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January, 2005

More Thoughts on PR vs. Blogs

Yesterday I got into a heated debate about the importance of incoming links and mentions when comparing bloggers (specifically Robert Scoble) to PR agencies. It was based on a post by Steve Broback on Blog Business Summit. His point, which he later backpedaled on, was:
Despite issuing tens of thousands of lengthy press releases containing marketing copy, it would appear that Google has deemed Scoble’s short, conversational postings as more relevant.

Notice that the only PR firm on the list with an RSS feed/blog is Edelman, and in site traffic they came in second place. More evidence that the “blog advantage� is real.

My argument, along with others', was that he was using flawed logic in comparing Scoble's mentions to PR agencies because PR agencies promote a company/product and, more often than not, attempt to pull their names out of the picture completely to add credibility.

What is more, a PR company's website exists as a B-to-B vehicle. That is, the reason they have a website is primarily to attract new clients by talking about their successes. (Of course there are other uses, such as recruitment, however, that is not the main objective.) To compare the incoming links of a PR site, with a goal like it has, to the Scobleizer, is just plain wrong. (A fact that Broback acknowledged with a later comment explaining: "I agree that this comparison is apples and oranges to a significant extent, and that while the numbers are interesting, any assertion of Scoble having more general media reach or influence would be specious.")

Scoble's site is a blog written by a Microsoft employee that encompasses all parts of his digital existence. The site is a B/C-to-B/C's (B/C = business/consumer, that is Scoble speaks from his post as product evangelist and regular-old-Joe). In other words, his site's potential audience is far larger than that of a traditional PR agency's website. This explains why he has so many more incoming links and mentions than the agencies do. It all seems simple.

It would have been fair to compare PR agencies to each other and to then say that blogs would help agencies generate more buzz against each other. In a comment Broback said this:

That being said, the fact is undeniable that all of those PR firms wish they had the kind of Google and Alexa numbers Scoble does, and they have expended significantly more resources and money to get a lesser presence.

I think all can agree to the inescapable conclusion from these numbers (and recent history) that at the very least PR firms need to work with bloggers and that’s a session at the event…

While I agree that PR agencies certainly can get better Google and Alexa numbers with the help of blogs and bloggers, is this the point of blogs? Call me a purist, but I think Scoble would agree that corporate blogs exist to help connect customers with business. Broback is talking about using blogs primarily for search engine optimization (SEO), a completely different beast. I know that we're already reaching the point where blogs are being used by corporations in a less than savory way (see MarketingVox's "Mazda's Blog+Viral Campaign Falls Flat"), but come on. I understand that the conference is about "how businesses can leverage current real-world blogging techniques, tools and platforms to promote and enhance their ventures." While using blogs for SEO is certainly one way to leverage blogs, hopefully there are more honest (and true) ways to use the tools that blogs offer to help your business, just as Scoble has done (or, if you want a PR example, Steve Rubel).

In the end, I agree that blogs are effective SEO tools, but I think they're so much more than that. I hope I'm not being too much of an optimist, but I really believe in this stuff.

January 12, 2005
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.