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DHS: Recognizing bloggers as equal members of the media

July 17, 2008

Speaker: John Verrico

Topic: How to open your media relations doors to bloggers and broaden your reach to your target audience in the process.

Summary:

John’s experiences with bloggers have been positive and they continue to trend in this direction. As a representative for the Department of Homeland Security he understands the importance of having accurate information available to the public. As more individuals include blogs into their daily lives as news sources, David stressed the importance of working with bloggers to establish relationships. Bloggers are news sources; each blogger is capable of reporting good and bad news to their subscribers and often help readers form their opinions.

In order to combat bloggers commenting or publishing false information, DHS works with bloggers via regular meetings or “blogger round tables” as they are often named. By bringing bloggers together, DHS has been able to decrease the spread of false or inaccurate stories. John’s advice included treating each of the bloggers as though they were conducting a media briefing event. As a result DHS is not only able to have their official voice in the public realm, but often bloggers carry stronger voices among Internet users because they carry a trusting citizen’s voice out in the public.

David helped steer DHS towards not implementing any in-house blogging capabilities. A proactive campaign to get existing bloggers to write about DHS activities was a much more rewarding exercise. Interestingly enough, John’s experience found many bloggers carried extensive experience and were often experts in a particular subject. Traditional news reporters on the other hand can sometimes be seen as having a large reach but few areas of deeper knowledge.

Remember the exercise…

Remember trying to open the hand of the person next to you when they had it closed. Many of us took an adversarial approach when a simple question may have sufficed. In short, don’t be adversarial with bloggers, find them and develop a relationship with them. In high stress situations where false or misleading information may exist or leak out about your organization, bloggers need to have the ability to call a person in charge to fact check.

When working with bloggers, John had many considerations based on his experience for you to remember. These considerations include:

  • Bloggers are not always available like representatives from the media
  • Blogs are immediate
  • No chance to respond before story goes viral
  • Difficult to track information spread
  • Treat bloggers like traditional media (e.g., invite them to press events)
  • Hold blogger roundtables
  • Bloggers are an excellent communication tool that will expand your media reach
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