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  Why Advertising, Marketing and PR Pros Shouldn’t Blog  
 
 
Posted 2005-01-14 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I recently read an article entitled "Why advertising, marketing and PR pros should blog." The article, written by a marketer for marketers, seemed to be somewhat delusional. I offer a counterpoint, appropriating the style and format of the article to suit my own cruel whims.


Why Advertising, Marketing and PR Pros Shouldn't Blog

Blogs are an inexpensive, convenient and enjoyable form of media, traditionally authored by individuals for non-commercial purposes. Last year, blogs received an unprecedented level of mainstream attention due to their influence and novelty. The PR and marketing industries naturally want a piece of the action, but should blogs be a part of every business plan in 2005?

Few advertising, marketing and PR professionals truly understand what a blog is, and fewer still actually know how to use this self-publishing platform, let alone exploit it. By this time next year, we will see a lot of embarrassing mistakes made, some of which will harm the already-dicey reputation of blogs with regards to trustworthiness. A damaged medium isn't going to work for anyone.

In 2005, I dare say you would have to be misinformed or foolish to add a blog to your business plan. Here are 10 reasons why:

Blogs Are Interactive, Are You?
Marketing is a one-way broadcast to an audience of passive prospects. Blogs are a way of having a conversation with your audience. It's the difference between visiting the zoo, and being a zookeeper. Do you really want to get that close to barely-controllable, odorous animals? Some people in the marketing industry might tell you that interacting with your audience instills them with confidence in the product (the blog or the brand). Once confidence is established, say marketers, it should then be exploited. That's like the zookeeper, having coaxed the monkey from its corner of the cage, knocking it unconscious and selling it to the nearest laboratory.

Blogs Are Humanizing, Marketing is De-Humanizing
Let's say you have a friend. A recent friend. You're beginning to really appreciate this friend and the conversations you have with this person. One day, your friend invites you over, and tries to recruit you into a religious cult. This is an unpleasant surprise, putting your relationship in jeopardy. The thing is, your friend won't stop trying to recruit you. Feeling betrayed, you look for friendship elsewhere. Some marketers might tell you that the success of a blog depends on the honesty and credibility of its author. These people are correct. Is your product or service provably superior to another? Probably not. Marketing messages are overwhelmingly dishonest. Marketers don't address humans, they address "prospects."

Blogs Tools Are Inexpensive, Talent Is Priceless
The tools required to self-publish are plentiful and inexpensive. Few people, however, are able to blog effectively. That's because compelling blogging takes creativity, wisdom, and intelligence. Some marketers will say that you "can't afford not to" establish a presence in the blogosphere. This advice is misguided. Blogs are a liability that must be carefully managed, particularly in the context of sell-messages. Just because any idiot can start a blog doesn't mean that any idiot should. And just because you've started a blog doesn't mean that you've "established a presence." If you must start a blog, you'd best hire some technical and creative experts, because you're not equipped for the task. Suddenly blogging got a lot more expensive. Never mind the fact that a truly popular blog requires pricey web-hosting.

Blogs are Too Immediate For You
Blog authors are known for their ability to distribute topical information at an astonishing rate. There are two types of blog posts that are of note here--let's call them "good" and "bad" posts. Good posts are the kind that win a blog author kudos across the blogosphere, as well as positive mainstream attention. Bad posts are the kind that end up making the blog author look like a fool across the blogosphere, not to mention the mainstream media. Imagine a blog as a live press-conference. Anything you say can and will be held against you. Do you really want to use "instant publishing" as a method of marketing?

Good Blogs Are Infectious
The best blogs are engaging and influential. You think your message, product or service is engaging and influential. You are probably wrong. Even if you're right, you probably can't blog effectively about that message, product or service. Instead, you're going to bore or alienate readers. That's because most people enjoy reading content, not advertising. A good marketing blog might be a good blog about marketing, but it sure as shootin' ain't a blog intended to be a marketing tool.

Blogs Are Empowering
Some marketers will tell you that today's consumers are jaded, and view sales pitches with rampant skepticism. These people are correct. So why are you considering using a blog for advertising, marketing or PR? Readers can smell bullshit a mile away, and they'll either tell you so on your blog, or they won't bother reading it at all. If blogs empower anyone, it's the audience. These people will make or break your blog, and since you're interested in running a marketing blog, they're going to break it. You might think that since you're the author of the blog, you can control what people say on it. This is true, if you edit or censor objectionable comments. But if you are discovered removing commentary that "damages" your brand, you will first be ridiculed, and then shunned. Furthermore, you can't control what other bloggers say about you. So even if you could delete objectionable commentary from your blog, there's still going to be some on other blogs. Blogs that will show up in search-engine rankings when the public looks for keywords related to your product or service.

Good Blogs Are Enjoyable
Enjoyable blogs are usually entertaining and dynamic. You're a marketer. You think talking about your product will be entertaining and dynamic. You think this way because the people in your office tell you so. Everyone you know is giving you positive vibes. You are all blowing smoke up each other's asses.

Some Blogs Are Authoritative
Experts in their field who break news and enlighten their readers can be said to write "Authoritative" blogs. These blogs are often the first or only source of information for many readers. Are you an expert in your field? What field is that? You might know your craft, being a marketer, advertiser, or PR pro, but are you an expert on your message, product, or service? Is expertise in a particular brand of dish detergent really worth anyone's time? No.

Some Blogs are Valuable
A good blog has value because it presents and archives easily-accessed, compelling content. But it should be clear at this point that your blog is going to be crap. And we've established that, despite the agility and timeliness of blogs, you probably don't want to have such an immediate public voice. Some blogs are valuable. Some aren't.

Blogs Are Popular
One of the most basic sell-messages is "Because everyone else is doing it." But, as your mom used to ask you, "If Billy jumped off a bridge, would you?" If you measure the risks and requirements against the benefits and rewards, you'll see that while you're capable of setting up a blog, you're not equipped to write it or manage it. And you should see that any blog established for the sole purpose of "selling" is a losing proposition. Lastly, you should see that popularity is a double-edged sword. Are you going to be popular for being brilliant, or are you going to be popular for making foolish mistakes.
 
     
 
   
 
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  5 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Jane
January 16, 2005 @ 4:25 pm
     
 
Very funny, Tony. You should take this on the comedy circuit. I'd write a full reply, but...I don't have time. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed your over-the-top response to Bob Cargill's post on why Advertising, Marketing and PR Pros should Blog...but, he wins the cigar. You may be funny, ha-ha, but he knows whereof he speaks. I half agree with yur last point--no one should do anything just because "everyone else is doing it." Bob's point wasn't that everyone else is doing it, though. He said that if you're ignoring the blogosphere, you're ignoring an opportunity to see what your customers really have to say about you. It's true that not everyone is equipped to write or manage a blog...that's why professional bloggers exist. And save me from the "foolish mistakes" issue... puh-lease...like no one made any mistakes when people first started building websites. Wait...they're still making those mistakes...and some of them are Fortune 500 companies! 'Nuff said. Funny stuff. Keep it coming.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 16, 2005 @ 6:16 pm
     
 
Ah, the old cop-out of dismissing your opponent's viewpoint as comedy. Ah, the tired fall-back of "I have no time for this." Ah, the classic "you don't know what you're talking about." Puh-lease, Yvonne.

I've been in the new media industry for twelve years, and have been blogging since 1999. During the last decade or so, I've had all kinds of adventures in marketing. There's plenty more to my over-the-top commentary than comedy, and you know it.

And now, I shall graciously reply to your points, affording you the genuine attention you so cruelly deprived me of:


Bob's point wasn't that everyone else is doing it, though.

That's right. His point was that blogs are better than press releases, newsletters, and articles. That's an absolutely absurd generalization.


It's true that not everyone is equipped to write or manage a blog...that's why professional bloggers exist.

In my article, I state "If you must start a blog, you'd best hire some technical and creative experts, because you're not equipped for the task." Professional bloggers should blog. My article is not about professional bloggers. It's about "Advertising, Marketing and PR Pros."


And save me from the "foolish mistakes" issue... puh-lease...like no one made any mistakes when people first started building websites. Wait...they're still making those mistakes...and some of them are Fortune 500 companies!

As we both know, not all mistakes are damaging. Even some damaging mistakes can be managed and/or repaired. Some mistakes become PR disasters. Most mistakes are completely avoidable with enough planning, expertise and attention. Why increase the chances of making a damaging mistake (a.k.a. "PR disaster") by getting into blogging half-cocked?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jane
January 16, 2005 @ 7:36 pm
     
 
Oh Tony, so sorry I couldn't get more into the bulleted lists...the accusation of cruelty stings, it really does! I'm flattered you replied; I'm curious about why you felt the need to inform me of your extensive background...your posts speak for themselves. And, if I found your tirade against Bob comical...who are you to dispute that? Meanwhile, with all due respect, every time an ad goes out, every time a Press release is distributed...one challenges the Gods of disaster. NO MATTER HOW MUCH PLANNING GOES INTO THEM! Again, I refer to the glorious Fortune 500 who have monkeys writing their press releases, for the most part, IMHO, and the rash of idiotic ads permeating prime time television these days. With a blog-- if there is a disaster, the fix is immediate, an apology can be issued, and the company can move forward; barely having lost a dime. I think we are fundamentally on the same page...let's call a truce. You make some valid points, and so does Bob Cargill. Disagreements of this kind are valuable learning experiences...I have certainly learned something new on the politeness of comments...another good thing about blogging. Cheers!
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 16, 2005 @ 9:12 pm
     
 
Oh Tony, so sorry I couldn't get more into the bulleted lists...the accusation of cruelty stings, it really does!

Sarcasm and melodrama on this end, too ;)


I'm curious about why you felt the need to inform me of your extensive background

Because you said that I am funny, but Cargill knows what he's talking about. I saw some subtext there. *shrugs*


...I refer to the glorious Fortune 500 who have monkeys writing their press releases, for the most part, IMHO, and the rash of idiotic ads permeating prime time television these days...

It amazes me how consistently I am hearing from people in marketing that the industry is full of knuckleheads. Should knuckleheads blog? Not if they want to keep their jobs.


...if there is a disaster, the fix is immediate, an apology can be issued, and the company can move forward; barely having lost a dime.

Well, sure, in a best-case scenario. A not-so-great scenario would involve Google caching and copies of the disastrous material circulated on other blogs. Once out in the wild like that, damage-control is a lot harder.

I'm all for a truce. Or at least for the understanding that neither one of us is truly full of vitriol :)
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jane
January 17, 2005 @ 9:06 am
     
 
Excellent! I am in complete agreement with your knuckleheads comment. Classic! And exactly why, as you so rightly posted, companies should consider professional bloggers when they choose to build a blog. Hey, love the sarcasm and melodrama, by the way. You do it so well! (and no, I'm not being funny!) Cheers!
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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