WHAT’S your company’s policy on bloggers who contact official company spokespeople like investor relations or media relations looking for information or a comment?
Do you treat them the same as anyone else or do you treat them as lesser human beings — as giant US retailer Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) currently does?
In my experience, most companies have a tendency to treat people who identify themselves as bloggers as less deserving of a response than any regular person who contacts them. A customer, an investor, a student, or just an average person off the street, they all get treated better than me.
Mainstream media most snooty
The worst culprits of this “bloggers-are-scum” attitude, in my humble experience, is the mainstream media. For example, last week I emailed a certain financial newspaper asking for information about how their real-time coverage of the SocGen rogue trader scandal had impacted traffic to their blog.
Judging by the fact that their site was slow and unresponsive at various times during the week, my guess was that the blog probably got more traffic than the main newspaper site itself.
Result? No response.
Now, had I contacted them as just another reader and not identified myself as a blogger, I probably would have received some sort of reply. They might have just said something like, “thank you, but we can’t provide that information,” but they would have replied to me.
But because I said I wanted to blog about it, they probably figure it’s OK to just ignore me because I’m less important than one of their readers. I am a blogger, and blog is still a four-letter word in much of the establishment.
Snub me, snub you
I’m also guessing that they looked to see how popular IR Web Report is, using something like Technorati. They’d see there that IR Web Report does not have a huge following or profile, so they’d figure it was safe to just ignore me (and you).
Of course, they have no idea who is reading this. They don’t know that some highly influential corporate decision-makers read IR Web Report. People who make decisions about things like where to spend their company’s advertising dollars and which financial media to pay subscriptions for.
They also have no idea about my relationship with you. They don’t know, for instance, that I rarely recommend or have good things to say about particular products and services and never recommend something I wouldn’t use myself if our roles were reversed. If I said that you should go to their website next time a major European financial story breaks, you will probably believe me and do so.
So why should you change?
Companies like Target are hurting only themselves with their negative attitudes towards bloggers. If you or your company has anywhere near the same attitude towards bloggers, you need to change it quick.
And to prove my point I’m going to show you a picture. It is of the “front page” of a Web service called Techmeme. Techmeme basically tells you at any given time what the most talked about topics are among technology bloggers.
Techmeme’s front page is weighted the same way a newspaper front page is. The most important news, or most discussed in this case, is shown at the top of the page with bigger headlines. Less important news appears at the bottom of the page. I took this screenshot because it shows something that is very interesting to me.
As you can see, the main news on Techmeme at the time I took this was Sun Microsystems‘ (NASDAQ: JAVA) acquisition of MySQL AB for around $1 billion. On the same day, however, another tech company, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), announced it was buying BEA Systems for $8 billion (mentioned at the bottom of the screenshot).
Based on traditional definitions of news value, Oracle’s deal was bigger and more important, and that’s how the mainstream media mostly played it the next day.
But to the tech blogging community, Sun’s news was much, much bigger and much more widely discussed. By my reckoning there must be at least a few million unique readers of the blogs and news outlets that were discussing the Sun deal.
There are a variety of reasons for Sun getting so much attention and Oracle getting so little, but one of them is because Sun is an active participant in the blogging community, or “conversation.” Sun treats bloggers with respect, in part I guess because so many senior people at the company blog.
While Oracle also has blogs, its culture is much more closed and subdued and several of its blogs have not been updated in months. CEO Larry Ellison does not blog.
Now look at the screenshot again. How can any company, especially a small company looking to grow mind share and attract attention, afford NOT to have that kind of buzz?
Next time some blogger contacts you looking for information and comment, remember the picture above.