Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Whig bubbles in corporate outreach to bloggers

Public relations with a twist, shaken not stirred

Rose_champagne_infinite_bubblesOver at Total WonKerr, Anya reports that just in case you thought otherwise, folks at Russia’s Atomenergoprom apparently are into the idea that the “nuclear industry should intensify its educational and information activities in blogosphere.”

This is very funny because a very large nuclear reactor vendor doing business in this country thinks exactly the same thing, but so far its actions have yield only comical results.

For the sake of protecting the innocent, the name of vendor will be cloaked in mystery. I will refer to it as 'Mighty Big Reactor Vendor' or MBRV. You won't gain anything by trying to interpret the acronym.I will neither confirm nor deny the name of the firm involved as they are all mighty big.

Here's what happened last week. MBRV sent out an email to a lot of bloggers, including this one, but still missed some of the most influential minds in the blogshere like Rod Adams at Atomic Insights and Charles Barton at Nuclear Green. How can you say you want to influence the blogshere when you aren't talking to some of the people who shape it, at least in the nuclear energy field?

The apparent objective is to close a perceived "blind spot," to wit, bloggers are writing about MBRV's business, and reaching a growing audience, but MBRV has no relationship or even dialog, much less contact, with the bloggers. In other words, the bloggers are like the media. They have readers. Wow, what a concept.

pizzaMBRV wants to shape what the bloggers say about its business, but doesn't want to be ham handed about it. After all , building new nuclear power plants in the U.S. is a touchy subject and even bloggers might sway a few opinions. You don't want to get them bent out of shape on first contact. I guess what it boils down to is you take your influence any way you can get it.

So MBRV crafts an invitation to bloggers to draw them in to a web of corporate influence. Oh heck, I can be had for a good pepperoni pizza so it wouldn't take much. Why the intrigue is a mystery to me.

However, things go awry right from the start. The email I received from MBRV is "informal" to say the least. It had no verification information such as a surface mail address or telephone number or even a graphic with a corporate logo.

If you're MBRV, and spending good money on "outreach," wouldn't you want to differentiate yourself from spam promoting nutritional supplements? You'd want to make double sure that the bloggers you want to influence don't simply hit the delete button on receipt of the first contact email.

emailIconOnly the I.P. address in the email header led back to MBRV, but the name of the person who signed the email was not in the firm's global employee directory. A cross check of public relations firms, with the name in the email, yielded several likely candidates resulting in a "hit" through process of elimination and a cross check to a LinkedIN profile.

The email itself had language which was total catnip to a blogger. It produced nearly irresistible curiosity.

"[We] appreciate the expression of views from online writers such as yourself. We've followed your blog. [We] want you to participate in what we hope will be an ongoing and meaningful discussion of nuclear energy."

A phone call to the startled public relations consultant who sent out the "informal" email produced a few more details, an apology for the lack of verification information, and a promise to answer key questions like, "will you place ads on our blogs?" I also advised him not to send any confidential business information as bloggers are notorious gossips and cannot be trusted with a secret.

Apparently, the plan, which the consultant says is still in the formative stages, is to bombard nuclear energy bloggers with press releases and hope we'll run them. The rest of the outreach effort seems to still be in the realm of high level hand waving including MBRV's plans for its own corporate blog.

baloneyFor now it still looks to me like a whig bubble which could float off on the latest breeze or pop at any time. Maybe MBRV and the Russians should compare notes and try something else, like genuine dialog. Sigh. I was really hoping for a meaningful relationship this time.

MBRV never answered the email response I sent them nor returned my phone call. I guess when you get down to it I'm just another blogger scraping along for lunch money from Google adsense and a brief but stimulating 15 minutes of fame. I don't hold it against MBRV for trying. All I ask is that you think these things through and don't waste my time.

So far I haven't heard from the Russians. If anyone calls you'll be the first to know.

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