tool for anyone organising an event, whether internal or to the general public? Some of the main reasons are:

  • Blogs are ideal vehicles to generate Search Engine attention and hence spread information to a wider audience

  • Marketing department can enter the information themselves so making updates are easy and immediate

  • Information remains always up to date and is permanently accessible: no need to send out hundreds of follow ups because people have lost part what they have been sent

  • Communications with attendees is simplified either using RSS or email by referring people to the information contained in the blog rather than sending it to everyone.

  • Instant feedback can be obtained from attendees to give valuable information for future events

  • It provides a central point for all information which both online and offline marketing for the event can then focus in on

There are several phases during the event where the blog will lends extra value to the event and a valuable source of information and feedback for the attendees. These start right from the moment that the Event is announced through to the post-Event distribution of information and the ongoing ability for continued publicity for your company and your follow up events.

The main benefits are:

1. Announcing the Event
The starting point is an announcement of the Event, outlining its format, its content (or expected content) and providing an explanation of its goals and who it will benefit from it. By including the framework of the event, you give the initial key information, start the work on the Search Engines visibility and give yourself the basis of future enhancements to the blog.

2. Additions and updates to agenda
The Business Blog format gives the perfect method of keeping the agenda up to date, no matter how many changes are made to it. It is likely that the conference agenda and the speakers will not be finalised before announcing the event but, because updating a blog needs no technical input, it can be done easily and quickly by those running the event. Updates are then instantly available and attendees can be kept up to date using RSS ideally or email.

3. Pre-Conference Promotion
By adding additional information on the content of the event, you can continue to drive the publicity machine through your general marketing activities and through the Search Engines. Articles around the subjects the event will cover or information from the speakers, for example, will bring people back to your blog and ensure Search Engine coverage.

4. Commentary during the Event
Commentary can come from two sources during the event: from the organisers as they add details about the presentations and keep coverage of the event up to date; and, perhaps more importantly, attendees can contribute their own thoughts and impressions about the event. These can be incorporated immediately and so be displayed while the event is still ongoing.

5. Event survey
Often surveys are run during targeted events to get feedback on certain aspects of its set-up and running, including content of the presentations or initial thoughts on the product if relating to a product launch. The survey can easily be run through the blog and then of course the results can be posted there (and distributed by RSS) or emailed out.

6. Distributing Presentations and other downloads
Presentations and other supporting material from the Event are often made available to be downloaded after the event. The Blog is the ideal place to post this information and, because of the focus before and during the event, it will also be the natural place for them to look.

7. Post event appraisal
After an event, all of the feedback and comments from the attendees who have used the Blog to comment either on the presentations or the vent itself will be invaluable to assess its success and help future developments. This, together with the event survey, will form the basis of the internal evaluation of the event.

8. Ongoing permanent archive
Of course, after the event, all of the content that you have created remains to be continually indexed by the Search Engines, giving a continual boost to your business profile and, for regular events, free promotion for the next one. If you wish to remove it you can, but the benefits from leaving it and letting people access it will be much more powerful.

One event at last year which shows the power this can bring and also gives additional information on the use of Business Blogs in general was its use for Global PR Blog Week. Check out how they used it it created a large amount of publicity for the Event and continues to do so.

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Taking the lead from Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Steve Rubel at Micropersuasion has taken the opportunity to interpret some of the key points in today’s terms as good principles to blog by in his post Blog to Win Friends and Influence People.

As a fan of Carnegie’s original, I felt that the application of these to a blog environment was very relevant and certainly highlighted many of the principles that should also be adhered to when writing a blog of any sort, whether it is a personal or a business one. For this reason, I consider it well worth reproducing the piece here – Steve’s comments are in italics.

Fundamental Techniques for Handling People:

  • Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Advance or build on the dialogue, even if you disagree

  • Give people a feeling of importance; praise the good parts of them. Link to the posts you disagree with, but point out the parts you agree with too.

  • Get the other person to want to do what you want them to by arousing their desires. Put another way, make dreams come true.

  • Six Ways to Make People Like You:

  • Be genuinely interested in other people. Read lots of blogs for different perspectives.

  • Smile. Put your picture on your blog.

  • Remember and use people’s names. Remember where you read things and credit the bloggers who wrote them.

  • Encourage others to talk about themselves and listen to them. In other words, welcome comments.

  • Discuss what the other person is interested in. Add value to your readers.

  • Make the other person feel important. Take all your feedback seriously and adapt if needed.

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    Last month, Hill Holiday which is a large US Ad Agency, decided to abandon their website and have instead launched a blog only presence on the web.

    An interesting move on their part and according to commentators like Bob Cargill, part of a trend which will see more companies following this route. The decision to take a step away from a static “brochureware” site to a more interactive Blog shows a desire to have their staff engage in a closer relationship with clients, something which more and more professional services companies are likely to have to do as they try to differentiate themselves in their market.

    I believe that a move like this shows a shift that will impact at two levels:

    • Blog vs Website: with larger companies deciding that a blog better meets their needs for an online presence, there is likely to be a knock-on effect with new companies leap-frogging their current competition and turning to blogs for their own online marketing. In the UK, where the advantages of blogs are starting to be understood, it is likely that we will see smaller companies and individual professionals leading the way, as they look for a way to get closer to their customers, differentiate themselves and have a web presence that they can update without total reliance on their web designer;

    • How to market to their customers: this seems to show a great understanding of why their customers buy from them. Choosing a blog over their static website seems to indicate that Hill Holiday believe that they will be more successful by entering into a dialogue with potential clients rather than just presenting them with an online brochure. Ultimately, they see that their staff are the best way of marketing themselves and attracting new clients, so have decided that a more “educational marketing” approach would achieve better results than simple advertising.

    This type of move will not yet be right for all companies. However, it is highly likely that increasing numbers of websites will include a blog element and reap the rewards of first mover advantage, before the two formats then merge with all websites incorporating the benefits that a blog can currently offer. This is going to be relevant not only for professional services firms (although they may see the primary benefits) but across the board.

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    Even when you recognise the opportunities which exist by using a blog as a business tool for your company, if you are not directly in control of what goes on then it can still be a difficult job to convince the Directors of the company that it is a road that they should be taking. While you are aware of how important it can be, you can’t do it all on your own so how to do you go about it.

    So let’s look at this challenge from a marketing point of view, which effectively is what it boils down to, and use one of the tried and tested methods for promoting a product or idea, AIDA.

    AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Applying these headings to the promotion of business blogs to those at director level within your own company, then we can achieve the following:

    There’s nothing which grabs the attention like the feeling you are missing out on an opportunity. So pick some real life examples of what others are doing in your industry (perhaps even your competitors) and show just how much coverage and attention that their blogs are generating. You can track this through blog specific tools such as Technorati or Blogpulse.

    Show how versatile blogs can be, how easy to develop once established and the functional areas where they can have significant impact for the company. Highlight not only the external uses such as branding and relationship building, but also the internal ones such as product development, internal competitor information and team development. Try to pre-empt objections such as cost issues and also any pre-conceptions about blogging which may exist.

    Show the level of benefits which can be gained from blogging such as improved client relationships, higher levels of prospects, better internal communication or more product evangelists as well as the less tangible elements relating to reputation and external image. Try to indicate how the ROI (Return on Investment) could be assessed and methods which could be put in place to measure the target elements.

    Have a proposed strategy covering the principal elements that need to be addressed before starting a blog. These would cover as the focus of the blog, its target audience, personnel, blogging guidelines and the choice of blogging platform – having already started to consider these elements, you will be better able to put some of the main blocks and get a timeframe in place as quickly as possible.

    Clearly this is a highly summarised possible course of action but it is an approach which works and which, if nothing else, will help to open the eyes of the directors to what can be achieved with business blogs as well the results they can bring both inside and outside of the organisation. Then the real work begins!

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    Blog Consultant questions: Ask the Blog CoachBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q – Can business blogging be effective for local companies or is it only for national and international companies?

    A – Blogging should certainly be a consideration for any company, whatever its geographic coverage. For companies with a national or international target client base, then the advantages are obvious both in terms of reach and coverage that a blog can offer. For local companies, the issues remain the same in terms of needing to reach a certain audience, it is just the size and geographic spread of this audience that has changed. Therefore to be successful, the focus of the blog posts need to change as well to accommodate this.

    Since so much searching for local services and suppliers is now done on line, it is likely that you will want to make sure that Search Engines will rank your posts as highly as possible for people searching for your products in your local and regional area. So when writing, ensure that you include references to these places alongside those on your products. For example, if you are a florist based in Richmond then your post would not just mention “flower bouquets” but rather “flower bouquets for Surrey from Richmond upon Thames based Flowers4U”, thus making sure that the geographic references were included alongside those of flower arrangements themselves. If you include these in the title of the post then this will help further.

    To complete this, you may also like to intersperse the blogs with local news so that in the Category sections and the other main pages, there is an equal spread of posts relating to different flowers and flower arrangements as there are to references to local names and places. Guaranteed to help boost your rankings and get you found by a local audience.

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    There are a number of different elements which you should consider when selecting a domain name for your blog, presuming that you are deciding to host it yourself and it is not integrated into your current website.

    For a Business Blog, I would always recommend that you host it yourself rather than hand control over to a hosted service. If you decide that there is more benefit in separating your blog from your own website, then having a suitable domain name is important when it comes to branding and developing both reputation and credibility, whether you are looking at a company, sector, service, product or individual niche.

    Some of the elements that you should consider when making a decision are:

  • Subject matter of the blog: to have a descriptive domain name for your blog will make it all the more memorable for those people reading it and also more memorable when they want to recommend it!

  • Branding elements for your business: you may wish to have a branding element incorporated into it as a special attribute of some sort

  • SEO elements: from a Search Engine Optimisation point of view, the domain name is an important element and so will ideally contain the primary keyword or keywords for the blog

  • Length of domain name: while it is good to have a descriptive name, you should avoid one which is too long and also ideally avoid one with words separated with lots of hyphens which now has “spammy” overtones – something you want to avoid for your business

  • Top Level Domain: whether it should be a .com,, .net etc. As with a normal website, it may well be sensible to cover all bases and take the main ones that are available and so safeguard it from a branding perspective
  • There may or may not be a suitable mix of these elements and so what you will need to do is find a suitable compromise so that you combine the points which are most important to you. These should be based on the aims of your blog and also your target audience, two key elements of the planning process you should go through before setting up a business blog

    Dont forget that you also need to find a name for your blog, a title which is automatically incorporated in the “Title tag” in some most systems and certainly in WordPress. You should always make sure that you use any opportunity to publicise the contents of your blog and so the tagline of the blog is also important as this appears alongside the blog title in specific search engines such as Google Blog Search.

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    As you might have gathered from the title of this post, content is all important in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)!

    First and foremost, it is content that Search Engines look for when they index a website or blog. So, from the outset, a blog has an ‘unfair’ advantage because it is primarily made up of words whereas websites will often be driven just as much by their graphics – something which search engines just don’t see.

    A well set-up Business Blog has an even greater advantage because it also has a well defined focus and so its content will be targeted towards a particular subject matter. This means that there is likely to be a lot of relevant content and in Search Engine Optimisation terms this is key to all the other elements you add in around it.

    Remember though that while good use of content and keywords will certainly attract the Search Engines, it is the quality of the content that will bring the visitors back, so you need to make sure that what you write is useful and “attractive” to both of them. You can certainly “overoptimise” a post and if it sounds stilted to you when you read it, then it probably will to others as well.

    So, what should you remember when you want to use your content to help your SEO and hence your Search Engine rankings? Well, try to bear in mind:

    Keyword density: this is the number of times a keyword phrase appears on the page divided by the overall number of words it contains. If you are serious about optimising, then you should aim for 5 – 7%, any more than this and it is going to sound very stilted indeed. However, do not churn out text which is keyword rich but doesn’t engage your readers – if you do, then it doesn’t matter if you are highly placed by a Search Engine because people will arrive and then immediately get turned away by the content.

    Placement on the page: Another element to remember is that where you place the text on the page is important as well. Text at the top of the page is considered to have more importance (although it is important to spread your keywords throughout the page) so this means that you should look to get the keywords in the opening paragraph and then continue this throughout the post.

    In blogs, this is not only important in the post itself, but also in the categories. It is possible to have a key article which is always at the top of the category it relates to – this article would summarise the important elements to the category and so, in the best principles of SEO, have content full of key words. Some blogging systems have the functionality built to create this so called “Sticky” post, but with our recommended system of WordPress you will need a plug-in to achieve it. The best we have found is called Adhesive although there are others which achieve the same.

    Highlight key elements: the use of bold and/or italics to highlight keyword phrases makes them stand out not only on the page but also in Search Engine terms. As with all SEO techniques, don’t overuse them but do use them in relevant places to focus on your important key phrases.

    Update on a regular basis: Search Engines also recognise that a website or blog which is constantly changing is likely to have the most up to date information and so be most relevant. So make sure that you maintain a flow of new and relevant postings … BUT, remember the idea of quality content for your readers so don’t post just for the sake of it as this will reduce the overall quality of your blog.

    So to summarise:

    • make the content targeted and well written

    • ensure that the posts contain the keywords that are relevant to the subject

    • aim for good level of keyword density within the context of the article

    • get keywords in at the top of a page or category, and then also spread them through the page
    • use ‘bold’ and ‘italics’ on occasions to give extra weight to your main keywords
    • update regularly to add new content

    But, just to re-iterate one final time, getting good Search Engine rankings is important but you must write for your readers or else all your other efforts will be in vain, so use SEO with this foremost in your mind.

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    Business blogs are an excellent business marketing tool for consultants. In fact, consultants and professional service providers are one of the best placed groups to capitalise on the key marketing and business development benefits that blogs can offer.

    As blogs can be both quickly and easily updated, and because they are inherently interactive, they provide the perfect opportunity to both display expertise and initiate a relationship with clients. The additional benefits such as a more prominent profile with Search Engines is a clearly a plus but the ability to show what you can do, and the knowledge and experience that you can bring to a project are critical.

    Looking at it from an overall business perspective, some of the main benefits that can be achieved through business blogs are:

    • Create a human face for your business: consultancy in its various guises can be very impersonal. What you know is clearly important, but who you are and your personality are also key to a successful customer relationship, as well as being critical branding elements and business tools for your business – so USE them!
    • Educational Marketing approach: use the content of your blog to show your potential customers about what you can do as well as inform them about developments and best practice in the area that you work in. This is a much more powerful approach than traditional direct selling methods and it will help to build better relationships with your marketplace and give you a positive “trusted partner” image.
    • Demonstrate your Expertise: as a consultant, gaining recognition as an expert in a certain field and being able to demonstrate real credibility is hugely beneficial. A blog can act as a shop window to these skills and is doubly effective if it is THE place to go for information in a specific niche. Using the internet for research, potential customers will certainly find the information they are looking for – so make sure that they find it on YOUR blog!
    • Interact with your marketplace: give a tangible feel to the services you offer and the benefits they provide by letting people interact with you by commenting on your articles, case studies or news releases;
    • Knowledge Leadership: when people are interested in what you are writing about, they will want to hear more and recommend you to others. By expressing your ideas and thoughts openly you will encourage this and help position yourself as a leading exponent in your field.

    There is still a reticence on the part of companies and individuals alike to open up and share more about what they can do – they prefer to keep that under wraps until a contract is signed or reveal parts only behind closed doors.

    In today’s environment where information is readily available, unless a consultant brings something totally proprietary then there will be many others in the marketplace offering the same. To ensure that customers find you first, it is critical to broadcast the knowledge you have – the greater the level of quality information that you share, the greater the chance of being found and taken on.

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    Whenever I give a talk on what is a Business Blog and how to use it as a marketing tool, I can guarantee that someone will ask me what the difference is between the type of Business Blog that we are discussing and a personal blog.

    While the technology is the same, they are in fact very different beasts simply because of their focus and aims. The personal blog came first and gave people the ability to voice their opinion to the world in general using the internet. It was a personal publishing system in the form of an online diary where they could express themselves in whatever way they saw fit about whatever they wanted!

    The main point is that the blog could be about anything and everything … and it usually was. The subject matter was therefore diverse and the topics covered were often unrelated – people would post about things as the mood took them.

    Business Blogs developed from this. They use the same technology but are very targeted in terms of their subject matter and focus on a specific market area or niche. The most successful are set up with both an audience and a business focus in mind which they then stick to. Why? Because the audience they are looking to reach will expect it – that is why they were attracted to it in the first place and that is why they will return and recommend the blog to others.

    In addition, with the arrival of Search Engines as THE research tool, this focus proved to be doubly beneficial for a Business Blog owner. The tighter the focus of the content, then the more likely it is to be keyword rich and so gain the type of Search Engine results that would make an SEO expert weep! A well set-up Business Blog has a structure which just adds further weight to this.

    So to summarise: a Business Blog and a personal blog both use the same technology, but it is what they do with that technology that differentiates them. A personal blog will tend to be wide ranging and, well, very personal; a Business Blog will be much more focused in both its content and aims, and will have generally have a specific audience in mind.

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    Seminar FAQsBusiness Blogging Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)

    Q: Where should I host my blog? Is a hosted service better or should I host it myself?

    A: When it comes to a Business Blog, we would always recommend that you host it yourself for the simple reason that it gives you most control over it and allows you to make any changes that you may require.

    Hosted systems such as Blogger are great for personal blogs because they are free and because there is very little for you to do except start to write. They do come with a risk though, as there may come a time when you want to do more with your blog than can be done with a hosted system of this type, at which point it is very difficult to move all of your content across to your new blog. Even making permanent (301) redirects so that people can still find all of your content that has been indexed is not possible on some of these blog systems, which will make for a lot of frustration.

    There have even been cases reported where proper Business blogs have been mistaken for spam blogs (splogs) and had their content deleted. Not a good situation! As we point out in the Business Blogging email course, making the right choice in terms of your blogging platform is a key early decision.

    If you do decide to host it yourself, you have a second decision to make whether to select a new domain name and run your blog there or whether you should incorporate the blog into your current website. Both options have merit. If it deals with issues which are distinct from those that you talk about on your main website then it may be sensible to select a relevant domain name and separate the two. However, by incorporating the Business Blog alongside your other content (and integrating it graphically into the look and feel of the site) then you can use it as a complementary means of engaging with prospects and customers, and so enhance the positioning of your business through it.

    Both of these hosted options are valid but overall, primarily for reasons of control and security, we would recommend that you steer away from hosted services for your blog when it is going to be such an integral part of your business.

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