Social media consultant Mack Collier has developed a system of rating company blogs by allocating points across four categories i.e.
CONTENT - what the bloggers write about (35 points); COMMENTS - how many comments the blog receives, and how the bloggers reply to comments from readers (35 points); POSTING SCHEDULE - how often and regularly new posts appear on the blog (15 points); SIDEBARS - information contained on the sidebars (15 points).
Here are Mack's top 10 company blogs (overall, out of a possible score of 100 points):
A storm in a latte glass is brewing in the US after Playboy model and reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson expressed her undying love for the Olive Garden Italian restaurant chain.
Yes folks, 23-year-old Kendra - girlfriend of Hugh Hefner (well, one of three actually) and star of the Girls Next Door TV show - has publicly heaped praise on the restaurant. Yes, praise. The blonde model hasn't criticised the brand at all, in fact she genuinely loves it!
But all this has caused the restaurant some discomfort. You see, Olive Garden stands for family values and Wilkinson, being part of the Playboy family, is obviously not seen as a good 'fit' with the brand.
Executives at Olive Garden declined to discuss the uninvited spokesmodel. One official says the company has tried to walk a fine line with its response, maintaining the chain's wholesome image without alienating potential customers. "I don't feel comfortable talking about this...because it is a complicated issue for the brand," says Michele Kay, executive vice president of WPP Group's Grey advertising firm, which handles the Olive Garden account.
Now, I fully understand the importance of brand values and the need to be true to the brand, but guys, lighten up a little. It ain't that complicated.
Okay, Wilkinson's authentic ravings about Olive Garden may not sit well with the restaurant's 'brand custodians' but hey, there could be worse things than having a pretty inoffensive celebrity wax lyrical about your company and its offering, surely?
I understand Olive Garden itself not commenting one way or the other - Starbucks reportedly refuses to comment in the media when celebs are photographed in the tabloid press clutching one of its coffee cups, and that's fair enough.
Go With The Flow
But you can't fight word-of-mouth in full flight (whether positive or negative) - the best option for Olive Garden is to go with the flow, accept Wilkinson's praise for what it is - a customer genuinely giving your product a wrap - and then move on (or better still, try to ascertain if there are any opportunities for further mileage from the wave of publicity).
As Dave Balter from Boston-based word-of-mouth company BzzAgent told the Wall St Journal:
"A brand doesn't have to actively embrace someone like Kendra, but they should certainly be willing to accept the fact that she's willing to tell the world how much she loves them."
Unfortunately for Olive Garden, because the ad agency rep has got narky about the Wilkinson situation, the story seems to have turned somewhat negative.
Anyway, looking at the Olive Garden website, the brand that could do with a little spicing up. Who knows, Wilkinson's endorsement may actually increase sales by introducing the restaurant to a whole new generation of people.
Interesting to note that apart from her TV show, Wilkinson has over 730,000 'friends' on her MySpace page, so she has some potential to influence.
Interesting piece on Sony PlayStation in PR Week and how the brand, after stuffing up its first foray into the blogosphere in 2006, is back blogging, albeit in a manner more transparent and authentic than its initial effort.
Two years ago, Sony - with the help of its promotional agency Zipatoni - created a fake blog (aka 'flog') entitled 'All I Want For Xmas is a PSP' in which a guy named Charlie apparently tried to help his friend Jeremy to score a PSP for Christmas. Anyway, Sony was sprung and as a result the brand copped a pounding.
Here's how Advertising Age reported the cock-up at the time. For a more caustic version of events, here's the Ad Rants version!
When it unveiled its new company blog, Sony's Director of Corporate Communications & Social Media, Patrick Seybold, told readers:
That was in June of last year - 12-plus months later and the blog Sony hoped would engage consumers and win back trust seems to be working, if the PR Week story is anything to go by. Indeed, a quick scan of the corporate blog shows it's certainly generating buzz, with some posts attracting 300-400+ reader comments.
PR Week reports that data collected by Google Analytics shows that visits to the PlayStation blog are "400% higher, page views are 94% higher, and new visits are 16% higher compared to video game sites of a similar size".
Why is it that many (most?) technology companies that deal directly with the general public don't 'get it' when it comes to written communication?
I upgraded my internet service today, which was all easy and relatively painless. I then received an email telling me to:
Please reset (or cycle the power on) your ADSL modem to activate new package parameters.
Whaaaat? Who talks like that? I suggested to the ISP a better way to communicate the instruction might be something along the lines of:
"To activate your new service, please switch off your modem for 60 seconds and then turn it back on."
Sorry guys, but it ain't rocket science, but then, maybe that's the problem.
Tech companies love over-complicating things and apart from annoying their customers, it might also be costing them sales as their jargon-laden 'gobblygook' often seeps into marketing materials.
So, if you're a consumer-facing technology company, my humble advice is:
Hire a professional wordsmith to write clear and concise information/instructions in plain English - this will not only save your customers a lot of heartache but also your call centre/help desk will thank you for it! Who knows, you may actually endear yourself to consumers and increase your sales as a result.
Public relations is going to move as the marketplace evolves and be part of all new technologies, according to Bruce McKenzie, Senior Vice-President, Entertainment Marketing, MS&L in a video interview to celebrate 10 years of PR Week (US) magazine.
"The fact that I'm here just shows the evolution of public relations to more communication-based marketing solutions for brands way beyond traditional PR," says McKenzie, who has no background in PR per se but in entertainment marketing.
PR Week Interview: Bruce MacKenzie on the evolution of PR.
Meanwhile, in the same PR Week series, Porter Novelli's Chief Client Officer, Julie Winskie, says that PR has become much more important to clients -- "We are taken much more seriously...(we're) much more respected at a lot of different tables".
Winskie, who has a background in consumer brand PR, is optimistic about the industry's future.
She says the future will be "bright and very messy...we're all going to have to be comfortable with chaos in a very, very fluid environment...challenging...it will be much harder and much more fun and ultimately much more rewarding."
PR Week Interview: Julie Winskie on the evolution of PR.
In these times of disposable journalism and alarmist/sensationalist (not to mention celebrity-obsessed) media, it's reassuring to read US photojournalist Heather S. Hughes' take on what it truly means to be a journalist.
Hughes' post on the Black Star Rising blog is a heartfelt plea to journalists to hang in there.
"In this environment of layoffs and cutbacks, where some critics seem eager to dance on the grave of the newspaper industry, I think it's important to remember what makes a journalist -- and why the institution of journalism is worth protecting," Hughes writes.
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