Ragan Conference – Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble‘s topic for his keynote presentation was Naked conversations: How blogs are transforming your public relations—and your business.

He kicked off his remarks by retelling the story of his departure from Microsoft. The news spread from his telling a handful of bloggers, who posted their “scoop.” Mainstream media took their cue from the blog buzz, followed in far greater numbers than they would have otherwise. Robert says that this illustrates the need for public relations practitioners to pay attention to the blogosphere.

Many bloggers want to break out of the echo chamber of the blogosphere to reach the “mass market.” This has usually been done through mainstream media coverage.

The other way to reach the masses is to rank higher on search engines. Most people find websites through search. It’s a “google world.” And it’s important to be on the front page of google results because most people never click on the second page of results if they can find something they want on the first page.

The online way to finding a larger audience? Blogs, with their frequent postings, attract links. And this moves them up on the google rankings.

To attract links, it is important to offer new and original content. Many people, lawyers for example, feel that they cannot share their knowledge for free. They feel that it will reduce its value. On the blogosphere just the opposite is true. By sharing knowledge, the blogger will attract an audience who will link to him. Through this his prominence on the search engines will increase and more people will find him – including potential customers and clients.

As the blogosphere becomes more popular, bloggers will be competing with an increasingly crowded field for attention. How will they be able to continue to stand out and attract attention? Robert suggests that video will provide bloggers with the means to stand out.

Robert suggests that PR practitioners should take a cue from bloggers and begin to post video press releases in order to really stand out from the crowd. It’s harder to do video. For the time being, video will stand out because of its relative scarcity.

Companies may also pay another price for ignoring the blogosphere. Robert pointed to the well-known story of “Dell Hell.” Blogger Jeff Jarvis was having problems with his Dell computer. He complained on his blog and he complained directly to Dell. Dell ignored him. He posted again and again. Other bloggers picked it up. And eventually the New York Times and other mainstream media picked up the story. By ignoring the blogosphere chatter that Jarvis had started, Dell ultimately was portrayed as nonresponsive, uncaring and providing inferior customer support.

Another aspect of blogging is speed of information transfer. The news cycle has been broken. A story which hits the blogosphere can spread globally through thousands of blogs within hours. This can generate buzz. It also can make the formal announcement old news by the time it happens.

Smart journalists have begun to use this. By establishing Technorati or Google keyword searches on topics of interest to them, they can pick up news as it is percolating up through the blogosphere. In doing this, they can get ahead of the story and develop scoops.

One of the mistakes that Scoble has seen companies make when confronted by this type of story is to refuse to comment. They miss the opportunity to inject their own perspective into the story. (This is not a problem unique to blog-generated stories. But the blogosphere has definitely shortened the time to respond.)

Audio and video get linked to more often than text. Learn from this and enrich the content you post.

New horizons: Second Life. Interesting things are being done there. Companies are experimenting with new branding experiences in Second Life, testing them with a small group of people there and creating buzz for themselves.

One piece of advice to PR practitione8rs who want to pitch bloggers for coverage. Read the blog first. Know the content. Make sure the blogger cares and writes about what you are pitching.

One interesting thing I noted during Robert’s presentation. Very few people indicated that they are using many of the tools that bloggers take for granted. This at a conference with a dedicated social media stream. Yet another piece of evidence that the PR industry continues to lag in understanding and adopting social media.

Robert’s presentation was pitched at the perfect level for a group of people who are relatively new to blogging and social media. It was a rambling presentation. But it covered all the topics with real life examples and in accessible language.